Michael Jackson has always had an influence beyond recorded music. His performance on a Motown special helped make him a superstar, MTV made him an international celebrity, and TV tabloid coverage kept him in the public eye for the last decade.
These days, of course, the attention Jackson gets can be tracked on the Internet. Using data from the Nielsen Co., Billboard tracked how Jackson was discussed online, how that talk drove sales of his albums, what the online audience thinks of him and how that opinion has changed over time.
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News of Jackson's death dominated the Internet like no event before or since. On June 25, 8% of online discussion centered on his passing. The chart below shows the percentage of Internet discussion devoted to him, plotted against sales. (The inset highlights just how dramatic the increase in interest is.) Click the image to enlarge it to a readable size.
Buyers And Buzz: Online discussion of Jackson peaks whenever he's in the news, but album sales only spike if it involves music (see chart below). Nearly 8% of all online discussion on June 25 concerned Jackson -- the most about a single news subject, according to Nielsen BuzzMetrics. The historic election of Barack Obama peaked at 5.5%, by way of comparison, and the recent swine flu outbreak reached 2.6%.