25 August 2010

Omar be coming

A word cloud analysis of a Facebook poll, generating more than 2,000 responses, reveals a clear winner of users' favorite member of “The Street” in The Wire. It also highlights how useful word clouds can be to quickly interpret (and illustrate) a large amount of data.

09 August 2010

How Sexualisation Entered the Public Lexicon

In today's Guardian Laurie Penny of the 'Penny Red' blog states: "The word [sexualisation] wheedled its way into the language of women's liberation like a semiotic sleeper agent. It was seen in headlines as early as 2007, but after the Home Office report on the sexualisation of young people last February, it was suddenly everywhere, with David Cameron wooing middle-England voters on a platform of "stopping the sexualisation of children", and Mumsnet launching their Let Girls Be Girls campaign against the "sexualisation" of children by clothes retailers."

I've tracked all mentions of the use of the word 'sexualisation' during the last 18 months across mainstream and social media coverage. As a result, this analysis focuses on Anglo-reporting (UK, Australia and Canada) of the word as it excludes the Americanised 'sexualization'.

The analysis reveals a strong correlation (0.78) between mainstream reporting and subsequent mentions by the public on social networking sites.

In addition the findings suggest that once a phrase, word or meme is used in mainstream news reports they quickly become a part of the public's lexicon.

Early peaks in mainstream coverage were driven by a boy who became a father at the age of 13, with subsequent regional media reports discussing the 'sexualisation of children' in the UK (February 2009 - 38 articles); an Australian senate hearing into the 'sexualisation of media' (August 2009 - 16 articles); Pru Goward's comments in Australia and a Brooke Shields photograph (both October 2009 - 17 articles).

However, it was the widespread reporting of Linda Popadopoulus's report on the "sexualisation of children" in February 2010 (102 articles) that really pushed the word into the wider public consciousness (1,025 social media posts). This resulted in the Mumsnet protest against the "sexualisation of prepubscent girls" which prompted the withdrawal of a child's padded bra from Primark (816 social media posts in April 2010).

By May 2010 (55 articles), a number of different stories (including M&S bra tops, the Amy King campaign group on Facebook and coalition promises), reported by various mainstream media outlets, were using the word to report younger girls becoming aware of sexuality too young.

Google Insights for Search reveals a sharp rise in 'sexualisation' in March 2010 as the public searched for Popadopoulus's report. However, searches quickly fell away the following month reflecting a drop in interest. The fact the word remains in frequent use on social media sites suggests it has now become etched into everyday language.

14 July 2010

Lindsay and LeBron dominate news searches

According to Pew Research Center's latest weekly News Interest Index, interest in the Gulf oil leak has started to see a fall in the percentage of the public following the story closely.

An analysis of news searches across the last four months reveals a very similar pattern:

However, Pew's findings for the most popular news items reveals a marked difference to the most searched for stories.

In relation to its sampling methods, Pew states that "in addition to sampling error, one should bear in mind that question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of opinion polls".

However, a quick look at the most searched for news stories, suggests respondents may in fact be attempting to appear somewhat more highbrow when speaking to Pew researchers.

In contrast to the oil leak and the immigration law debate, LeBron James move to the Miami Heat and Lindsay Lohan's 90-day jail sentence dominate online news interest.

According to Pew, large majorities actually said that news organizations gave too much coverage last week to Lohan’s legal woes (71%) and James’s announcement (61%).

With interest in Spain winning the World Cup third in online news searches, it seems that America is not quite ready to admit to an interest in either soccer or celebrity.

12 July 2010

Adidas gains search boost from World Cup sponsorship

According to research from NM Incite, a Nielsen and McKinsey joint venture showed, in the build-up to the World Cup Nike claimed 30.2% of World Cup-related online buzz, twice as much as its rival and official sponsor, Adidas.

However, an analysis of the share of global search behaviour since 2004 reveals that of Adidas's top 10 most successful weeks, five occured during the 2006 World Cup in Germany and five were during this year's tournament in South Africa.

On average, Adidas saw a 6 percentage point weekly lift during the two World Cups suggesting that the sponsorship deal was paying dividends.

08 July 2010

Video Game Searches Match Sales

According to industry tracker NPD, sales of video game software and equipment in the United States fell 5 percent in May.

An analysis of product searches within the Video & Games category on Google Insights for Search also reveals a corresponding 5 percent decline in May.

In contrast product searches rose in May 2008 and stayed fairly flat in May 2009, suggesting this is not a seasonal trend.

Red Dead Redemption, the top game in May 2010 with 1.5 million units sold, was also the fastest rising search - up 1,150% month-on-month.

Nintendo Co Ltd's Wii was the top-selling home console in May, followed by Microsoft's Xbox 360 and Sony's PlayStation 3. Within product searches however, the Xbox was marginally ahead of the Wii, with the PS3 third.

28 June 2010

Brand Rooney suffers

According to Opta's statistics Wayne Rooney has lost the ball by being tackled in possession more often than any other player at this year's World Cup.

A comparison of his performance in the opening match against USA and final game with Germany reveals a quite dramatic deterioration in his passing accuracy too.

The bad news for brand Rooney is that, not only are there more eyes on him than ever before, global interest is also higher than it has been since his disappointing World Cup in 2006.

24 June 2010

Predicting Big Brother Using Search

There have been a number of blog posts about using social media buzz to predict the results of reality TV shows, but what about search?

Looking at the final series of Big Brother in the UK, we can see two names dominating searches - Rachel (actually spelled Rachael) and John James.

Participants about whom the public feel fairly neutral are unlikely to attract much interest so we can probably say with some confidence these two are either very popular or very unpopular.

Whilst interest in the former resulted in her being the first to be evicted from the house, the widespread activity around the latter suggest the smart money would be on him to win.

Search and Twitter closely entwined

You can have data without information, but you cannot have information without data. Sometimes, however, the data speaks for itself...

23 June 2010

USA success over Algeria leads to search mania

With the first nine searches on Google Hot Trends (possibly 10 if the final search is Americans looking for World Cup tickets), this confirms the fact the USA is definitely very interested in soccer right now...

It would appear that the fear of supporting an unsuccessful team was all that was holding back the US.

22 June 2010

Predicting Cigar Sales Using Search

"If you can predict the future better than other people, you will soon become rich. If you can know better than other people what is happening right now, that is almost as good. After all, if no one else finds out the truth until a month after the fact, the present might as well be the future — nobody knows it." Steven D. Levitt (Author of Freakonomics)

Habanos SA, a joint venture between Cuba and Imperial Tobacco Group, registered an 8% fall in overseas sales of Cuban cigars in 2009. Consultants Bain also report an 8% decline in sales in the UK, France, Germany and Switzerland.

Highlighting the effectiveness of using search volumes as a tool for predicting the present, global searches also fell 8% in 2009.

Using Google Insights for Search forecasting tool we can predict that Cuban cigar sales will fall a further 7% in 2010.

водки поиски продолжают рост

("Vodka searches keep on rising")

The Guardian today reports that using "sensationalist adverts, steep price rises and bombastic rhetoric, Russia is pulling out all the stops to curb the national love affair with vodka that is estimated to cause 500,000 deaths a year, especially among men", adding: "A series of haunting ads broadcast round the clock on state-run television show in graphic detail the damage that the drink can do. Viewers follow a gulp of the spirit down a man's throat – vodka is blamed particularly for premature deaths among men – from where it travels to his heart, lungs, brain and liver, causing explosions akin to bomb blasts."

Unfortunately for President Dmitry Medvedev searches for 'водка' (vodka in Russian) have climbed steeply each year, with 'vodka price' (водка цена) the main driver of searches. Moscow, St Petersburg, Novosibirsk and Yekaterinburg lead the way in search volumes.

Mikhail Gorbachev's anti-alcohol campaign was reported to have contributed to a rise in his unpopularity. With the presidential election just one year away, a similar effect on Medvedev's ratings could be just the tonic Vladimir Putin needs for his much-anticipated return to power.

19 June 2010

America doesn't care about soccer?

Maybe they didn't, but they do now.

If even the Cameroon v Denmark match is registering as the fourth hottest search in the US, and is trending highly on Twitter (62% US-based users), perhaps we can finally put an end to this oft-repeated claim?

Of course not everyone is interested, but that's why ESPN is trying to make you watch.

17 June 2010

William Hill promos drive World Cup searches

Amongst the high street bookmakers, William Hill appears to be one of the biggest beneficiaries of the World Cup so far with UK searches up 38% in the last week.

Normally closely tracking rival Ladbrokes throughout the last year, William Hill has pulled away in the last seven days June thanks to a series of 'free bets' promoted in the mainstream press.

Ladbrokes is up just 22% in comparison.

Paddy Power, however, has seen searches surge 88% week-on-week - although from a much lower starting level. In contrast, Coral has barely registered any increase in interest.

More misery for Rob Green and ITV

The most searched for news items in the UK over the last seven days sees Robert Green and the England v USA game top the table - both up more than 5,000% on the previous week, according to Google Insights for Search.

The start of the World Cup dominated news searches, accounting for six of the top ten.

A series of negative headlines surrounding ITV's failure to broadcast the first England goal of 2010 tournament and sacking of Robbie Earle ("Will ITV deliver another World Cup cock-up?" - The Daily Mirror, 17th June) sees it place third with searches up 600% week-on-week.

Away from the World Cup, the launch of the iPhone 4, the Xbox 360 motion sensor and the final Big Brother series were all to the fore of public consciousness.

15 June 2010

FTSE set to rebound?

“It is not a case of choosing those [faces] that, to the best of one’s judgment, are really the prettiest, nor even those that average opinion genuinely thinks the prettiest. We have reached the third degree where we devote our intelligences to anticipating what average opinion expects the average opinion to be. And there are some, I believe, who practice the fourth, fifth and higher degrees.” (John Maynard Keynes, General Theory of Employment Interest and Money, 1936).

By Keynes logic, people price shares not based on what they think their fundamental value is, but rather on what they think everyone else thinks their value is.

With more than half of all Internet users beginning any session with a Google search and 76% of the UK online, Google Insights for Search arguably provides us with an opportunity to gage the behavourial habits of 20 million members of the British public.

Can we use Google Trends to see if the average person thinks the FTSE has reached a low? With the FTSE 100 down 3.6% across the last 12 months and 6.7% in the last three months, the resulting surge in searches for 'buy shares' in the UK in the last week suggest now may be as good a time as any to buy in.

09 June 2010

Less interest in 2010 World Cup for England fans

Not surprisingly interest in the World Cup within host nation South Africa has soared, with search volumes for May 2010 up almost 500% on the same period in 2006.

However, the UK has seen an 18% dip in interest; perhaps a reflection of reduced expectations amongst England fans. As former captain Terry Butcher recently commmented: "This time, there seems to be a little less hype about England, and expectations seem a little more realistic. Perhaps in 2002 and 2006 it was a bit over the top and it got to the players."

Having qualified for the first time in 32 years last time round, it is actually more of a surprise that Australian search volumes haven't dipped more.

Finally, US expectations of qualifying for the second round are high ("American fans are thinking we should advance out of the group, and I like that. I like how they’re thinking. We feel confident as well that this is a group we can get out of,” said captain Carlos Bocanegra after the draw) and this is reflected in the 42% increase in searches on 2006.

08 June 2010

Lost finale creates opening for Catholicism

The recent Lost finale contained the revelation that the "flash sideways" universe was actually purgatory.

As a result, searches for 'purgatory' (normally at a fairly consistent level) were up to almost five times normal levels (with buzz on blogs also up 700%).

Searches for the definition of the term were also up 160%, with the US, Canada and the UK the most curious.

Occupying the second and third positions on a Google search for purgatory, the Catholic Church may be amongst the more unusual beneficiaries of the Lost phenomenon.

06 June 2010

James Avery and Twitter

James Avery ('Uncle Phil' from the Fresh Prince of Bel Air) is presently the fastest rising search on Google and ranks number seven on Twitter trends.

A false rumour he had died was widely re-tweeted and spread quickly amongst users.

Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of this is the speed at which this meme transferred so quickly from Twitter to searches on Google.

Whilst the micro-media site is still comparatively niche with regard to active users, 50% of the public start any Internet session with a Google search.

This arguably demonstrates the fact that while Twitter is clearly widely 'read', social media is still not a trusted source of information for good reason.

19 May 2010

Liberal Democrat Coalition Backlash?

Prominent left-wing blog Liberal Conspiracy recently called for "left-liberals to join Labour" and Alastair Campbell also tweeted that it was "good to see Lib Dem defections to Labour still going - keep 'em coming".

Does Google confirm this trend? For the first time, in the week to 15th May, searches for 'join Labour' has generated enough volumes to begin trending in the UK. As a comparison, I've run it against 'join Facebook' and fascinatingly more people have been searching for 'join Labour' this past week.

Is the worst of the Facebook privacy backlash over?

Although this chart suggests that the peak for people searching for how to delete their Facebook profile has passed, in reality searches for the site always dip on Sundays and Mondays (after peaking on Fridays and Saturdays) so we'll need to wait until next weekend to see if the climb down has had any effect.

Meanwhile, unless people are using radically different search terms on the two sides of the Atlantic (and even looking at 'join Facebook' illustrates the same pattern), a comparison of people searching for 'Facebook sign up' against 'delete Facebook' suggests the problem is much bigger in the US than the UK.

16 May 2010

The beginning of the end for Facebook?

Concerns over privacy issues have engulfued Facebook in recent weeks and the widespread media coverage has seen searches for the site in May fall for the first time in its history.

The past week has also seen a dramatic surge in people searching for 'delete facebook' (courtesy of Google Insights for Search). Unlike MySpace and, even email sites such as Hotmail and Gmail, for whom delete searches have remained relatively stable once they first start trending, Facebook has seen a sharp increase in searches for 'delete facebook' since the end of 2008.

Confirming this is a global problem, searches for 'effacer facebook', 'löschen facebook' and 'cancellare facebook' have all followed a very similar pattern (although the latter actually peaked in February) on Google Trends.

Meanwhile, underlining its rising popularity, 'delete twitter' is barely registering in comparison (although it did begin trending in the US in April 2009 and, like MySpace, has remained stable - albeit at much lower volumes since).

06 May 2010

Twitter Exit Poll - 10pm

With a final total of 1,052 tweets at 10pm I'm going against the exit polls indicating a hung parliament and calling it for the Conservatives with a majority of 74 seats!

This social media analysis of the 2010 election was based on a (quick and rather unscientific) analysis of tweets stating for "just voted" in connection with all the parties or their respective leaders.

Election 2010: Social Media Analysis - 8:45PM update

Following on from my earlier post and with the sample size up to a marginally more representative 823 posts, the Conservative lead has been cut back to 100 seats - largely due to gains from other parties (including the most recent tweets from XROBOX - "Just voted, SNP. McGovern out you scumbag, Would also prefer a torrie majority than labour staying in power"; CHMP4Z - "has just voted UKIP"; and DAMBNRY - "Just voted. Was a toss up between Labour and Green but I went with Green.").

Labour are still languishing in third with regard to percentage share (22.8%) but would be up 11 seats to 180.

Nick Clegg: Word Cloud Analysis

The Daily Mail has recently accused Nick Clegg of disguising his past views - does an analysis of the words used most commonly in his major speeches from 2007 to date indicate any shift in emphasis?

After winning the two-month contest to succeed Sir Menzies Campbell in September, his appetite for change and ambition to lead the party to greater heights is apparent...

While his first conference speech as party leader in September 2008 illustrates how focused he was on the Labour government, rather than his own party's policies...

His speech to the Autumn conference in September 2009 sees a shift back to change and more focus on the Conservatives than Labour...

However, launching the manifesto in April 2010, Clegg is much more interested in his own party and establishing a fairer Britain. The theme of change appears to have been dropped in order to differentiate himself from Cameron and the City is for the first time a focus of attack.

While the TV debates clearly buoyed support for the party, this word cloud analysis also highlights how focusing on his own party's policies (rather than Labour or the Conservatives) has helped the Liberal Democrats to carve out a larger share of support through clearer messages that resonate with the public.

Facebook Fans: Clegg v Cameron

As previously reported here first, it wasn't until as late as 18th April that Nick Clegg first accumulated more fans on Facebook. However, in the three weeks to election day he has soared ahead of Cameron to claim at least one victory on May 6th.

Election 2010: Social Media Analysis

Using the admittedly rather unscientific research technique of analysing tweets for "just voted" in connection with all the parties or their respective leaders signals, as of 6pm, the Conservatives would be heading for a majority of 140 seats.

Considering the supposed left-wing bias of Twitter this makes for interesting reading or is perhaps a reflection of the fact right-wing voters are more likely to vote before work...

Here is how the electoral map of the UK would look:

17 April 2010

Clegg mania continues

UPDATE: As of 21:33 on 18 April, Clegg now has more fans than Cameron on Facebook, having gained more than 10,000 since Thursday night

Confirming the difference a televised debate can make, the surge in media coverage around Nick Clegg has also resulted in a dramatic rise in online searches for the Liberal Democrat leader. Mentions of Clegg have also risen almost exponentially across all social media, driven largely by Twitter.

Almost twice as many users are now following Clegg on Twitter as a result, making him the most followed British politician on the micro-media site.

At the time of writing, Clegg has also seen his fanbase on Facebook rise by more than 10,000 to 23,458 - marginally behind David Cameron on 25,478.

Surpassing the volume of searches when Clegg was elected leader of the party in December 2007 for the first time, visits to the party's website are also up 170% on last month and more than double any point in the past two years.

Underlining the fact that Clegg must differentiate himself from Cameron in the eyes of voters, almost 50% more voters subsequently searched for Cameron than Gordon Brown and 5.6% of visitors to the Lib Dem website came from Conservatives.com, as opposed to 3.6% from Labour.org.uk.

The ITV debate also saw Clegg overtake his two rivals in search volumes for the first time since Brown called the election on April 6th and move further ahead the following day. Although this may be largely down to the fact that many viewers had never heard of him, the increased traffic to the party website suggests voters may now be more open to switching allegiances after the debate than prior to it.

'Nick Clegg wiki' was also a prominent search, highlighting the fact that many voters are looking to find out more about his background - attacking his record as a career politician may be next line of assault for the Tories and Labour.

Meanwhile, searches for Clegg's wife was the biggest rising search term - perhaps the most depressing reality of the 2010 election.

14 April 2010

Fleet's Street influence on the 2005 Election

Continuing on from the previous post analysing the media's influence on the election across the last 65 years, I've created a visualisation of newspaper support for the three main political parties at the 2005 election (the size of the bubble corresponds to circulation).

As previously noted, despite Lord Mandelson's protestations to the contrary, The Sun's defection to the Tories looks set to have a significant effect on the outcome (even if it is just conformation the tide of public opinion has turned against New Labour - rather than its own influence on voters) and we could conceivably see press support shape up like this in 2010:

Liberal Democrat Manifesto: Word Cloud Analysis

The Liberal Democrats have now launched their election manifesto. In the absence of a Wordle cloud analysis on today's Guardian Data Blog here is the result.

Besides the obvious theme of a fairer society, there is interestingly a noticeable absence of opposition mentions.

The Guardian's original comparison of Labour and the Tories can be found here.

Believe the e-hype: this is a Net election

Although quite correct in highlighting the fact that its role as a game changer has been over-hyped, Roy Greenslade’s withering assessment of the role of social media in this year’s election is wrong in its assertion that it has no influence.

Like many commentators he provides a straight comparison between mainstream and social media, mistaking direct reach as the sole barometer of influence (a quick tally of Sarah Brown’s followers on Twitter and the circulation of the Evening Standard provides an obvious illustration of how even this measure doesn’t always work in the favour of many newspapers).

Social media is not a direct challenge to mainstream media and perhaps part of the problem lies in the name. Social media is primarily a means of communication – it makes as much, if not more, sense to compare a tweet to a letter as a newspaper.

The reason it is influential in this election is the fact it has reduced the role of two gatekeepers – mainstream media and polling companies. Not only can politicians easily communicate more directly with the electorate but, perhaps more importantly, the electorate can easily communicate more directly with them.

Greenslade claims the mainstream media sets the agenda but then goes on to state that “David Cameron believes in internet power because he has shown enormous enthusiasm for the web [and] put considerable effort into [his] YouTube offerings”. However many people view the video, is this not a sign that the Internet has influenced the agenda for no less than the next possible Prime Minister?

The media’s role as a gatekeeper has changed too. Whereas once an editor picked a handful of letters to illustrate public reaction, now people can comment directly on a story on a newspaper’s site. This may highlight the fact that, in most cases, mainstream media is still setting the agenda but the comments below the article also represent social media in action.

All those comments, tweets and blogs also provide a wealth of data to analyse too.

No longer is YouGov or ComRes in sole control of determining the views of the public based on a questionnaire of 1,000 people. As the recent ‘Ask the Chancellors’ on Channel 4 illustrated, tools like Twitter offer the public an instant way in which to offer their opinion and anyone can harness all the data that subsequently becomes available.

Social media won’t change the result of this election but it has already changed the way in which we communicate with politicians. Perhaps more significantly though, it has fundamentally changed the way in which we gauge public opinion.

13 April 2010

The Most Dangerous Football Grounds in the Country

Piling on the misery for the clubs most likely to be relegated from the Football League, Darlington and Grimsby Town are revealed to be the two most dangerous clubs to visit in the country.

Using statistics on football-related arrests and banning orders from the Home Office and factoring in average attendance figures, Darlington has the most troublesome fans in England. Despite an average crowd of less than 2,000, Darlington has 28 banning orders against risk supporters.

Not surprisingly Millwall, Cardiff City and Leeds United all feature in the bottom 15, with FA Cup finalists Portsmouth the worst Premier League offenders in 13th place. As of 30th October 2008 Leeds had the most fans with banning orders (152), ahead of Cardiff (136) and Millwall (117).

1 Darlington
2 Grimsby Town
3 Millwall
4 Chesterfield
5 Tranmere Rovers
6 Lincoln City
7 Cardiff City
8 Leeds United
9 Scunthorpe United
10 Hartlepool United
11 Shrewsbury Town
12 Port Vale
13 Portsmouth
14 Plymouth Argyle
15 Coventry City

The safest grounds in the country sees Accrington Stanley and Milton Keynes Dons top the list, with Fulham's Craven Cottage the safest Premier League ground for travelling fans in fifth. Arsenal are the only other Premiership club to feature in the top 15 in 12th place.

=1 Accrington Stanley
=1 Milton Keynes Dons
3 Gillingham
4 Wycombe Wanderers
5 Fulham
6 Yeovil Town
7 Norwich City
8 Dagenham & Redbridge
9 Brentford
10 Macclesfield Town
11 Reading
12 Arsenal
13 Cheltenham Town
14 Northampton Town
15 Ipswich Town

12 April 2010

What do Guardian readers think of US foreign policy?

An analysis of more than 300 Guardian readers' comments on US foreign policy, reveals that the issue of the Iraq war is almost twice as prominent as Afghanistan, despite the escalating violence in the latter.

JackCoyle76 said that he believes Iraq is "on the brink of civil war and violence escalating exponentially", whilst jigen stated that "Iraq is a mess because it was important to the cloudy-eyed business leaders of today; they seek profits not stability".

'WMD', 'Oil' and 'interests' were all to the fore, with Bush appearing three times as frequently Obama. Hoof1 typified the anger of many in posting: "Bush's administration, led by Cheyney, saw an opportunity to exploit security concerns to bolster 'US strategic interests' (oil) in the middle east by creating a client state in Iraq. The fact that Haliburton could make millions from controlling the basic infrastructure of Iraq post the invasion was a nice bonus for Cheyney."