Jackson death slows web to a crawl

Interest in Michael Jackson's fate was so great that it actually brought the entire internet to a standstill...

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

As reports started emerging overnight that the King of Pop had died suddenly of a heart attack, people around the world rushed to the internet to verify the news – in such huge numbers that the whole thing fell over. Google users were greeted with an error message when they tried to search for Jackson’s name, while Twitter crashed altogether as users attempted to spread the word. Since this was the middle of the night UK time, it won’t have had much impact on annual GDP, but it presumably didn’t do US productivity much good. These days the death of such a big star is a financial event as well as a cultural one...

Google admitted that some users had been unable to access search results for Jackson queries around 3pm LA time yesterday, around the time that the news became official. So many people were searching for news on the subject that its ‘hotness’ rating (in Google’s Trends programme) was almost off the charts. Twitter was also overwhelmed by traffic – logging service TweetVolume reckons there were 66,500 updates before the site eventually crashed – while the likes of Yahoo and AOL also experienced problems due to heavy demand. And not surprisingly, entertainment website TMZ.com, which broke the story a full hour or so before anyone else got hold of it, also fell over (though this will presumably do wonders for its traffic in the future).

Presumably those scrambling for information included the management of the 02 arena in London, where Jackson was due to play a sell-out 50-date tour this year. Over 750,000 tickets have already been sold for the gigs, which apparently could have netted up to $100m for Jackson and German company AEG (which owns the arena) if the run had gone ahead. Now all this money will have to be refunded (let’s hope they had good insurance), while the $5m AEG spent settling a lawsuit to allow the gigs to go ahead is presumably not recoverable.

There’s also a big question mark over Jackson’s share of Sony ATV, the joint venture he set up with Sony to manage all his music rights. Since this includes not only his only valuable back catalogue (now due a re-release, we suspect) but also that of the Beatles and various other top artists, that’s worth a lot of money – in fact, it’s one of the world’s biggest music publishing companies. Reports suggest that Jackson has frittered away much of the vast fortune he accumulated on his way to becoming the world’s most successful recording artist (he sold an extraordinary 750m albums during his lifetime, a figure that’s unlikely ever to be surpassed), hence the London gigs. But that could at least be one valuable legacy for his three children.

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