Saturday, December 31, 2016
The video above is Google’s annual look at the Year in Search, the things the world searched for in 2016. It’s always interesting to see it visually, but it’s even more interesting to look in more depth at what was popular, something that varied from place to place. Google makes that easy to do.
Google used to call these videos “Zeitgeist” correctly using the German term that refers to the spirit of the times. However, a few years ago they dropped that term, no doubt because of some popular conspiracy theory videos. Whatever they call it, what we searched for tells us a lot about ourselves and our year.
Google’s Year in Search site includes a special section on what they call the “Breakout Searches” of 2016, broken down by month. These show what people wanted to know about in each month, making it easy to see what was going on in the world that month, and what we felt we needed to know more about.
The regular search data is viewable globally, and in any number of national views. For example, here’s the ranking of overall global searches:
The top five worldwide searches about news were: 1 US Election, 2 Olympics, 3 Brexit, 4 Orlando Shooting, 5 Zika Virus.
Each topic in every ranking can also be viewed separately (by clicking on the search item) and that shows more information about it, like when the search peaked, where people searched for the term from, etc.
Many of us are specifically interested in what people around us want to know, and Google shows search data for a lot of countries. The New Zealand searches were interesting to me, of course, and so were the USA’s searches.
The top overall searches in New Zealand were: 1 Geonet (they monitor earthquakes and list details about them), 2 Olympics, 3 US election, 4 Euro 2016, 5 Earthquake NZ.
For News searches, Kiwis wanted to know about: 1 Earthquake NZ, 2 US election, 3 Pokemon Go, 4 Brexit, 5 Dreamworld (there was a tragedy at the Australian theme park). For Sporting events, it was: 1 Rio Olympics, 2 Euro 2016, 3 All Blacks vs Ireland, 4 Melbourne Cup 2016, 5 T20 World Cup.
People are always of interest, too. Global people searched for were: 1 Donald Trump, 2 Usain Bolt, 3 Hillary Clinton, 4 Michael Phelps, 5 Bernie Sanders. Kiwis: 1 Joseph Parker, 2 Aaron Smith, 3 Eliza McCartney, 4 Lisa Carrington, 5 Jordan Mauger. People we lost: 1 David Bowie, 2 Prince, 3 Christina Grimmie, 4 Muhammad Ali, 5 Alan Rickman.
The searches in the USA were somewhat different. General searches were: 1 Powerball, 2 Prince, 3 Hurricane Matthew, 4 Pokémon Go, 5 Slither.io. The news stories Americans searched were: 1 Olympics, 2 Election, 3 Orlando Shooting, 4 Brexit, 5 Zika Virus.
Naturally, Americans were interested in people: 1 Donald Trump, 2 Hillary Clinton, 3 Michael Phelps, 4 Bernie Sanders, 5 Steven Avery. People we lost: 1 Prince, 2 David Bowie, 3 Christina Grimmie, 4 Muhammad Ali, 5 Alan Rickman. There were also separate categories for Actors, Actresses, and Athletes.
Among other searches, the #5 question under “How To” was “How to move to Canada?” The Chicago Cubs were the #1 sports team search. But this was the most interesting to me:
I think most of those searches suggest that the newsmedia isn’t doing a very good job of explaining things people need to know about. In the case of how US elections are done, it also shows that perhaps schools aren’t doing a very good job of educating American kids on civics.
The things people search for tell us about what they were focusing on, what they felt they needed to know more about, and even the stuff that just interested them—it really is a look at the spirit of the times. Personally, I’m glad that Google makes this so easy to slice and dice in numerous ways.
After all, finding out what’s going on is fun.