Friday, July 3, 2009

How Much Did Michael Jackson Rock the Web?

Michael Jackson Tops the Charts on Twitter

On Thursday, the unexpected news of Michael Jackson’s deathrocked Twitter as fans of the pop music star sought the latest information and posted their reactions to the news.

One Twitterer by the name of toomarvelous wrote: “I don’t recall where I was when Buddy Holly died. But I’ll recall where I was when Michael Jackson died. I was on Twitter.” Another Twitter member, by the name of amorril, posted a message about Mr. Jackson’s period singing in a band with his older siblings, writing: “I remember listening to my Jacksons 5 album and loving them.” Hundreds of other users echoed short messages of grief at the news by simply posting the phrase “RIP MJ.”

Shortly after TMZ, a news entertainment site, published a report around 5 p.m. stating that Mr. Jackson had died after suffering a heart attack, thousands of messages expressing disbelief, grief and remembrances flooded the Twitter microblogging service, causing the site to load more slowly than usual and crash multiple times.

Ethan Zuckerman, a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard, tweeted that Mr. Jackson was a more popular topic on Twitter thanthe Iranian election or the recent flu outbreak ever were.

“My twitter search script sees roughly 15% of all posts on Twitter mentioning Michael Jackson,” wrote Mr. Zuckerman. “Never saw Iran or swine flu reach over 5%.”

By 7 p.m., all mentions of the disputed presidential election in Iran — as well as the death of another celebrity, Farrah Fawcett — were replaced on Twitter’s trending topic column by mentions of Mr. Jackson.

In addition, the “trending topics” on Twitter appeared to condense common mentions of Mr. Jackson’s demise, including misspellings of his first name, Michael.

Biz StoneKimberly White/ReutersBiz Stone.

Biz Stone, one of the founders of Twitter, said in an e-mail exchange that Twitter often experiences a surge in usage around major events, but the high volume of messages flowing through the site on Thursday were “surprising nonetheless.”

“We saw more than double the normal tweets per second the moment the news broke—the biggest increase since the US presidential election (and Twitter has grown tremendously since then),” Mr. Stone wrote.

CNet also said that the first wave of unverified reports of Mr. Jackson’s death caused a skirmish on Wikipedia, as editors struggled with whether to update the pop singer’s entry in the online encyclopedia.

How Much Did Michael Jackson Rock the Web?

As news of Michael Jackson’s death began to spread last Thursday, the crush of people flocking to the Web for information overloaded several Web sites and services, causing AOL’s instant messaging service, news sites, Twitterand Wikipedia to buckle under the strain.

But just how much traffic are we talking about? Compete, a Web analytics firm based in Boston, crunched some numbers and came up with a few data points to help illustrate the surge.

It found that there were 9.98 million queries for the terms “Michael” and “Jackson” across the top 25 search engines and news and social media sites in the week ended June 27. Compete said that was more than 24 times the number of queries for information using the terms “Iran” and “election” during the week before.

Google, which said that its systems initially interpreted the spike in searchesas an attack, fielded the most requests, handling 61 percent of the queries.

Yahoo Music pulled in a hefty 45 percent of Web surfers seeking the pop maestro’s albums, music videos and merchandise, according to Compete. YouTube ranked a distant second with 23 percent.

Compete said Yahoo’s dominance was probably a result of spillover from its coverage of Mr. Jackson’s hospitalization. Yahoo said its coverage broke traffic records, generating 800,000 clicks in the first 10 minutes that the story was posted.

The increase in interest in Mr. Jackson’s legacy has been reflected in record-shattering sales of music, both online and at retail stores.

With Jackson News, a Surge in Web Traffic

Did your Internet connection seem slow Thursday afternoon? It very likely wasn’t your computer; it was the surge of interest in Michael Jackson’s hospitalization and death.

Akamai said that traffic to news Web sites spiked around 6 p.m. Eastern, clocking in at one point at 4.2 million visitors a minute. During the rest of the day, the sites tracked by Akamai never exceeded 3 million visitors a minute.

Some entertainment news Web sites including and appeared to load more slowly than normal. Sometimes they did not load at all, according to the observations of several reporters early Thursday evening.

Even Google had trouble keeping up. Between 5:40 p.m. and 6:15 p.m. Eastern, after had said Mr. Jackson had died, some visitors to Google News “experienced difficulty accessing search results for queries related to Michael Jackson,” a Google spokesman said.

AIM, the instant messaging service operated by AOL, collapsed for about 40 minutes amid all the Jackson attention. The service was “undergoing a previously scheduled software update” at the time, the company said in a statement to PC Magazine.

The company called the day “a seminal moment in Internet history.” It said: “We’ve never seen anything like it in terms of scope or depth. Historically, celebrity news prompts a worldwide outpouring with several key consumer behaviors — searching, sharing and reacting to the news followed by online tributes has become the modern way to mourn. Princess Diana was the first notable Internet example. Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett are the latest.”

The social messaging service Twitter had thousands of tweets about Michael Jackson every minute. “We saw more than double the normal tweets per second the moment the news broke — the biggest increase since the US presidential election (and Twitter has grown tremendously since then),” one of Twitter’s co-founders, Biz Stone, told a sister blog Bits.

Some TV news anchors took note of the slowdown. “My computer is having a very difficult time right now,” remarked Shepard Smith, a Fox News anchor, who surmised the delays were due to the intense interest in Mr. Jackson.

However, the servers for, which broke much of the news about Mr. Jackson, did not seem sluggish. TMZ held a live chat and even simulcast a local Fox affiliate’s coverage on Thursday evening.

Losing Michael Jackson

It’s been a rough week, especially for those of us who grew up in the 1970s. First, we lost Ed McMahon, who we always hoped would show up at our doorstep with a big check. Then, came news of Farrah Fawcett, who always got the bad guy and launched a hair revolution among us. But it was the shocking news (confirmed, then unconfirmed, then finally confirmed) of Michael Jackson’s death that rattled the online world the most.

The passing of the King of Pop set multiple records across Yahoo!. On our front page, the story “Michael Jackson rushed to hospital” was the highest clicking story in our history. It generated a whopping 800,000 clicks within 10 minutes and news of his death saw 560,000 clicks in 10 minutes. Also, the news area on our front page experienced five times the amount of traffic it normally receives.

Yahoo! News set an all-time record in unique visitors with 16.4 million people, surpassing our previous record of 15.1 million visitors on election day. Four million people visited the site between 3-4pm Pacific time, setting an hourly record. We also recorded 175 million page views yesterday, our fourth highest after Inauguration Day, the day after the Inauguration, and Hurricane Ike.

In Yahoo! Music, a staggering 21,000 people left comments on a blog post about the music legend. And over on Flickr, more than 4,000 Michael Jackson-related images have been posted in the last day, including art images labeled as “in tribute” and photos of spontaneous memorials all over the world, such as this Thriller “flashdance” in San Francisco.

Also, here’s a behind-the-scenes look at our search logs, revealing what our users were most curious about as they tried to reconcile the news:

  • Michael Jackson - including variations of his name and nicknames
  • Photos - especially for photos of his face and how it changed throughout the years; also, searches for “plastic surgery“
  • Videos - both videos of Michael Jackson and his music videos
  • Music - Jackson Five music and his solo work; also searches for his albums and songs
  • Songs - including lyrics, especially for hits like Thriller, Man in the Mirror, Billy Jean, and PYT
  • Questions - “did Michael Jackson die?”, “who is Michael Jackson?” (!!), “when did Michael Jackson die?”, “why did Michael Jackson die?”
  • Cardiac arrest - and other medical terms mentioned in the news
  • People - lots of searches for Jackson family members; notable friends like Quincy Jones, Elizabeth Taylor, his lawyer; ex-wives Debbie Rowe and Lisa Marie Presley; and his children
  • Elvis Presley - not just because of the Lisa Marie connection, but people want to know how old Elvis was when he died
  • Places - Holmby Hills, UCLA Medical Center, Encino, and his house location
  • Hoax rumors - given that was the first to confirm his death, people wondered if it was all true. Then came rumors of Harrison Ford and Jeff Goldblum’s deaths.
  • RIP Michael Jackson - was very prominent in Twitter
  • Drugs - for the pain killer Demerol and other variations/spellings
  • Celebrity death in threes - because apparently people are superstitious
  • How to moonwalk - because nobody did it better

And that’s just from yesterday…

Michael Jackson’s death was clearly a seminal event. And unlike in the 1970s, we all have a remarkable tool that brings the world together — informed and connected — over those “I remember when…” moments.

Credit:  NY Times BITS Blog

Posted via web from swathidharshananaidu's posterous

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