Prince William and Kate Toss Fans a Digital Bouquet
It will be extra easy for people worldwide to stay up-to-date with Prince William and Kate Middleton's nuptials on Friday (April 29), thanks to a large digital media push by the royal family.
From livestreams on YouTube to smartphone apps, a Facebook page and its own Twitter hashtag -- #rw2011 -- the royal family is embracing the Internet and social media to bring fans closer to the event.
"Reaching out to the mass audience digitally is not only a way for the royal family to stay relevant and modern, it also adds to the 'fairy tale' nature and entertainment factor of the whole event,” said Neil Strother, an analyst from ABI Research. "It adds to the spectacle."
"The royal couple also grew up using the Internet and these tools, so it makes sense for them to incorporate digital media into their wedding day," Strother added.
The Royal Wedding -- which begins early on Friday at 3:15 a.m. EST (8:15 a.m., British time) with the arrival of the general congregation at Westminster Abbey in London and is expected to end around noon EST – will be streamed live on the royal family's YouTube channel.
"The Royal Channel"– which first launched in October 2007 -- will kick off its wedding coverage at 5 a.m. EST with livestream footage, commentary, historical information and event highlights. Through the channel, fans from all over the world are encouraged to use their phones, cameras or laptops to record a video message for the couple in a digital wedding book.
Similar to how many engaged couples these days launch websites with upcoming wedding details, William and Kate have their own site, OfficialRoyalWedding.org, and instead of an online registry, a Web fund has been set up for charitable donations.
Fans can also stay connected by following the "The British Monarchy" Facebook page (now with more than 360,000 fans) and Twitter feed, @ClarenceHouse, boasting nearly 50,000 followers. The Twitter account has already sent out various tweets and images related to the wedding, including ones from earlier today of floral displays and scenes from the wedding rehearsal.
The British monarchy's Flickr account also highlights pictures of the days leading up to the wedding, such as photos of invitations and cake creations.
Although the royal family is using digital media in the form of Facebook pages and YouTube channels, Internet users are not allowed to write on the walls of these platforms, taking the interactive two-way street out of social media.
The Royal Wedding is also getting the mobile treatment. The royal family recently released the "The Royal App" for Apple and Android devices, which feature information from seven royal weddings, from Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1840 to Prince Charles and Princess Diana in 1981.
Westminster Abbey also released an app, called "Abbey 3D ," to give users intimate access to the church where the wedding will be held with the help of scanning technology and 3-D modeling.
The app ($4.99) opens at the Great West Door, where Kate Middleton and her father will begin walking down the aisle to the High Altar. Flashing up along the way in the app are "hot spots" of information about key areas of the Abbey, such as the Grave of the Unknown Warrior, and their significance on the day of the wedding.
Keeping up with tech
This is not the first time the royal family has been on the forefront of new technology . In fact, the Oscar-award winning film "The King’s Speech" (2010) showcases how the royal family harnessed the power of radio in its early days to communicate with the public in the 1930s.
Over the years, the family has embraced -- although at times reluctantly -- new forms of media. In the months leading up to the wedding, however, the digital push has been in full swing.
"The royal family has also used technology in the early mainstream for decades," Strother said. "They want to reach people through communication methods in which the public is already using. It’s smart."
The royal family had even considered broadcasting 3-D coverage of the wedding. However, Buckingham Palace later stopped those plans due to space issues and lack of interest.