Michael Jackson By Numbers: Record Buzz Drives Record Sales

Michael Jackson By Numbers: Record Buzz Drives Record Sales

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%.


Data Source: The Nielsen CompanyUnsurprisingly, opinions of Jackson changed after his passing. Below, Nielsen Brand Association Maps show the terms that showed up most as commenters discussed him: first last year; then before his death; and finally after it.

A Year Before: (Below) In spring 2008, online discussion about Jackson focused on his current projects -- his new song with Akon, "Hold My Hand," and a possible comeback album. Neither his career highpoints nor his personal problems got much attention.
Michael Jackson Graph: Online Terms A Year Before His Death
Data Source: The Nielsen Company

The Days Before: (Below) Immediately prior to his death, online commentors discussed elements of Jackson's music career, perhaps because 'American Idol" had featured his music and the singer himself was preparing for a series of concerts in London.

Michael Jackson Graph: Online Terms Days Before His Death
Data Source: The Nielsen Company

The Days After: (Below) When Jackson died, online conversation focused on the circumstances of his passing. But admiration for his talent and speculation about the allegations made against him emerged as secondary areas of interest.
Michael Jackson Graph: Online Terms In The Days Following His Death
Data Source: The Nielsen Company

The Way He Makes You Feel: The chart below tracks online reactions to him. As one might expect, commenters started to look beyond the controversy that surrounded the man and concentrate on the power of his music. Before Jackson died, just 17% of online commenters mentioned him positively. That changed June 25, as the chart below shows.
Michael Jackson Online Sentiment Before Death And After Death

Tweet It: As the line graph below shows, the day after Michael Jackson passed away, tweets about him spiked to 11% of all Twitter conversation.
Michael Jackson Twitter Graph
Data Source: The Nielsen Company