Cisco Blogs

The Michael Jackson Effect

July 23, 2009 - 5 Comments

sun settingSo, readers of this blog may well remember my thoughts on the late Michael Jackson – Innovator, Trendsetter, the King of Pop – and one of the most iconic figures of my youth. No other entertainer, in my opinion, has ever had such global stature, and certainly no one else could have inspired me in junior high to spray Pledge on my kitchen floor to better practice gliding dance moves.We’ve talked about how lessons learned from his approach to music are applicable in principle to the ones service providers around the world are facing. Following the unexpected news of his passing, I couldn’t help but wonder what effect it would have on the network, especially considering his worldwide recognition.During other recent newsworthy events, such as the inauguration of U.S. President Obama, we were able to see substantial spikes in traffic at various Internet Exchange points around the world. In the US, traffic increased by 42% across the 5 stateside exchange points compared to the weekday average at that time – and in Europe, the London point spiked 30%. Such growth was likely due to massive amounts of streamed video that many of us watched while we were “multitasking” at work.To gauge the impact of this news, I asked our Visual Networking Index team to pull together some more granular data to see not just the amount the traffic we generated, but how we viewed/share content and interacted with one another on the network as well – in essence, let’s move away from assumptions of usage and move towards getting more detail about the usage itself. Internet Exchange statistics couldn’t yield that info, but the Cisco VNI Pulse application can. Installed by more than 2,000 people worldwide and growing, the application shows you how you use the data and how your “uber-user” status compares relative to the global average. It also allows Cisco and the world via to see the ever-dynamic aggregated results. Using this data, the team was able to assess traffic generated from a range of applications on a day-to-day basis, and here’s what we found:

  • In the three days following the announcement of his passing, online video usage was 7, 10, and 66% above its average level over the previous three weeks. All other application traffic was below normal levels except for email which had levels of activity 4, 10, and 93% above its normal level. (We also cross referenced this with just inputs from previous Fri-Sat-Sun levels and these are still very high.)
  • In contrast, for the July 7th memorial, what we didn’t see was a rise in video – in fact the overall video usage was just 1.6% above the previous daily average. However, we did see a large rises in social networking (increased 58%), email (increased 149%), and voice over IP (increased 245%).

So what does this mean? The Michael Jackson Effect was but one contributor to traffic patterns in the internet during this time period, here is one possibility:

When news hit, people went online to news outlets to watch the latest information as soon as it became available, and they informed friends, effectively passing along the news. Weeks later, after many of the details had been discovered, the focus went to more reflecting and sharing, which, as a result, created a surge in more participatory and social applications. Perhaps the memorial service didn’t have the effect on the internet video as news of his passing seems to have done because it was so heavily televised that fans preferred to view it on a larger-screen TV than a small web screen…and because it was “packaged” with most all of the video feeds being the same and didn’t require cross-referencing of multiple sources, the situation lent itself more to being viewed by the most convenient device (the TV most of which today at least is non IP-based) vs. migrating towards the unique value adds that Internet brings.

This data shared by the Cisco VNI pulse may lead you to different analysis of it as well, and if so, please always feel free to share it.** On an entirely personal note, I didn’t watch the memorial service at all, as I was participating at a funeral for a friend here in Austin and immersed in the emotions of his wife, family, community, and my own personal reflections. There are many ways to analyze the effects of a death and even the impression or legacy that one’s lifetime has left. Such analysis is magnified when someone has had an impact upon or reached many and can even be a way for some to come to terms with the events that transpired. Throughout it all though, it’s important not to let the analysis be too numeric or for us ever to be too clinical in our conclusions as we dive in the “complexities” of the situation. While there can certainly be lessons learned from such review, it’s critical for our humanity to keep in mind that at the base of such analysis is the passing of a human life. And loss – any loss – is simply tragic.

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  1. With SPs, it's not always the case that traffic=money. Rather, traffic is considered a cost to them, however, and I think this is your point, traffic is also a great opportunity for them if they can effectively monetize it. That's where we're focused at Cisco -- not only to innovate new technologies such as the ASR9000 that allows them to more cost effectively handle such traffic but also to work with them in a variety of ways to capitalize on this seemingly insatiable appetite the market has for bandwidth. For example we're working with many providers around the globe to help them deploying new services over their existing infrastructure (that's where the intelligence in our technology really shines). By constantly advancing their business models and using their IPNGN network as a platform, SPs can provide more and more value to their customers and revenue to their business.Thanks for the comments and discussion,Doug

  2. Well internet traffic is something, but now that his Movie: This is it"" is released and will soon come on DVD imagine the ammount of money flow generated after his death. Everyone knows that traffic=money ;)"

  3. I'm sorry if you took offense at my comment. No criticism is intended, honestly. I only mean to let you know that I like to read your stuff but the mention of ... made me hesitate. I certainly will not waste any more of your time and attention on this.

  4. Without reading the post, you won’t have context for any discussion, Maria, so my comments back to you likely won’t make sense, either. In general, how people use the network is of interest to many in the industry and to me, and using readily recognized events or themes can, in my opinion, put a grounding reference to something that is too often confined to a theoretical or academic context only. Whether I refer to my children, President Obama’s campaign, or Michael Jackson – as I have done in past posts, as you may recall -- the intent is not a branding one at all, but rather an attempt to broaden the ways that readers of this forum may be able to relate, engage and understand.If you would like to have a dialogue further on this, please don’t hesitate to write or call – my email address and phone number are the same as it was when you were at Cisco. Thanks.

  5. I have so OD'ed on 'news' coverage of Michael Jackson's death that even though you usually write good posts, I cannot bring myself to read it, even if it eventually relates to Cisco business. Is this an example of 'reverse leverage' of a famous brand?