MJ’s death: the wider consequences

From today’s Guardian.

The owner of the O2 arena could face an insurance liability of up to £300m after the death of Michael Jackson, who had been scheduled to play a series of sell-out gigs starting in the summer.

AEG Live, which persuaded Jackson to stage the 50-date run at the former Millenium Dome, admitted earlier this year that it was finding it difficult to insure the This Is It performances after the initial schedule of 10 concerts grew.

Doubts over whether Jackson would be fit enough both mentally and physically to complete the extended run of gigs increased the potential insurance bill to £300m, according to a report by Reinsurance magazine in March.

Insurers were reluctant to take on such a liability and instead, the AEG chief executive Randy Phillips was reported at the time as saying that the company would be willing to “self-insure” to get the shows to go ahead.

“It’s a risk we’re willing to take to bring the King of Pop to his fans,” he said.

Admirable sentiment. But bad business decision, if true.

And how about this from ArsTechnica on the wider impact on the Net?

The news of pop icon Michael Jackson’s collapse and subsequent death sent ripples across the Web on Thursday afternoon, affecting numerous services and sparking yet another spam campaign. Twitter, Google, Facebook, various news sites, and even iTunes were practically crushed under the weight of the sudden spike in Internet traffic. The phenomenon may not be new on an individual level, but combined across services, it was truly one of the most significant in recent memory.

When news first broke that the Jackson had collapsed in his home, Twitter was immediately abuzz. There were several points when the Ars staff observed between 6,000 and 13,000 new tweets per minute mentioning Michael Jackson before Twitter began to melt down—all before anyone other than TMZ.com was reporting his death. Of course, most of us are intimately familiar with the famed Fail Whale at this point, though Twitter’s meltdown was mostly reflected in a major slowing of the service and the inability to send new tweets.

In fact, Twitter cofounder Biz Stone told the L.A. Times that the news of Jackson’s passing caused the biggest spike in tweets per second since the US Presidential Election. (Similarly, Facebook—also known as Wannabe Twitter—saw a spike in status updates that was apparently three times more than average for the site, though a spokesperson said the site remained free of performance issues.)

Google, on the other hand, began receiving so many searches for news about Jackson that it caused the search engine to believe it was under attack. The site went into self-protection mode, throwing up CAPTCHAs and malware alerts to users trying to find news. A Google spokesperson described the incident as “volcanic” compared to other major news events, confirming that there was a service slowdown for some time.

On the other hand, Rory Cellan-Jones has this:

But did the internet actually buckle? Well, there was some strain – but it seems to have come through well.

In the United States, a company called Keynote, which monitors internet performance, says popular news sites showed marked slowdowns for three hours from about 2230 BST: “The average speed for downloading news items doubled from less than four seconds to almost nine seconds,” said Shawn White from Keynote. “During the same period, the average availability of sites dropped from almost 100% to 86%.”

But guess what: in Europe overnight, there was no spike in internet traffic. Interoute, which operates Europe’s largest fibre optic voice and data network, sent me graphs (see below) showing traffic through the three key internet exchanges in Amsterdam, Frankfurt and London. At all three exchanges, traffic was either around the same as normal overnight, or, in London’s case, actually a little lower.