I've talked before about the financial advantage in spotting a hot fad and monetizing a web site to take advantage. Well, turns out Google provides a nice little tool for spotting fads in a tool called Google Trends.
By leveraging the huge number of searches rolling through Google and keeping track of the frequency of popular keywords, Google Trends can highlight what is popular on the internet. Furthermore, Google even lets you link the interest (number of searches) for an item to events using news articles (like the MySpace trend that opened this post). This is a HUGE tool if you want to spot important fads as they start and try to make some advertising money off of them.
For instance, the if there's one fad that's pretty constant, it's diets:
Obviously, people use the internet to learn about diets all the time, and pretty consistently. Of course, Google must be normalizing the data based on the number of searches, to remove the influence of any growth in the number of people using (or not using) the search engine. If you look further at the graph, you'll seem some interesting trends, especially around the end of each year. Notice the sharp drop around the holidays (because everybody throws out their diet during Thanksgiving and Christmas) and the sudden upswing right after Christmas as people research their New Year's resolution!
Or, you can get more specific. How about the South Beach diet?
Looks like it isn't as popular as it used to be. But more people drop it during the holidays and pick it up afterwards though!
Google Trends is also great for comparing the popularity of things, be they Britney vs Paris (pretty much a dead heat, although Britney is currently ahead) or Chicken vs Egg (everybody knows to go with chicken). Trust me, you could build a sequence of wagers (or a drinking game) around Google Trends. Of course, this is a photography blog, so I'll leave you with the answer to the age-old question: whose lenses are the most popular? (bonus points if you can figure out where the late-year spikes come from)
If you figure out an interesting search (especially related to photography), leave a comment, I'd love to hear about it!