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In the Blogosphere, the Walkman and the Pitchman Supplant Michael Jackson

After an initial wave of nostalgia over the death of Michael Jackson, social media moved on to other matters last week. Unlike the traditional press, which remained fixated on the life and death of the King of Pop, that story all but vanished from the links in both blog and twitter posts.

From June 29-July 3, discussion of Jackson accounted for a mere 2% of the links on blogs and other social media, according to the Project for Excellence in Journalism's New Media Index.  This represents a sharp drop-off from the previous week, which, although it included just the first two days of coverage after Jackson's June 25 death, garnered 27% of the links.

Instead, online commentators tracked by the social monitoring services Icerocket and Technorati focused on two different post-mortems last week-one for a bygone technology and the other for another recently deceased celebrity, albeit one lacking Jackson's star power and status.

The top story in social media last week-accounting for 33% of all links-was a report in BBC Magazine about a 13-year-old British boy who was given an original Sony Walkman. He was asked to use the Walkman for a week to help mark the 30th anniversary of that early foray into portable music technology.

Next, at 14% of the links, were tributes to TV infomercial star Billy Mays who died at age 50 (ironically, the same age as Jackson) on June 28. Initially his sudden death was thought to be caused by an injury from a rough plane landing, but later the cause was revealed to be heart disease.

These two stories, which did not show up anywhere in the top-10 list for the mainstream press last week, speak to social media's predilection toward news about technology and the coming together around less well-known celebrity figures. They also, in the case of Jackson, suggest that social media were not as attracted to the secondary and more troubling strains of the fallout from his death.

On Twitter, the Jackson saga was also passé by last week. A separate look at the Twitter tracking site, Tweetmeme, found the Jackson story amounted to just 5% of the tweets with links from June 29-July 3.  Instead, Twitterers continued their focus on Iran which accounted for fully 48% of the links. And again, the emphasis tended to be on how to marshal support for the protesters in that country.

The mainstream press, on the other hand, dug deeper into the Jackson saga last week, according to PEJ's News Coverage Index. Filling 17% of their newshole with Jackson coverage, the traditional media continued to commemorate the star's legacy. But to an even greater extent, they focused on the ominous questions surrounding the role of drugs in this death and potential court battles over his estate and children.

And there was further evidence of the gap in the news agendas of the social and mainstream media. In a week when the U.S. pulled its troops out of Iraqi cities and launched a major offensive in Afghanistan, only 1% of links in the blogosphere were devoted to Iraq and Afghanistan respectively. But in the mainstream media, events in Iraq were the No. 3 story, at 6%, and Afghanistan was No. 4, at 5%. The No. 5 story in the mainstream press was the debate over health care, also at 5%.

In the social media, however, the rest of the top-five story list was strikingly different.

A BBC Science story about researchers who found that a large ant colony in Argentina is actually part of a large interrelated network of ant colonies, was No. 3, generating 12% of the links. The Supreme Court decision about the New Haven firefighters received 9% of the week's links while the subject of global warming, spurred by the U.S. House passage of a climate change bill, got 6%.

Source:
journalism.org
In the Blogosphere, the Walkman and the Pitchman Supplant Michael Jackson