Michael Jackson’s death was both sudden and unexpected. It has also prompted an amount of grief I personally haven’t witnessed since Princes Diana died in 1997. As well as affecting his family, fans, and people of all walks of life around the world, his death, and the breaking story surrounding it, has also affected the Internet to a massive degree.
Traditional media was well and truly beaten on this one. The celebrity gossip Web site, TMZ, broke the story that Michael Jackson had died hours before the more cautious and steady media outlets added their weight to the news.
The Web was the resource most of us turned to for news on the story, whether through sites such as TMZ and Perez Hilton, or social networks such as MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter. While we may tend to believe long-running sources such as The L.A. Times and the BBC more than tabloid Web sites, speed and timing were key in this case.
Google has today announced that the rise in searches for Michael Jackson actually caused Google News to react as if it were being attacked. Searches for Michael Jackson started to increase at 2:00pm PDT, peaked at around 3:00pm, and didn’t settle again until 8:00pm. This caused a Google News outage for around 25 minutes, with many people seeing a “We’re sorry” message.
Beyond the initial searches for news and reactions flooding in, the Internet has seen further peaks which are likely to last for weeks or months to come.
TorrentFreak reports that downloads of Michael Jackson albums via the world’s largest torrent tracker, Mininova, have increased by a massive amount as people feel the need to connect once again with his music. The most popular torrent is one containing 30 albums by Michael Jackson, The Jackson 5, and The Jacksons, which totals 1.94 GB of music.
People aren’t just turning to less than legal channels however, with Amazon’s bestsellers chart being dominated by Michael Jackson albums. At the time of writing, the top 16 places are taken up by albums produced by The King Of Pop. While the prices of these same albums, and other merchandise, has risen sharply in line with demand.
The Internet has dominated this continuing news story of Michael Jackson’s death. It broke on the Web, and is being discussed on forums. There are text, photo, and video tributes being made all across the Internet. And his lasting legacy to the world, his music, is being sold and downloaded in huge numbers on the Net.