Kim Kardashian vs. Covid, Jesus and Climate Change
A day in the life of a fun loving Google algorithm
“Honey, would you put a bumper sticker on a Bentley?” – Kim Kardashian responding to Wendy Williams asking whether she has any tattoos
THE SHIFTING ALGORITHMS OF DECEMBER 2, 2021
A day in the life of a busy algorithm on a random day in December.
Among Google’s 3.5 billion daily searches, a query under “Kyle Rittenhouse” the day after the November 20, 2021, verdict in his homicide trial produced over 100 million results. By Dec. 2nd, just 12 days after the trial ended, Rittenhouse had already faded to 57 million. By Dec. 9th, 48 million. By next year, he will barely exist algorithmically, nor, in all likelihood, historically.
By comparison, a December 2 search for “Omicron variant” – the first day that cases were found in the US – yielded 181 million results. By Dec. 9th, a week later after non-stop global media and social coverage following the arc of its cousin “Delta variant,” which is now a high ranking search engine staple, Omicron was over 205 million.
Yet neither Omicron nor the Rittenhouse courtroom spectacle could compete with Kim Kardashian, who delivered 238 million Dec. 2 results just by being her Bently-ish self after it was announced she would receive the People’s Choice “Fashion Icon Award.”
In early November, the wrap up of the 26th annual UN Climate Conference in Glasgow, Scotland (COP26) produced 143 million results, top among them a headline that global financial firms worth $130 trillion were taking the “net-zero pledge.” Although climatic conditions had not improved, COP26 generated less than 85 million results by Dec. 2nd, down to 78 million Dec. 9th.
The algorithms also show that both Ms. Kardashian and the climate apocalypse are hard pressed to compete with Taylor Swift, who surged to 756 million Dec. 2 Google search results after news reports that she had dethroned Don McLean of “American Pie” fame for the most consecutive weeks with the longest Hot-100 chart topping song (10 minutes).
After several decades, Mr. McLean still produces nearly 60 million search results, but Google Trends is focused on making a big fuss comparing the respective traffic stats of Ms. Kardashian and Ms. Swift. (screenshot below). While the “Swifties” have an edge, Ms. Kardashian more than holds her own. Further, her Instagram account has 266 million followers vs. Ms. Swift’s 188 million.
Notwithstanding how heavily these online search topics are trending, after two years of Covid-mania, neither the biggest celebrities and pop stars nor lurid tabloid-style homicide trials can compete with the search term “Covid-19.” It produced 3.75 billion results on Dec. 2, 2021.
With only 556 million Dec. 2nd results, “Jesus Christ” wasn’t even a distant second, and “Mohammed” only produced 361 million hits, even though there are 2.38 billion Christians and 1.91 billion Muslims in the world.
In the world of politics, US presidents are no match for the literal and figurative viral reach of Covid. However, a search of “Donald Trump” offered evidence of a continuing media obsession over the ex-president’s outsized persona with nearly 700 million results, rivaling Ms. Swift. “Joe Biden” came in at 363 million and “Barack Obama” at about 92 million. Their total hits are less than 1/3 those of “Covid-19.”
In spite of Covid’s seeming dominance as a search term in the algorithmic world of Google and electronic news media, by the end of Dec. 2nd, it nonetheless came in far behind a Google search for the word “porn,” which generated 4.16 billion results.
My informal ranking of Google search totals for Dec. 2 is illustrated below.
What does this mean beyond diversion or geeky technical analysis?
READ PART 2 — Eating Google