Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Michael Jackson, the Elgin Marbles and the Guardian

Twitter crashed under the sheer volume of messages, and Google traffic jumped so dramatically that the company thought it was under attack from hackers.

But on the Guardian website, (which remains Britain’s most-visited newspaper website, with 27,194,840 unique visitors in May, according to the latest figures), the news of Michael Jackson’s death made only number three on its ‘Most Viewed’ chart for the seven days ending on Monday 29 June, which includes the weekend when Jackson died.

The most viewed? The USA v Brazil confederations cup final live-as-it-happened commentary, believe it or not. Even more remarkably, an arts diary poll on whether it is time to return the Parthenon Marbles to Greece came in at number two.

The poll, which drew 380,000 viewers and 130,000 voters, yielded an Albania-under-Enver Hoxha style result, with 94.8 per cent in favour of their return and 5.2 per cent against – which suggested something of a fix.

And so it proved. Forty thousand came to the poll via various Facebook campaigns; 6,000 more came from a single email circular. Half of those who voted came from Athens, which normally accounts for 0.4 per cent of Guardian website traffic.

Not that the Guardian minded; it’s all grist to its online advertising mill. By July the cricket was dominating its ‘Most Viewed’ charts. There was room, however, for one Jacko story, a classic of its kind: ‘Paul McCartney "not devastated" over Michael Jackson will.’

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