Blog Junk Food

Over the past month or so, since Anna Nicole Smith’s death, the media has been criticized for spending way too much time on what is effectively a sensational bit of news that is hardly newsworthy. The cable channels like MSNBC and CNN have spent countless hours dissecting, analyzing and reporting on the mildly ridiculous sequence of events since her death. Meanwhile, a a fairly serious war plays second fiddle.
As a result, the time-tested argument that the media is irresponsible rears its ugly head. “This isn’t journalism. This is entertainment.” or “The news media outlets are failing us.” In these arguments is a tinge of high-mindedness towards the masses. The masses, the argument goes, should not be patronized in such a way. We’re way too smart and scrupulous to be served such drivel.
Well, it turns out there’s a really great way to get a sense of what the masses really want to talk about: search queries and blogs. What information are people seeking and what kinds of conversations are happening out there? Let’s take a look:
The most searched term for the week ending February 25, 2007 on AOL is: Antonella Barba. What’s the top topic on blogs last week? You guessed it: Antonella Barba.
Who’s Antonella Barba you ask? She’s one of the finalists on the wildly popular American Idol TV show. Apparently, some provocative pictures of her have surfaced on the Internet and people are going insane showing them, talking about them and even dissecting them for authenticity.
So much for blogging being the tool that elevates us to some sort of higher collective consciousness. Whether it be trash television, tabloid newspapers, or blog junk food, they’re all mere symptoms of the underlying condition: most people don’t really care about all the serious things in the world. Well, they may care. They just don’t care as much.

1 Comment Blog Junk Food

  1. John Dowdell

    Hmm… I wonder if any celebrity newshour staffers are watching daily search term totals like that, to figure programming for the next day… they must be, there’s enough awareness of other web metrics that people who deal in popularity must already be watching trends like daily search patterns….
    This was the first time I heard of such discrepancies between supply and demand in the popular press though, hmmm…
    Google Trends doesn’t show a spike yet:
    But wow, their time filter shows their most recent data to be Nov06! Google Trends doesn’t seem to offer any currency.
    There have been tons of “search voyeur” services over the years, where aggregate terms of user search are piped into a linear display… sometimes they’re called “spy” or “keyhole” services. Even if you were able to sample only a part of one stream, from just one engine, that might be enough for an analysis application to spot trends.
    This might be a good web application… you feed some specific search terms or topic areas in, and it notifies you if any of these suddenly change in popularity among the searching public.
    But for your point here, that bloggers led the public, and the commercial media lagged both, on an item of salacious inconsequence, that’s true. One wrinkle is that people wouldn’t really have had to search for Anna Nicole this weekend, so it’s plausible the search engines started with a skewed sample.
    Lots of people blog and do search these days, though… I like it that nearly anyone can get an instant web footprint on a subject now. Pornblogging is already illegal in some areas, though, and I’d hate to see such restrictions spread.


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