Google’s “Zeitgeist” List of Top 100 Search Terms of 2013 Includes Snowden; WP Writes Whole Article About How It Didn’t

Brian Fung, on the Washington Post’s “The Switch” blog, “reported” recently on Google’s “Zeitgeist” list of the top 100 search terms for 2013. His main interest in it, it appears, was to make the point that “Edward Snowden” wasn’t one of them, and therefore that the public really doesn’t care that much about the surveillance abuses uncovered by his whistleblowing.

A picture of Snowden courtesy of a Kerala, India newspaper - because the world don't care, right?
A picture of Snowden courtesy of a newspaper in south India – because the world doesn’t care, right?

You know what’s funny? Snowden is on the list. True, he’s at #97. But you’d think that if you were going to write a whole article about how unimportant this silly little man is, and if you were going to use presence on Google’s list as the sole determinant of what people care about, then you’d actually bother to find out whether he was on it first.

Not, clearly, if you’re Brian Fung of the Washington Post. Facts are for the little people. So if you actually want to know what’s on the list – you won’t find the full list anywhere else on the Internet – keep reading.

You won’t find the list anywhere else because Google set up its Zeitgeist list in a way that was visually compelling, but that makes it painful and time-consuming for anyone to actually try and see the whole top-100 list. So let’s say that you’re a journalist who wants to actually inform the public. You would do what we just did, and click on each individual picture of the 100, note its rank, and list it. It’s not difficult. It just takes a while.

If we’re going to actually take this list seriously, and look at the top 10 search terms that are at all political in nature, then we get:

1. Nelson Mandela
2. Boston Marathon
3. North Korea
4. Malala Yousafzai
5. Trayvon Martin
6. George Zimmerman
7. Syria Conflict
8. New Pope
9. Bitcoin
10. Edward Snowden

Well, lookee here. There he is, behind Nelson Mandela, the Pope, two deeply troubled entire countries, an act of terrorism on American soil, the killing of Trayvon Martin and a new private digital world currency. Man, if I were number 10 on that list at the age of 30, I would sure be hanging my head in shame and feeling I had made no impact to speak of.

Seriously, folks, this is ridiculous. The Washington Post’s future depends on being able to provide accurate, carefully curated content that actually informs people. Mr. Fung needs to understand that being a journalist means you shoulder the heavy load of investigating the full list and not just rebroadcast the parts of the list that Google has made easy to read.

Oh yes. The full list. Enjoy, people!

1 Nelson Mandela
2 Paul Walker
3 Iphone 5s
4 Cory Monteith
5 Harlem Shake
6 Boston Marathon
7 Royal Baby
8 Samsung Galaxy S4
9 PlayStation 4
10 North Korea
11 iOS 7
12 2014 FIFA World Cup
13 Government Shutdown
14 Typhoon
15 Man Of Steel
16 Iron Man 3
17 Amanda Bynes
18 Malala Yousafzai
19 Xbox One
20 James Gandolfini
21 Nexus 5
22 Oscar Pistorius
23 Jennifer Lawrence
24 World War Z
25 Jodi Arias
26 Aaron Hernandez
27 Pacific Rim
28 Charlie Hunnam
29 Adrian Peterson
30 Django Unchained
31 Lou Reed
32 Despicable Me 2
33 Robin Thicke
34 Atari Breakout
35 GTA 5 Cheats
36 Lea Michele
37 Gravity
38 Salve Jorge
39 Chennai Express
40 Trayvon Martin
41 Miley Cyrus VMAs
42 Les Miserables
43 Hugo Chavez
44 Kim Kardashian Baby
45 Paula Deen
46 Kevin Ware
47 Mindy McCready
48 The Conjuring
49 Red Sox
50 Windows 8.1
51 George Zimmerman
52 Daft Punk
53 Cube World
54 Dakota Johnson
55 HTC One
56 Lorde
57 Immobilien Scout
58 Lance Armstrong
59 Argo
60 Amanda Berry
61 Spring Breakers
62 Gareth Bale
63 Elysium
64 Enem 2013
65 Syria Conflict
66 Oblivion
67 Costa Concordia
68 IPad Air
69 Wrecking Ball
70 Krrish 3
71 Blurred Lines
72 Beyonce new album
73 Minions
74 Reeva Steenkamp
75 Under The Dome
76 Jamie Dornan
77 Ben Affleck
78 Lee Thompson Young
79 Henry Cavill
80 Bigg Boss 7
81 New Pope
82 Sharknado
83 BBM
84 Silver Linings Playbook
85 Oklahoma Tornado
86 Blackberry 10
87 Peter Capaldi
88 After Earth
89 Jiah Khan
90 Amor a Vida
91 Jason Collins
92 Galaxy Note 3
93 Vine
94 Kidd Kraddick
95 Katherine Webb
96 Bitcoin
97 Edward Snowden
98 Rob Ford
99 Monsters University
100 Batkid

2 thoughts on “Google’s “Zeitgeist” List of Top 100 Search Terms of 2013 Includes Snowden; WP Writes Whole Article About How It Didn’t

  1. “The Washington Post’s future depends on being able to provide accurate, carefully curated content that actually informs people.”

    How dare you hold the media to this standard.

    By the way that list is proof of the dumbing down of America, very sad.

    1. I’m not disturbed by the list itself. I would expect movie stars and actors and such to form a substantial portion of any Internet list, and I find celebrity news in small doses relaxing. But a top 10 headed by Mandela and including the Boston Marathon and North Korea, also shows an appetite for understanding serious content.

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