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Top Search for 2006 – Reading the Tea Leaves

By | January 9, 2007 2:54 pm

The last thing I want to do, as I’m sure it’s the last thing any reader wants, is to review the year. It seems required of just about everybody who’s a regular media contributor.

But one aspect of the year has prompted me to override my own reluctance, since it’s brought up by factual reporting (though we’ll come to how fully factual it might be, later) not by opinionated reviewing.

We all know that online searching has become the key to how we consume our media now – even though the time-honored notion of simply (did I hear “idyllically”) surfing the web has not exactly gone away, no matter how antiquated it sounds. So just what, exactly, did we all search for in 2006?

The answers are revealing – and, depending on your point of view, either depressing or very depressing.

The biggest and most trend-capturing search engine is of course Google. And worldwide, what has been searched for through Google can be read in the form of a top-ten table. Number One is – guess what – a website, and a social-networking site at that. It’s Bebo, the fast-rising people-connector whose relative distinctiveness derives from its emphasis on music and musical bands in particular -in the way that YouTube functions through video – and which began in the UK, but in so far as any such entity has a physical geographical home, now boasts San Francisco as a base.

The full top ten list thrown up by Google is:

1 – Bebo

2 – MySpace

3 – World Cup

4 – Metacafe

5 – Radioblog

6 – Wikipedia

7 – Video

8 – Rebelde

9 – Mininova

10 – Wiki

The kicker to this reporting, however, is that Google is recommended by informed observers to be including in the numbers that kick Bebo to the top all sorts of inconsistencies, like the repeated misspellings of Bebo that all get aggregated together. Would that be enough to statistically alter the real rankings? Hmmm…. in later discussion, maybe, we should take note that what appear to be simple facts from Google will often need deeper investigation and interpretation.

Meanwhile the number two search engine, Yahoo, definitely appears to have developed a clear character of its own in 2006. If you hold up to the light its top ten searches, you’ll see that Yahoo has become the engine of choice for our celebrity culture. (Is that because, I wonder, it took its chief executive, Terry Semel, from the world of entertainment, in fact out of a 24 year career in the Hollywood dream factory of Warner Bros. Yahoo’s top ten searches look, like it or not, like this:

1 – Britney Spears

2 – WWE

3 – Shakira

4 – Jessica Simpson

5 – Paris Hilton

6 – American Idol

7 – Beyonce Knowles

8 – Chris Brown

9 – Pamela Anderson

10 – Lindsay Lohan

Now, you may think this is kind of sad, or very sad? But what if like me you’re British? Yahoo’s searches can be rather easily compared country by country. And this below – I tremble to acknowledge – is what the British users of Yahoo.co.uk have been mostly looking for on the Internet in 2006:

1 – Heather Mills McCartney

2 – Pete Burns

3 – Big Brother

4 – The Ordinary Boys

5 – World Cup

6 – Steve Irwin

7 – Borat

8 – Notting Hill Carnival

9 – Zidane

10 – Kate Moss

It makes any self-respecting Brit want to trade-in that nice navy-blue Her Britannic Majesty’s passport.

I could go on, and look at the way the lately re-christened third search engine, Live (formerly known as MSN Search) provides us with a obsession-measure that’s a bit more widely internationally-minded but still as celebrity-ridden, in that as well as Shakira of the magical hips it includes Ronaldinho of the magical soccer toes – but I won’t.

I’ll just wish everyone a happier and more rewarding New Year of searching.

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Founded in 1998, ECommerce Partners is a full-service, ecommerce and interactive agency headquartered in New York City. Best known for our unique process methodology, we combine Internet expertise, creative talent, and business know-how to help clients across a variety of industries achieve rapid, measurable online marketing results.

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