Jim Hellriegel can’t sing and is too old to compete on “American Idol” but his home-grown Web site is attracting hordes of fans who can’t wait 24 hours to find out which aspiring pop star is going home each week.
Hellriegel’s DialIdol.com measures the busy signals on “Idol” voting phone lines to predict who stays and who must leave America’s most-watched TV show long before the official results are announced.
“You watch the show, you care about it, you want to know,” said Hellriegel, 31, a computer engineer from Cleveland.
“I totally cannot sing, even a little bit. And I’m too old to compete. I’m just glad that for one night maybe I can put a smile on people’s faces,” he said.
Hellriegel is part of an army of passionate fans who feel so strongly about “Idol” contestants that some are moved to hunger strikes or backlash Internet campaigns to keep the worst singers in the competition.
Votefortheworst.com, a Web site run from suburban Chicago, encourages fans “to have fun with ‘American Idol’ and vote for the people who the general public and the producers are rooting against.”
VFTW is promoting Sanjaya Malakar, the 17-year-old better known for his flowing locks than his singing ability, but who has clung on to reach the final 10.
Malakar also inspired a 23-year-old New York woman called J. to launch a starvationforsanjaya page on social networking site MySpace in a bid to get the teen voted off.
It all started for Hellriegel in 2005 after he got impatient with busy signals when trying to phone in votes for his favorite “Idol” contestants.
“It was really frustrating, and I wished there was a computer program that could dial the phone,” he said. “And then I wondered if there was any way to measure these busy signals to see if there is any meaning in them.”
So he wrote the program, tried it out with friends, and launched his free Web site in 2006 as a hobby that is fast turning into a second job.
Last week DialIdol.com, which claims 87 percent accuracy for last year’s season, got more than 1 million page views.
Fox television seems unperturbed, although lawyers did send both DialIdol.com and Votefortheworst.com cease-and-desist notices ordering them to remove copyrighted “American Idol” material from their sites.