What we searched for vs. what we talked about in 2012

Steven Loeb · December 12, 2012 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/2c52

Google and Facebook's year-end lists and how that differs from traditional media

These are not your mom's year-end lists. 

Both Google and Facebook released their lists for what was big around the world in 2012. The two are kicking off the year-end ritual of lists that come out every freaking day, right about now. 

Interestingly enough, the two lists - while different in what they tell us about ourselves - also differ from the lists that were and are compiled by traditional media, most notably Time's year-end reviews. 

Google is on top of what was searched for, while Facebook can tell us what people were talking about. The two lists show two different sides of the Internet (what people were interested in finding out versus what actually got them talking). 

Lists put out by traditional media simply do not have the same scope and sample sizes that the Internet companies like Google and Facebook do, and they inherently come up with different year-end lists.

For example, Time's Top 10 of Everything 2012 year-end review includes a list of the top movies of the year:

  1. Amour
  2. Beasts of the Southern Wild
  3. Life of PI
  4. Anna Karenina
  5. The Dark Knight Rises
  6. Zero Dark Thirty
  7. Dark Hourse
  8. Dragon
  9. Frankenweenie
  10. The Invisible War

The only movie from this list that would have made it onto the lists from Facebook is The Dark Knight Rises.

Time's list of top television shows includes Parks and Recreation, Homeland, Louie and Mad Men. Only Game of Thrones makes it onto this list and the lists compiled by Google and Facebook.

Comparing these two lists shows both the inherent value, and the setbacks, of traditional media: it may not have the reach of the social networks, but by depending on surveys and editorials to come up with their best of lists, it is not just about what was popular, but also about what was good.

Time's list is about exposing people to things they may not have otherwise have known about. Honestly, what you like, ultimately, may not be what is actually worth seeing.

The lists compiled by new media are the like the MTV Movie Awards and the lists from traditional media are like the Oscars. One is about celebrating what everyone liked, the other is about celebrating actual achievement.

While it is interesting to see what people liked over the past year, I hope that new media still finds ways of letting people know about things that may have been out of their radar.

Speaking of new media, here are the lists compiled by Google and Facebook. 


According to Google, the top five highest trending search, meaning “search queries with the highest amount of traffic over a sustained period in 2012 as compared to 2011,” for events was Hurricane Sandy, followed by the topless photos of Kate Middleton, the Olympics, SOPA, and the Costa Concordia crash.

For Facebook, the top five events were the US Presidential Election, Superbowl XLVI, the death of Whitney Houston, Superstorm Sandy, London 2012 Olympics and the death of Trayvon Martin.

The election was on top for Facebook, but barely registered on Google, with only “Presidential Debate,” coming in at number 6. The Trayvon Martin shooting same in at number 9. Facebook’s list also included the Faceboom IPO and the Aurora Shooting, neither of which got any sustained traction on Google.


Despite having her death come so high on the list of this year’s events on Facebook, Whitney Houston actually came out on top of Google’s list and did not even make the top 10 for Facebook. That seems a little odd, doesn’t it?

In fact, the only result that appears on both lists is British boy band One Direction.

Facebook users were, unsurprisingly, talking most about Barack Obama and Mitt Romney (have I mentioned lately how happy I am that the election is over? No. Well I really, really am!) while Google trends vaulted Kate Middleton to second place (with her clothes on this time, I hope), followed by Amanda Todd, a teenager who was bullied into killing herself in October. (I had not heard of this story until now, and now I really kind of wish that I never had.)


Google says that the top trending television show on 2012 was BBB12. Oh of course it was… wait, it was what now? What the hell is BBB12?

BBB12, a quick Google search tells me, is shorthand for Big Brother Brasil 2012. Remember, this is a global list, so things might appear on here that we have no idea about. But that’s how you learn, right?

Oddly, the second show on Google’s list is also from Brazil: Avenida Brasil, a telenovela. After that, the list mostly becomes familiar, with Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, The Voice, American Idol, Game of Thrones, Homeland and Revenge also making it.

The Facebook list for top trending television shows, on the other hand, all seem to come from the USA: Duck Dynasty, Honey Boo Bop, Big Bang Theory, Game of Thrones, Downton Abbey, Breaking Amish, Ink Master, Long Island Medium, Wife Swap, Two Broke Girls.


Google and Facebook listed this category in different ways: while Google went with the top devices, Facebook went with the most popular terms.

Google’s top trending consumer electronics were the iPad 3 topped the list, followed by the Samsung Galaxy S3, the iPad Mini, the Nexus 7, the Galaxy Note 2, Play Station, iPad 4, Microsoft Surface, Kindle Fire and Nokia Lumia 920.

Notice something missing from that list? I’ll give you a second. Go back and see if there was one major device released this year that apparently did not trend on Google.

The list, somehow, does not include the iPhone 5, despite it showing up in the top searches on Bing and the top questions on Ask.com.

Facebook’s list of popular tech terms goes beyond just devices, though the iPhone 5 does make its list, with trending terms such as Draw Something, Instagram, Siri, Pinterest and Timeline.


I guess if there was one unifying thing about 2012, it was that everyone was talking about The Hunger Games, which came out on top of both lists.

The Avengers, Magic Mike, Skyfall and Prometheus also made both lists, meaning that half of both lists line up.

Suspiciously absent from Google were two of the biggest movies of the year: The Dark Knight Rises and Twilight.

Unique categories

Considering that Google and Facebook serve such different functions, it was inevitable that certain categories would not apply to both of them.

For example, Google has the list of the top 10 Google+ Hashtags, which included #Sandy, #Olympics, #Awesome and, my personal favorite, #Eastwooding.

Google also provided the list of top 10 trending searches in 2012, with Whitney Houston topping the list, along with Gangnam Style, Hurricane Sandy and iPad 3 (the iPhone 5 was still nowhere to be found).

As well as the top 10 images, which were of One Direction, Selena Gomez and (FINALLY) the iPhone 5.

While Facebook, on the other hand, has the top check ins, seven of which are baseball stadiums, while the other four locations were Times Square, Disneyland and Universal Studios.

Facebook also has a unique feature not found on Yahoo: in a move similar to Twitter's 2012 Year on Twitter, released Monday, Facebook is giving each user its own unique lookback on the past year, showing them the 20 biggest moments from your own year, including life events, highlighted posts and your most popular stories.

You can see yours here: Facebook.com/yearinreview

(Image source: https://paternogroup.com)

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