While it’ s not necessary to have a compelling context, when you do, it sure does help drive both online and offline loyalty to a media property:

Australian Idol packs online punch

SYDNEY: Network Ten’s Australian Idol is proving to be a hit not just on TV, according to Hitwise data.

Average weekly unique visitors to the Australian Idol website are up 25% to more than 102,000 from 2006, while the average session has increased 37% to around 11 minutes.

For the 2007 series ,seven times the number of videos previously available can now be watched on the site, and so far there has 2.3 million clips viewed.

Damian Smith, Network Ten’s general manager of digital media, said the broadcaster is “fortunate to start with a brand that is such a phenomenon that it markets itself”.

“The real magic of digital media, however, is what else you can give fans – the real engaging stuff, above and beyond the TV screen,” he said.

“We’ve upped the ante on content, particularly video content, and provided new sections that encourage greater interaction and dialogue among fans.”

Advertisers such as Mazda, Rexona, McDonald’s, Telstra, and Cadbury Schweppes have signed cross-platform deals covering Idol.

It was only a year or two ago that Damian Smith had a fight on his hands (it was in an old B&T) with people saying that social networks will take away eyeballs from shows, whereas he said it would drive up loyalty. How very wrong were they and how very right is he…

Disclaimer: I did a bit of advisory work on the Australian Idol online community, but it’s Damian’s team that deserve the kudos.