Janet Makes History
February 4, 2004
Janet Jackson exposing her breast during the Super Bowl halftime show on Sunday night has proved to be the most-searched event in the history of the Internet.
On Monday, Janet Jackson and the halftime show received 60 times as many searches as the Paris Hilton sex tape and 80 times as many searches as Britney Spears. Jackson was searched 50 times for every request for the topic that normally dominates on the day after the game, Super Bowl commercials. She also received 275 times as many searches as the streaker who ran on the field before the second half, and 350 times as many searches as Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady.
Janet Jackson wasn’t the only person involved in the stunt, of course. Justin Timberlake received 40 times as many searches as he does on a normal day.
Prior to this week, the most-searched event in the history of the Lycos 50 over a one-day period was the September 11 attack on America. Although it is very difficult to compare searches for the two events, it looks like the Super Bowl halftime show was the equal of September 11 when it comes to Internet attention. That is, to put it bluntly, mind-blowing.
Why is it difficult to compare? The Super Bowl halftime show was a single event. Searches revolved almost entirely around two phrases, either Super Bowl halftime or Janet Jackson. Everybody knew exactly what they were looking for.
On September 11, however, nobody really knew what they were looking for. Confusion about what had happened, not to mention multiple attacks, caused Lycos users to search for a huge number of different terms, from the places attacked (World Trade Center, Pentagon, New York City) to those attacking us (Osama bin Laden, Taliban) to a hoax about a prediction of the attack (Nostradamus).
Now, when you add all those different terms together, you get less than half as many search requests as we received on Monday for Janet Jackson and the Super Bowl halftime show. However, you also have to consider the massive rise in searches for terms like breaking news and latest news on September 11, and searches for news organizations from CNN to FOX.
There was no similar rise in searches for news organizations on Monday, with one exception: The Drudge Report, which posted pictures of the exposed breast, received 30 times the searches it gets on a normal day.
Add the increase in news searches on September 11 to all the specific searches for September 11-related topics, and the total is roughly equivalent to the number of searches for Janet Jackson and the halftime show. Still, the fact that a single breast received as much attention as the first attack on United States soil in 60 years is beyond belief.
Janet’s halftime exposure also far surpasses the other top stories of Lycos 50 history. Over one day it received three times as many searches as the 2000 Election on the day after. It received four times as many searches as the Iraq War on the day that Al-Jazeera broadcast video of American prisoners of war. It received five times as many searches as the day the Space Shuttle Columbia exploded.