More on the Year That Wasn’t

The column this week reviewing search trends for the year could have gone on endlessly, and I had to keep cutting to get it down to a remotely readable length of under 1,000 words. Included below are some sections that were snipped from the final version. I’ve added a few headers and organized them in the rough order in which they would have beein included in the column to help make any sense of this.

Overall Impressions

Yahoo’s search term list seems the most honest, given its reflection of a celebrity-obsessed (and babe-obsessed) culture. Google’s is the most bizarre (Bebo tops MySpace), even more than the one from Lycos (#1 search term: poker), while MSN’s list included the most mentions of soccer players.

Another Take on Google Zeitgeist

Google Zeitgeist’s most prominent feature was labeled “top searches in 2006,” and it instantly raised eyebrows. Social network Bebo ranked as the number one term, followed by rival MySpace. I turned to Google Trends LINK, which expectedly showed searches for MySpace soaring way above Bebo searches.

I wrote Google, and a spokesperson promptly responded, “The reason for this is because the Google Zeitgeist is a regular look at an aggregation of the most popular and fastest-rising search queries as indicated by what people are typing in to their Google.com search box. Zeitgeist means ‘spirit of the times,’ and Google search queries, when seen in volume, tend to reflect what is collectively on our minds day in and day out. People use Google to search for what’s new and interesting and top of mind.”

This opens the door to a range of questions. Why call the list “top searches in 2006” if they only reflect the “spirit” of 2006? How can Bebo be top of mind if it’s really far below the top of minds for most searchers? How is Metacafé CHECK STYLE top of mind over YouTube,  which doesn’t make the list?

I can’t help but think, when reading Google’s list, that 2006 was the lamest year ever.

Other Changes in the Year of Inaction

Publisher Judith Regan who was fired over a book that wasn’t released. Donald Rumsfeld left his post too, in a year where he did nothing, and the Democrats gained control of the legislature largely for doing nothing incredibly wrong.

More on Yahoo’s Top 10

The celebrities in spots 1, 5, and 10 on the overall list (Britney, Paris, Lindsay) all were photographed baring their genitals in public; that may not be what got them on the list, but it didn’t hurt. Yahoo’s list may not be perfect. If Yahoo was presenting an unfiltered list, terms like Google and Yahoo and at least a couple sexual queries would have likely bumped Linsday off the charts. Yet for what it is, it’s refreshingly real.

The News That Matters

As I wrote this column on a plane to Las Vegas sitting next to Cara and I asked her what were the biggest news stories of the year, she rattled off an eclectic list spanning TomKat to Darfur, and then she sweetly added, “We moved in together.” That won’t show up in any top ten list, but it will be the story that will affect us more than any supposed chart-topper. Only later in the hotel room at 4:30am Eastern Standard Time did I realize how right she was.

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