Friday 16 September 2011

Searching for Scarlett [Updated]

Update below: scroll to bottom please. Yesterday's Twitter feed brought news that Scarlett Johannson's phone had apparently been hacked and that nude pictures had been posted on the web. Let's see what Google Insights for Search can tell us.

First, we can see a long decline in search interest after a peak in January 2006. There have been spikes along the way, but the trend isn't good for Scarlett if search interest correlates with other measures of star appeal. But see that little up-tick at the end? That's what happened after the apparently fairly tame (I haven't looked, honest) pictures found their way out of her phone and onto the web.

Let's zoom in on the past year:

I wonder whether long term decline in search interest can predict whether nude pictures or sex tapes accidentally find their way onto the web.*

Apologies if the embedded graphs suffer a form of link-rot; it seems not to let me embed particular date ranges but rather only "2004 to present" or "last 12 months". If the effect looks odd and you're reading this sometime after the post date, just hit the link back to Google and restrict the search range appropriately.

* You might also wonder whether bloggers that put some value on inflating SiteMeter stats have incentive to come up with excuses to add words like "Scarlett Johannson" and "nude" into their posts. And I would be shocked! if you thought that such considerations ever entered my mind. I'd tweeted yesterday predicting a spike in Search Insights; I'm today pleased to see the prediction bear out. Nothing more. If you've come here searching for "hot nude photos of Scarlett Johannson", I'm sorry to have disappointed. But folks with such prurient interest might like to check out my posts on the economics of pornography and of prostitution, though I promise that those posts are only intellectually titillating.

UPDATE: The results above are erroneous. Why? Because the search above includes a typo. If we search on "Scarlett Johansson", the proper spelling of her name, instead of "Scarlett Johannson", we get a different picture. Instead of long term decline, we get a noisy stable level of interest:
The massive hike in interest with the photo release is real though. Just look at the numbers for the last year:


  1. And the graphs don't show in Google Reader so we have to come here to see them, registering a hit on your site. Shameless.

  2. I just noticed that too. Bonus! Trust that that one was actually accidental. You may have noticed that, unlike some other econ blogs, I give a full service RSS feed; I don't give a crippled version that forces high demanders to hit the full site while reducing the number of potential real readers by increasing cost. I care more about real eyeballs than measured eyeballs.

  3. FYI for those who do want to see the alleged photos I heard on the radio this morning that The Rock have them on their website. A brief check just now confirms that there are currently 2 pics there, but nothing terribly exciting.

  4. Yeah, thanks for the full service RSS feed thing. I don't read Krugman anymore, it's too frustrating trying to guess from the title and a brief sentence whether he's posted something I'll actually be interested in.

    The pictures in question are quite artistic shots. Just the sort of thing you might not mind accidentally finding their way onto the internet.

  5. @Lats, Emma: I will look forward to viewing said pictures when back at home. Thanks!

  6. Super Google Reader gets around those partial feeds, but there's a second or two delay and it isn't always a good fidelity so it also increases costs.