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Michael Jackson and Billy Mays: Newspapers? Screw ’em

June 30, 2009

So first I want to apologize for the slow blog the past week.  It has been crazy busy, but we will get wwwwY rolling again.  It has been a rough few days. First Ed McMahon, and Farrah, which weren’t that shocking. But I wasn’t ready for my world to be turned upside down.

At 3pm on June 25 I got a phone call from the car full of friends I was following going to the San Diego Fair.  The news I heard was unbelievable, “Todd! Michael Jackson Just died!!”

“Whatt?!?!?!?!?!!?” and I hung up.  I did the only thing I could do; call my head researcher to see what he could do.  A call was placed to my roommate (a “professional” internet surfer specializing in “research”) and I told him to find out what he could and to report back.  My head was spinning.

He said there were rumors, and then an hour later he said the LA Times confirmed Michael’s passing.  On a shuttle bus from the parking lot to the fair we told everyone about Michael, kids started playing MJ tunes on their iPhones and people young and old were bonding over their favorite songs and moments.

If this was ten years ago, people would have waited until the afternoon paper (if it made it in before deadline), or possibly the evening news to find out any information – but we knew before the LA Times did.

You’ve heard it a million times, Gen Y is the “instant gratification” generation, and we want it now!  This could not be more true and it will be the death of newspapers.  With Twitter, Facebook and everything else mobile – why in the world would we pick up a newspaper to read news that is old?  Or, why would we pick up a newspaper to read news we knew about hours before?

My buddy who heard the tragic news received numerous text messages about Michael, and his last moments.  His death was all over Facebook and Twitter.  At the same time The LA Times had nothing, CNN had nothing, and we were telling everyone we could at the Fair.

A very similar thing happened to me Sunday morning.  I woke up checked Facebook and saw some disturbing statuses including, “Billy Mays died? WTF?” I saw more and more statuses with just the same message.  I moved to Twitter, same thing.  I finally checked Yahoo and of course, they were right.

There was no newspaper involved, no news story, just good old word of mouth dissemination.  Newspapers, what did you do for me during one of the biggest news stories of the past five years?  Nothing.  Sorry newspapers, Gen Y doesn’t need you anymore.

The LA Times Blog had an interesting post about Internet traffic during the MJ saga.

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/technology/2009/06/huge-spike-in-michael-jackson-traffic-strains-web-sites.html

Tweets doubled around the time of Michael Jackson’s passing.  So many people were Tweeting, that the site dramatically slowed.  AOL also said that AIM shutdown due to the extremely high traffic surrounding his death and Yahoo also confirmed a record high of 16.4 unique visitors on the same day.  Everyone (especially Gen Y) is turning to an instant form of news.  Newspapers take note.

This should be a message to news organizations: when we want something, we’re going to go out and get it.  Gen Y doesn’t have the patience to wait for a newspaper to print.  By the time your paper prints: we already know the news, have already told everyone we know how we feel about the news, and know how everyone else feels about the news.

Newspapers do yourself a favor, go green…

and stop printing.

Follow Todd on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/toddliss

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