Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Search trends: a clue to 2011 Oscar winners?

Each year, as the Academy Awards bubble to the top of our communal consciousness, we see a major spike in search traffic connected to the event. This year, on the day the nominees were announced, four of the top 10 trending search terms in the U.S. were Oscar-related.

After last year’s awards ceremony, we provided an in-depth summary of search trends that played out during the broadcast. But could search trends have predicted the winners? To make it easy to discover how the actors, directors and cinematographers are trending in search—and maybe see if that data correlates with the ultimate winners—you can explore search data across all award categories on our new Oscar hunt Trends website.


John Batelle once described search trends as “a massive database of needs, needs, wants and likes.” Looking at Insights for Search data, we were intrigued to find that this “database of intentions” shows reliable search patterns among Best Picture winners for the last three years. Each year, the winning film has shown an rising trend in search volume for at least four weeks, as well as highest regional interest from New York (The Hurt Locker, Slumdog Millionaire and No Country for Old Men).

Will that outline repeat this year? If you apply the same test, this year’s most likely candidates for best picture—by search pattern—are The Social Network (trending upward for five weeks) followed by Black Swan and The King’s Speech (each trending upward for four weeks). The Fighter, another 2011 Best Picture nominee, saw an rising trend in search volume for five weeks after its release, but highest regional interest was from Massachusetts instead of New York; no film with highest local interest in Massachusetts has won best picture since The Departed in 2007. Perhaps Boston will take it back in 2011?

We can’t say for sure what will happen this year, since searches can only reproduce what people are interested in, but it’s fun to look for patterns that persist year after year. So before you make any Academy Awards-related bets with your friends this year, be sure to discover the Oscar Search Trends. Choose any award category to see how the nominees were searched over time.

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