The Web Feels The Impact of Michael Jackson’s Death

    July 1, 2009

Who is the most famous person in the world? A simple question with thousands of possible answers.

Some might say the Pope while others might say President Obama. It’s total speculation; an argument can be made for just about any well-known person.

Could "The King of Pop" have been considered the most famous person in the world? With global album sales somewhere between 700-750 million, a career that spanned nearly 50 years, two widely covered pedophilia charges and various charitable contributions… Michael Jackson, quite possibly, was the most famous person in the world.

Michael JacksonHis popularity caused big problems for some of the Internet’s more popular sites as rumors began to swirl about his rumored death.

Famed celebrity news site TMZ was the first to break the news of Michael Jackson’s death. People from all over the world rushed to the site to see the news for their own eyes. Due to the mass amounts of traffic TMZ began experiencing erratic downtimes, which left people searching other sites for confirmation.

AOL, owner of TMZ, released the following statement about the downtime…

"Today was a seminal moment in Internet history. 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.

With other sites such as CNN reporting that Jackson was still alive but in a coma, that only added fuel to the fire, as people wanted to know the truth. Sadly in the end, TMZ was correct.

CNN Tweet

Michael Jackson has also been immortalized on the popular  website.

The Michael Jackson ripple effect wasn’t just felt by TMZ, shortly after Internet users made their way to Perez Hilton’s train-wreck of a blog only to be greeted by the following despicable post by the blogging diva…

Perez Hilton's post

You can see that Perez was pretty much calling Michael Jackson a liar. It should be noted that shortly after it was confirmed by multiple sources, Perez updated the post to hide his travesty of a post.

Twitterers weren’t pleased with the post, and #unfollowperez became a trending topic on the famed microbloggnig site.

Some of the major news corporations showed marked slowdowns; Keynote Systems had the following to say about the traffic phenomenon…

Keynote traffic graph"Beginning during the late afternoon Pacific Time major news sites, including those of ABC, AOL, LA Times and CBS all started to show marked slowdowns in performance. Beginning at 6:00 p.m. Eastern time until 8:00 p.m. Eastern, the following sites showed became nearly unavailable (down to nearly 10% availability): ABC, CBS, LA Times, AOL, CNN Money.

Beginning at 5:30pm (EDT), the average speed for downloading news sites doubled from less than four seconds to almost nine seconds. During the same period, the average availability of sites on the index dropped from almost 100% to 86%. The index returned to normal by 9:15pm (EDT)."

With the news of Jackson’s death, people turned to the web like never before. Large traffic spikes were documented, the likes of which have never been seen before.

Below you can see a chart from Nielson, which shows the Jackson death discussion far exceeded those of the inauguration of President Obama and the swine flu.

Nielson traffic graph

In the UK it was documented that Twitter had its busiest day, EVER. The traffic spike might not be as large as expected, but this is probably due to the time difference between the US and the UK. You can see the Hitwise graph below…

Hitwise Traffic Graph

Yesterday I told you about how Michael Jackson was dominating the Twitter top 10 trending topics, where he held nine at that time. Almost a full 24 hours later and he still holds four of the ten.

The death of Michael Jackson also had other sharing their condolences via Twitter…

Arnold Schwarzenegger Tweet

MC Hammer Tweet

Diddy Tweet

John Mayer Tweet

Ashton Kutcher Tweet

The death of Michael Jackson was met with many different opinions; some are looking back at his music career why others only see his alleged wrong doings. However you choose to remember him you can’t deny the fact that his death had a huge impact all over the world… especially the Internet.