ESCToday: Celebrating the first year

by Michalis Vranis 160 views

An interesting idea crossed my mind last August, and that was “what would  be the best way to celebrate the first year of ESCToday’s new outlook, new philosophy and fresh approach?”. At first I got a bit worried because it was too early to think and decide how to celebrate such an occasion but that idea stuck to my mind for the last 4 months and I had to do something about it. Below you will read an interesting story of what this website has achieved in the last 12 months.

The last 4 months have been really challenging for the team. We faced many difficulties but they were not enough to put us down neither the vision and the ideals of the website. ESCToday has survived the last 13 years and has maintained its independency untouched. We are proud to declare that this news website will remain objective and it will independently deliver accurate Eurovision news all year round.

12 challenging months

A crucial year has gone by leaving behind a well structured, fully organized and more extrovert Esctoday!

Long story short, during summer 2012, and after the vicious hack attack that ESCToday suffered, during the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest in Baku, Azerbaijan, I was standing in a position where I had to take critical decisions for the restoration and evolution of the site and its team, which is the driving force behind this website. There have been continuous meetings and discussions with erstwhile members of the team as well as current ones. By the end of the summer a group of four people joined forces to take over the website. The core team, composed by Sergio Jiandani, Juha Repo, Stella Floras and me, decided to undertake one vital department each and do our best to reinstate the wounded ESCToday. It took us few months of hard work and process to be ready by the milestone date 12/12/12 and reintroduce a new face of ESCToday, a new approach and endless passion to start a new journey in the Eurovision world.

During the last 12 months, ESCToday has achieved more than it managed to accomplish during its first 12 years of existence!

The chronicle

Two days after the official launch of the ESCToday website, the first huge piece of news arrived at the newsdesk. In addition to Portugal withdrawing few days earlier, Bosnia & Herzegovina was out too! And few hours later a second bomb exploded; Turkey announced its withdrawal! That month was the end of the year and the begining of the National Finals season. In contrary to the current year, the EBU decided to reveal the Eurovision participants at the end of December.

January was a month full of news and selection shows, but for the very first time in history of  ESCToday, a press conference was broadcast live through its pages as well as on Facebook. San Marino, revealed it forthcoming Eurovision representative, Valentina Monetta. We felt proud and honored for airing the Sammarinese press conference!

Gaining some experience during the previous month, the Croatian broadcaster took us one step further and decided to present their song to the ESCToday readers in February! For the first time in the Eurovision history, an independent Eurovision news site is streaming live the song that will represent a country at the contest.

During February, we came closer with one of the best, well known and respected gay clubs in Sweden, WONK! The lovely guy running this club, Joe Nilsson, had a great idea and we were more than willing to promote it! 5 huge Swedish eurostars would perform live every night at Amiralen, the temporary home of WONK club during the Eurovision weeks!

March was one of the most exciting months of the year. The Balkans really love ESCToday, and it was Bulgaria’s turn to take our live streaming skills one step further! This time ESCToday streamed live on our website and Facebook page the Bulgarian national final! Wasn’t it  an amazing achievement  for us? Then came Azerbaijan. How about streaming the whole national final? OMG! The 2013 Azerbaijani national final was aired live on Esctoday and on our Facebook page.Undoubtedly, March 2013 has been the most amazing month in ESCToday’s history!

Our team has been working in every dimension and direction! The national selections were about to conclude and alongside with our daily coverage, we were building various projects. In 2013, ESCToday managed to interview every single artist participating in the 2013 Eurovision Song Contest. In the meantime, we were introducing the participants to our readers through the project named Introducing.

One more month before Eurovision, April, and ESCToday published video messages from the competing artists specially and exclusively  recorded for our readers. The parade of the stars counted 15 videos dedicated to all of you!

Furthermore, there was a determined cyclist, Mandy Norman, who decided to cycle from London to Malmö! Her gesture was to raise awareness and fund for the Special Olympics United Kingdom. Once we were informed about it, we became official sponsors of her tour in order to support her cause! During April, ESCToday’s logo changed to match the Cycling Eurovision theme. We branded our mainpage with Mandy’s graphics (she’s a great graphic designer by the way) and we set up a special widget to retrieve her latest Tweets during her journey. While Mandy was crossing the Dutch countryside, she suffered an injury and was unfortunately forced to return back home.

For one more year, ESCToday in close collaboration with the OGAE International, presented the 2013 edition of OGAE Poll! Every day till the begining of the Eurovision rehearsals, we shared with the readers the official and accurate OGAE Poll votes.

ESCToday’s prime project, the BigPoll, was launched during April. For the first time in its history, the poll got unlinked from the pages of ESCToday and shifted to our Facebook page, becoming a social media game where the users were able to share their predictions with their friends in real time.

And then it was May. Everyone’s attention was focused on Malmö and ESCToday was there to transfer the vibes and the cheerful atmosphere right from the heart of Eurovision. Parties, Draws and interviews! That’s the triplet that we managed to deliver to our readers. We were the media sponsors of the WONK club parties in Amiralen, we joined the live concerts with Alcazar, Charlotte Perrelli, Carola, Martin Rolinski and the 2012 Eurovision winner Loreen! Simultaneously the Malmö team delivered news reports and interviewed most of the participants.

We were running daily draws and we gave away around 150 CDs, DVDs and press material to the lucky winners. Furthermore one of the major international news networks, Al Jazeera English, had invited ESCToday to discuss the Eurovision week. During the interview, our Head of Press, Sanjay (Sergio) Jiandani revealed the final results of BigPoll 2013 to the international audience.

The Eurovision weeks have been an experiment for all of us to prove our skills and strength during competitive and demanding times. For this a new team was needed to boost the hard working current team. A process of receiving applications, reviewing, accepting and training new editors took more than 5 months and is still undergoing. At this point I would like to express my excitement for what is planned to follow with the promising new editors of ESCToday.

Technically, ESCToday has been experimenting during summer by obtaining its own shortlink! In addition, we started a project for the silent days of August. The Eurovision GAGs were the visualisation of funny tweets based on hashtag topics.

In the meantime, ESCToday started the Eurovision season earlier than expected by delivering the confirmations from various countries. Sergio, isn’t it too early?

The summer has been really challenging involving political and economic factors which were affecting the contest. On the one hand it was the allegations of vote rigging from Azerbaijan while on the other hand human rights were in jeopardy and countries were openly announcing their withdrawals. The Greek broadcaster was shut down and nobody could say if EBU would bend the rules for the new Greek broadcaster or not.

In September, we published a two part interview with Sietse Bakker, the Eurovision Song Contest Even Supervisor where we asked him the toughest questions we would think. He dared to answer them all 😉 (part 1 & part 2)

The confirmations have been coming in, in full swing and all the broadcasters shared their decisions with our readers (most of them exclusively). Many rumours have been spread around the blogs but here at ESCToday we publish only accurate confirmed news.

The last 12 months, ESCToday has been under huge pressure. We had to overcome many hurdles on our way to deliver accurate news to you, but your love and support empowers us to carry on! ESCToday has grown up one more year and recently it got bigger. Our team currently numbers 32 members and all of them have proven their skills already!

The new season is about to begin for good and ESCToday is ready to cope for one more year! For more surprises and new projects coming, stay tuned at ESCToday, your daily Eurovision centre!