News sites swamped following Michael Jackson's death

Traffic-tracking sites have yet to report in, but signs are singer's death strained the bigger news sites.

Greg Sandoval Former Staff writer
Greg Sandoval covers media and digital entertainment for CNET News. Based in New York, Sandoval is a former reporter for The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. E-mail Greg, or follow him on Twitter at @sandoCNET.
Greg Sandoval
3 min read

This story was updated multiple times after it was originally published, including with a Keynote System statement that it erred in assessing the performance of ABCNews.com and other media news sites.

Google error on Michael Jackson searches
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It turns out many of the Internet's top news sites fared better at handling the glut of traffic following the death of singer Michael Jackson than previously thought.

Keynote Systems, a company that tracks site performance, said Friday that it erred in measuring performance for news sites and issued incorrect information Thursday evening.

Dan Berkowitz, Keynote's spokesman, said the most important thing was to correct the record about ABCNews.com, which he said delivered pages to visitors close to normally during the hour-long traffic spike following Jackson's death. He added that the company is still studying the causes of the error. A representative for Disney, which owns ABC, said the company saw "no dips in performance" as a result of the traffic glut.

While Keynote's assessment of site performance may have been overly bleak, many news sites were slow to deliver pages and in some cases were inaccessible at times.

When news of the iconic performer's death began trickling out, scores of people turned to the Web for information. TMZ broke the news that Jackson, 50, known for producing some of the world's best selling records, including "Thriller" and "Bad," had died Thursday afternoon, but the gossip hub cited only unnamed sources and offered few details. As other news services turned their attention to the story and as the public took to the Web to learn more about the performer's condition, some Web sites began slowing down.

Some Google users complained that the search engine's News area was inaccessible for a time.

A Google representative confirmed that "between approximately 2:40 p.m. PDT and 3:15 p.m. PDT today, some Google News users experienced difficulty accessing search results for queries related to Michael Jackson."

CNN.com appeared to be sluggish delivering Jackson stories at times. In its defense, the news organization said that the site saw 20 million page views and a fivefold increase in traffic (from where it was prior to when news about Jackson's death began widely circulating) in one hour.

Even before Jackson's death, Thursday was a big day for news sites as word of actress Farrah Fawcett's death hit the wires in the morning and continued interest in the scandal surrounding South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford.

The traffic deluge came swiftly and lasted for about a half hour, according to internal data here at CNET News, which saw twice the normal amount of hourly traffic shortly after word of Jackson's death spread. At sister site CBSNews.com, traffic numbers were five times their normal levels.

On Friday, antivirus vendor Sophos reported on a wave of spam related to Jackson's death that claims to have vital information about the news event. There are no malicious URLs in the spam, but recipients who reply to the message are then providing proof that the e-mail address is legitimate and will likely be targeted in future spam campaigns, the company said.

Corrected on June 26 at 4:07 p.m. PT: Keynote Systems, the source for Web site performance supplied CNET News with incorrect data. ABCNews.com's performance following the death of Michael Jackson was near optimal.

Michael Jackson's death sent U.S. Internet users to news sites and the traffic heated up network traffic. as evidence in these images. Akamai