How Hollywood Headlines (and Deaths) Spark Wikipedia Page Explosions

When Philip Seymour Hoffman passed in January, his entry jumped to nearly two million visits in a single day

Last Updated: August 4, 2014 @ 10:29 AM

Wikipedia’s stated mission is to catalog all the world’s available information; the unintended consequence is that it has become a one-stop resource for obituaries.

To understand how breaking news stories are written in an era in which trending topic journalism has made niche expertise a disappearing commodity, one simply needs to look at the non-profit website’s traffic numbers. When news breaks, writers turn to Wikipedia for a quick base of information and leads to more in depth information for follow-ups; similarly, readers run to the site to learn more about the latest topic in the news.

Also read: Oscars: ‘In Memoriam’ Starts With James Gandolfini, Ends With Philip Seymour Hoffman

In the case of celebrity death, the numbers are dramatic. For example, when Oscar-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman died of a drug overdose at the beginning of February, the visits to his Wikipedia page skyrocketed, from a number in the very low four digits to over 1.78 million visits in a single day. The spike held the next day, registering 1.71 million on Monday, February 3, before falling to 539,000, then 282,000 and slowly falling back to around 5,000 per day since.

See photos: Hollywood’s Notable Deaths of 2014

Similarly, though on a smaller scale, the death of fashion designer L’Wren Scott led to a surge of 225,000 visitors, from just about zero.

To get a better idea of how this trend works, TheWrap chose five industry newsmakers from the first three months of the year and tracked their Wikipedia spikes, as you can see in the chart below.




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