Graphic of a hand holding the Oscar statue, with another hand open to receive it. Text reads, "Is 19.5 million a lot? An Oscar class in context. New in March 2024 Wordnerdery."Were you among the 19.5 million viewers who tuned in to this year’s Academy Awards (21.9 million in its last half hour)? If so, you may be wondering if that number is a lot, or a little. Were we a large group of trendsetters watching Oppenheimer walk away with Best Picture and six other awards? Or were we among the Oscar-ignoring outliers?

That’s the context it’s helpful to know any time you share a number, especially if it’s massive or minuscule. So I went looking to give 19.5 million some context.

In Oscar terms, the show is making a comeback after a recent slump in viewers. That meant a record low of 10.6 million viewers in the U.S. in 2021 (Best Picture: Nomadland.) So 19.5 million is good! But no, it’s not as good as the more than 57 million viewers who watched Titanic take Best Picture and 10 other awards in 1998.

Nor is it as good as the Super Bowl this year. That drew a record 123.7 million viewers cheering for the Kansas City Chiefs or San Francisco 49rs or Taylor Swift. So I guess by comparison, Oscar viewers weren’t trendsetters OR outliers.

Having something to anchor your number to is an important factor when you’re sharing any facts or figures. The March issue of my newsletter, Wordnerdery, has five ways to help those numbers make sense, whether you’re tracking Academy Awards audiences or any other set of numbers. The tips include making both large and small numbers relatable by comparing them to something known. One of the examples I found is this one:

“At 250,000 gross tonnage, the colossal ship [largest cruise ship in the world, the Icon of the Seas] is about five times larger than the ill-fated RMS Titanic, and at 364 meters, the ship is longer than the world’s largest aircraft carrier, the USS Gerald R. Ford.” – Andrew  Engelson in Hakai Magazine


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