NEW YORK The sudden death of pop legend Michael Jackson has unleashed a flood of traffic over the past 18 hours on various news, entertainment and social networking Web sites.
According to officials, CNN.com enjoyed its second-highest traffic day of the year yesterday in terms of page views, trailing only January’s coverage of the inauguration of President Obama. The site enjoyed a fivefold spike in traffic when the news broke on Thursday afternoon; during the 6:00 p.m. EST hour, CNN.com delivered 20 million page views, roughly one-fifth of the site’s 103.7 million for the day.
As for video, CNN.com Live delivered 2.2 million million streams, marking the third-highest day of the year behind the Hudson River plane crash and the inauguration.
For Yahoo News, Jackson’s passing drew an even bigger crowd than Obama’s swearing-in. The site set a one-day record for unique visitors with 16.4 million, topping the 15.1 million visitors drawn on election day. Four million users visited the site between 3-4 p.m. PST, also a record. And the front page story “Michael Jackson Rushed to Hospital” received a staggering 800,000 clicks in 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, as millions of fans sought out friends to share the news and mourn Jackson (as well as actress Farrah Fawcett, who also died yesterday), AOL’s AIM instant messaging service — which was undergoing a previously scheduled software update — was overwhelmed by an increase in use and shut down for roughly 40 minutes. Said a spokesperson: “Today was a seminal moment in Internet history. We’ve never seen anything like it in terms of scope or depth.”
AOL users have also turned out in droves to relive Jackson’s music. AOL Radio’s All-Michael Jackson saw an outrageous spike of 28,471 percent, more than 45 times its normal traffic. Music lovers also flocked to CBS’ Last.fm, which following the Jackson news was streaming an average of 43,000 tracks per hour.
MySpace also became a huge outlet for fans to reminisce about Jackson’s career. Executives reported that the official Michael Jackson MySpace profile was adding 100 new friends per minute on Thursday and Friday, the fastest such accumulation in the history of the site. Plus, officials reported that MySpace Music was streaming an average of 100,000 songs every 10 minutes in the hours after Jackson’s death.
Naturally, Jackson fans also turned to MTV — where the iconic artist made his name — to note his passing. MTV.com enjoyed its third-largest unique audience of the year: 1.7 million unique visitors, a surge of 79 percent vs. the same day last week. Visitors streamed over 137,000 videos on the site on Thursday, and six of the top-10 music videos were Jackson’s.
Sister site Vh1.com has seen a similar burst in Jackson interest. On Friday, nine of the top-10 music videos being streamed on the site were Jackson’s, with the classic Thriller video dominating, said officials.