Snapshots What’s Popular
The big G recently announced an update to their Google Trends platform. A tool which helps users see what is trending online, and dig a little bit further into why in what country and what related terms are being searched for. From the article announcing the update, it is clear that Google sees the tool as a journalistic aid.
Using Google Trends To Find What’s Hot or Not
So, if you drop something like ‘High jump’ into the tool (as shown below), you can see that every 4 years there’s a large increase in the number of people searching for the sport. The tool also shows you that people have searched for ‘olympics 2012’ ‘Usain Bolt’ and a number of other things.
The tool is undoubtedly useful when you’re trying to get a snapshot of what’s going on. Another feature from the Google Trends homepage is a ‘stories trending now’ section, and even a section giving data on the presidential election. Another feature, which will presumably depend on events, is a feature section for the Olympics. While looking through it I can almost see all the ‘Most Searched for Female Athletes’ articles already…
Missing the Point
But Google Trends misses the point. Journalism should not be driven by what people are searching for online. Journalism should be driving what people search for online. Journalists should not be writing articles about “topics that are trending.” In my (humble) opinion, they should be writing articles about topics that are important. Obviously, at some point, these two things may overlap. The idea that journalism should be led by what people are already looking for is too easy a trap to fall into. And, a trap that many of the most popular news websites are falling into.
While people may click on articles about Kim Kardashian’s latest haircut, or how Justin Bieber got back into shape after giving birth (or is it vice versa?), it’s all too easy to say “we’re just giving people what they want.” Journalism should set the agenda. Not follow it.
Is it Still Cool to be Trendy?
Of course, none of this is Google’s fault. Google has no duty of care over the information we choose to consume, and neither should they. They have just improved a tool that will make it easier for journalists to appeal to the lower common denominator.
How can we help?
Do you have an interest in what’s popular online? Interested in how to leverage Google Trends?
We are Spectrum Group Online, and we offer strategic and tactical consulting so you can monetize your online presence. Call us for a complimentary 30-minute consultation to discuss your website’s user experience and translate that into sales.
Photo credit – Top: Gustav Ofer