Madonna, queen of the Noughties

Pop star attracted more media coverage in past 10 years than any other celebrity, reports Jerome Taylor

They say there's no such thing as bad publicity – and if sheer column inches are anything to go by then the Noughties have been all about Madonna.

As the first decade of the 21st century draws to a close, researchers have been busily working out which celebrities have received the most amount of space in Britain's newspapers, with the cabbala-loving queen of pop emerging a clear winner.

Madge was already the bestselling female artist of the 20th century when 1999 became 2000, but over the past 10 years she has continued to dominate the headlines thanks to her regular chameleonic reinventions and high-profile marriage (and then divorce) to British director Guy Ritchie.

Madonna-the-pop-goddess (as opposed to the religious version) has been mentioned in 45,633 articles in the British press over the past 10 years, almost 17,000 times more than her nearest rival, Robbie Williams.

Researches found that the first half of the decade was so dominated by Madonna stories that even when her publicity popularity peaked in 2007, she had still accrued enough media coverage to win the overall race by a clear margin.

Alex Ayling, commissioning executive of online television channel Liv, which commissioned the study, said: "Madonna's ability to be able to reinvent herself and her image has meant she has stayed at the top of her game throughout the Noughties and we salute the queen of pop."

But The Independent's music critic Andy Gill was more circumspect. "What's most remarkable about these figures is the lack of musical success Madonna has had in the past 10 years, considering just how much press coverage she's received. Whether it's Madonna or Robbie Williams, it is their soap opera lifestyle that generates the headlines, not their musical ability," he said.

Victoria and David Beckham were only able to manage a sixth and seventh place on the top 10 most written about table, but "Brand Beckham" (mentions of both David and Victoria in the same article) came in fourth with 26,561 hits, marginally below Britney Spears, whose eventful decade of pop stardom and public breakdown accrued her 27,910 hits in the British press. Kate Moss came fifth with 26,494 mentions; Michael Jackson, Simon Cowell and Sir Paul McCartney completed the top 10.

This year, however, was dominated by Michael Jackson's death in June and pretty much anyone associated with uber-pop svengali Simon Cowell, who was himself the second most written about celebrity this year after the late King of Pop with 6,213 hits. Susan Boyle and Cheryl Cole joined The X Factor creator in the top 10, while Jedward, perhaps the greatest pop enigma of the Noughties, have managed to wangle their heavily coiffured quiffs into 1,112 articles in the past three months alone.

So who will dominate the tabloids for the next decade? If Cheryl Cole's recent omnipresence is anything to go by, the singer looks sure to be in with a chance of pole position come 2020.

Thanks to her primetime role as a judge on The X Factor, and the tabloid press's increasing fixation with her at the expense of her fellow Girls Aloud bandmates, Cole has seen her newspaper stocks skyrocket.

In 2007 there were "just" 884 articles written about the Geordie singer but in 2008 – the year she joined The X Factor – the number of articles mentioning Cole jumped to 2,241. This year she has appeared in 3,745 articles, making her the fourth most written about celebrity of 2009.