What the MJ media madness has taught me

Yes, we all know that Michael Jackson died. It's hard NOT to know considering the amount of media coverage the King of Pop's passing has received and continues to receive. Don't worry, I'm not going to write about his music, the allegations, how much of a freak he was or wasn't, etc. This post is about what the media madness around the MJ story has taught me as a PR professional, former journalist and social media hound.

I first caught wind of something being "up" with MJ via my Blackberry Storm by way of a New York Times news alert. The headline read, "Michael Jackson hospitalized with heart problems," or something to that extent. I was hanging out with my co-workers at the time and after I announced that to the group, someone said, "Oh man, imagine if he died?" Within a second of that comment, I received an instant message on my BB from my wife, "OMG...Michael Jackson died!" I turned to the group and gave them the news. We all immediately grabbed our mobile devices and started checking out Twitter and Facebook. We then turned the TV channel to CNN.

I remember when the news broke that Magic Johnson had HIV. I heard a rumor in school and it was that MJ had aids. I was thinking Michael Jordan, not Jackonson or Magic. I got home after school, just in time for the press conference on one of the major networks - think it was ABC at the time. However, from the time I heard the rumor to the time I actually confirmed the news, it was a span of two to three hours. With the Michael Jackson story, I got initial word, rumor confirmation, web confirmation and finally news confirmation all within 20 seconds of each other. That's how fast news spreads in today's internet-based news environment.

Fast forward to yesterday and the live memorial coverage was ridiculous. Every major network covered it. It was live on MySpace, CNN/Facebook, MTV, E! Online, etc. It was basically everywhere. You had to be cut off from the world NOT to see or hear about it.

According to news reports, CNN said thet received 9.7 million live video streams globally as of 5 p.m. EDT. That's less than the 21.3 million streams Obama's inauguration reaped for CNN, but more than the 5.3 million streams it had on Election Day.

Wow. Just wow. It goes to show you, despite the importance of Obama's inauguration, the MJ story has rivaled it in many ways.

I personally experienced the memorial through CNN's stream, Twitter and Facebook, not because of the memorial itself, but rather to experience the social media aspect. To see people's comments in real time and then have those comments discussed live by CNN anchors was incredible. It was truly a global event where everyone was reporting, not just CNN, MTV, E!, ABC, NBC, etc., etc. That's the beatuy of social media. It puts us all on a level playing field in terms of distributing news and information to our social networks. No longer can consumers be called readers or viewers, we are news outlet's social networks.

I hightly doubt we'll see another major media event like the inauguration or the MJ memorial. However, brand should use those two events as proof positive that the general public is consuming news in a social media fashion. No, a brand like Coke won't get the following or attention these events did, but their audience is out there. They just have to create content that their audience would be interested in and deliver it in a fashion that they are comfortable with and already using. That's "joining the conversation" as the experts say.

What did you think of how social media has shaped these major news events over the past year or so? Where is it headed? Will news outlets use man on the street freelancers more often? All opinions are welcome. Fire away.