Michael Jackson: Internet Thriller; Broadcast Killer

Before tuning into CNN and the BBC, the first I heard of Michael Jackson's death was on Facebook. This was the same for millions of people and in the age of online social networking, the event of Jackson's death has illustrated how online media is trumping not only print media but especially broadcast media

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By  Gareth Van Zyl Published  June 30, 2009

Before tuning into CNN and the BBC, the first I heard of Michael Jackson's death was on Facebook. This was the same for millions of people and in the age of online social networking, the event of Jackson's death has illustrated how online media is trumping not only print media but especially broadcast media.

In fact, it was TMZ (the popular celebrity gossip web-site) which broke the news after TMZ had been following a tip-off that a paramedic had visited the pop star's home. What followed was what can only be described as a Tsunami of information that made its way onto just about every corner of the internet.

Some say the internet 'buckled' under the load of people trying to find more information about Jackson's death. Representatives from Google told the BBC that when the news of Jackson's death first broke, they thought their search engine was under attack. The following error message appeared on the search engine saying "your query looks similar to automated requests from a computer virus or spyware application".

It's even been suggested by many analysts that Twitter and the BBC website had their biggest spikes in traffic thus far when the news broke. Facebook has been awash with messages of condolence (and, in some instances, there has been a litany of jokes about the king of pop as well). Even Wikipedia editors tried to keep pace with events and YouTube was full of Michael Jackson videos appearing on the site’s home page.

With more and more people switching onto social networks, does this mean that the days of broadcast media are joining their print counterparts in coming to an end? It is clearly not possible for broadcast media to keep pace when big news breaks on Twitter or Facebook.

Our need for information has become overwhelming and its delivery has become up to the second thanks to the internet. Even when the post-election violence in Iran broke out, news broadcasters such as CNN practically became aggregators of Facebook and Twitter owing to the difficulties that journalists experience reporting in that country. It is getting to the point where it almost seems as if there’s no point in watching a television channel such as CNN when big news events happen these days.

I find this strange as there was a time, not too long ago, on 11th September 2001, when I remember being glued to the television watching the catastrophe that beset New York when two American Airline jets were hijacked and flown into the Twin Towers of New York's World Trade Centre. If another event of this magnitude happens in my lifetime again, the likelihood is that I will be glued to Facebook, Twitter or any other new internet incarnation rather than being glued to my television.

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