The Michael Jackson Memorial Streamies for Best and Worst Site Performance

Last Updated Jul 7, 2009 4:13 PM EDT

What I, and maybe you, really want to know about the Michael Jackson memorial service is how the Internet held up during what may prove to have been unprecedented traffic, and streaming -- so, as a public service, I spent the last few hours monitoring it. First, some top-line observations, and then, below, my presentation of the Michael Jackson Memorial Streamies, highlighting the best, and worst, site performance during the two-hour service.

How the Web Performed Overall According to a visualization of online traffic on Akamai (thanks for pointing me to it, @georgedearing), as of about 2:50 p.m. EST today -- roughly an hour into the service -- there were about two million live streams traveling over Akamai, which handles about 20 percent of all Internet traffic. That figure is about six times higher than normal.

Overall, the Internet held up remarkably well. Of course, as compared with sudden news, in this case, there was prep time. While the audio feed occasionally was several seconds behind the video feed, and there was a lag time, sometimes of a minute or more, between some sites' feeds and others, it was fairly close to a TV experience, demonstrating, that in future, the online experience for big events will rival, if not surpass, the TV one, because of the Web's interactivity.

And, Now, for the Streamies But tracking a big Internet event is about more than bandwidth issues -- how did individual sites present the event? How good was the user experience? Did sites incorporate social media tools? Without further ado, here are my awards, of a sort -- the Michael Jackson Memorial Streamies:

  • Best video streaming experience: Hulu, for presenting its stream of the Fox News feed in a separate box without all sorts of other distracting hoo-ha and only minor glitches in audio and a near-perfect video feed. Even though I've made it clear how much I'd like to see Hulu monetize itself better, I do have to give out a monetization demerit for putting a static ad for the Nissan Cube in the lower right hand corner for the entire service, although at least now I know what a Nissan Cube is.
  • Best integration of Facebook Connect: CNN.com. Of course, having done this for the election and inauguration, they've got experience. (ABCnews.com and MTV.com also incorporated FB Connect.)
  • Best integration of Twitter: MSNBC.com.
  • Most comprehensive integration of social media tools: MTV.com, for incorporating some tweets and Facebook Connect. Demerits for running all of those streams, all told, on only about 20 percent of its home page.
  • Dullest stream: CBSnews.com. No social media tools. Just a stream and occasional expert commentary. Who cares what you, the fans, think?
  • The "we don't have the technology" award: To USAToday.com, whose feed, provided by Livestream, carried this off-putting scroll across the bottom: "Chat on this channel has been disabled to maintain the quality of the video stream."
  • Best complete lack of synergy: News Corp. So, why did MySpace not use the Fox News feed? And why did Fox News require viewers to install a player, while Hulu and MySpace did not? And while we're asking questions, why wasn't a MySpace friend stream incorporated into any of the Fox News feeds? (Oh, right. On that question, the answer is different demos.)
In summary: overall great performance, Internet! You should be proud of yourself! However, while some of the above sites get how live events need to work these days, others of you have some work to do. Now get to it.

Previous coverage of Michael Jackson's death and the media at BNET Media: