FREAKquel: Has 9/11 Diminished Pearl Harbor?

Yesterday, after posting this item wondering whether 9/11 had begun to diminish our collective remembrance of Pearl Harbor Day, I wrote to Bill Tancer of Hitwise.com. I asked Bill to take a look at his search-query data for any insights into this subject. Here’s his reply:

Unfortunately, I only have access to 24 mo. of historical data. However, the question is fascinating so I charted the volume of searches in the U.S. for the two terms “pearl harbor” and “9/11”:

Using our search term analysis, I can analyze where people go when they search on the term “pearl harbor” listed below (for week ending 12/07/2006):

I also decided to check out that spike in “9/11” that happened this September.

So to answer your question, with the exception of the week of 9/11, “pearl harbor” searches continue to exceed “9/11” queries.

I am a bit surprised by this, and am guessing that if we included searches for “september 11” and “world trade center” along with “9/11,” the story might be different. I am even more surprised that Wikipedia got more 9/11 traffic than CNN.com, BBC.com, and Time.com combined.

Thanks, Bill.


Garry

Could it be that there are many search terms for "September 11, 2001", e.g., not only 9/11 but also "9-11" and even the simple "911" (the top hits pertain to the day and not to the emergency telephone number). It appears that the analysis used only "9/11". I did a search using the 911 and 9-11 and they worked quite nicely.

RFook

There are 2 things that I thought about when reading this entry.

First of all, why is the second spike of the 9/11 search (I presume in 2006) so much bigger than the first spike (in 2005)?

Second, I would have expected the number of searches for 9/11 to be lower, because most people over the age of, say 20, will still remember the event very well. The media coverage was so thorough that there's hardly a soul who wasn't immersed in the events of that day. So there is less reason to search for it if you can still remember it like it was yesterday.

Craig

RFook,
The second spike was higher because it was the 5 year anniversary. People checking for charities, anniversary events, etc.

SteveSailer

A quick Google search shows 3.3 million hits for "Pearl Harbor" and 26.7 million for "Holocaust."

Similarly:

Hitler -- 39.6 million pages
Tojo -- 1.5 million pages

In our culture, Hitler has achieved quasi-mystical significance as the New Lucifer, the embodiment of absolute evil. How can Pearl Harbor compare to that?

mwpowers

I bet it's because history classes in high school & below often require some sort of an assignment on World War II or Pearl Harbor specifically. Do schools teach about 9/11? When I was in school during the 90's, I don't think we ever covered anything extensively past WWII. Vietnam was not covered much at all, and I didn't know what the term "cold war" referred to until I was about 16, though I did know the Soviets were the bad guys for some reason thanks to Rockie 4 and other movies.

ejp1082

Google doesn't give hard numbers, but here's the Trends analysis for the search terms "9/11", "September 11", "9-11", and "911".

Not surprisingly, there's an annual spike on the anniversary. "9/11" is the most common search, and correlates pretty well with searches for "911" - though the fact that 911 is an emergency number probably confounds it.

Google Trends for 9/11 vs Pearl Harbor shows that 9/11 obliterated Pearl Harbor in 2004 - presumably that's because it was such an election year issue though. 2005 has them roughly equal except around the respective anniversaries. 2006 has a *huge* spike for 9/11 queries on the anniversary... I can't imagine why that would be though

Read more...

ftelegdy

I am even more surprised that Wikipedia got more 9/11 traffic than CNN.com, BBC.com, and Time.com combined.

This is Google at work. A Google search for "9/11"...
http://www.google.com/search?q=9%2F11
...yields the following results (in order):

1. september11news.com
2. Wikipedia
3. 911digitalarchive.org

And that matches the Top 3 websites that received traffic.

Two other sites (911research.wtc7.net and 911truth.org) also appear on the first page of Google results and in the top 10.

It just goes to show that where your web site ranks on Google for particular search terms can be VERY important to your web site's traffic.

jgoldshlag

Looking at the seasonality of the Pearl Harbor searches shows just how much of it is driven by schools. Notice how low it goes during the summer, and how it spikes right around finals time.

gcooley

According that Google Trends info, Sweden has an unusual interest in Pearl Harbor. Is Kate Beckinsale Swedish?

richardmuscat

Could it be that the spike also reflects interest worldwide? As a European, I don't think many of us really know much about pearl harbour but 9/11 seems to have affected all.

Welll, Pearl Harbour surely affected "all" back when it happened but I guess nowadays - being essentially a historical event - it's of more interest to Americans. On the otherhand, 9/11 is practically "current affairs"

SteveSailer

In my memory, going back to the 1960s, interest in our war with Japan has waned dramatically, while obsession over the Holocaust has vastly increased, even though America wasn't involved in the latter. Lots of people now seem to believe we went to war to stop the Holocaust, rather than to avenge Pearl Harbor. Our War in the Pacific now seems in vaguely bad taste because it was against non-whites, while our War in Europe was against ultra-white Germans, so it is now much more fashionable.

Bill Tancer

Just posted an updated chart including other variations on 9/11 searches here .

Also, I agree with previous comments that a large portion of "pearl harbor" queries are likely to be educational in nature, hence the large % traffic to Wikipedia.

Veda

Thanks, SD and BT. I was curious as to numbers, etc, and I appreciate the research done and speculations given.

TheQuitter

ftelegdy,

Perhaps I am mistaken, but it seems like you're implying that Google ranks wikipedia high, thus people see wikipedia more often, and thus wikipedia has higher traffic.

Google ranks web pages however they want to, since it's mostly done by 'bots'. Part of their ranking system was that they wanted to rank popular pages higher.

While I agree that it helps to be ranked highly on google, I don't think google goes in to automatically rank wikipedia higher. It's also doubtful that wikipedia pays google to be ranked higher. The only other explanations are that wikipedia is liked by google bots and a lot of people link to wikipedia from their own pages.

The bigger question is what causes the public to shift their trust to a website. Basically we believe google's mantra of do no evil and we believe in the volunteers at wikipedia (although this blogs author would probably not do...).

Anyway, I just want to say that the effects of a highly ranked pages are reciprocal to the popularity.

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Garry

Could it be that there are many search terms for "September 11, 2001", e.g., not only 9/11 but also "9-11" and even the simple "911" (the top hits pertain to the day and not to the emergency telephone number). It appears that the analysis used only "9/11". I did a search using the 911 and 9-11 and they worked quite nicely.

RFook

There are 2 things that I thought about when reading this entry.

First of all, why is the second spike of the 9/11 search (I presume in 2006) so much bigger than the first spike (in 2005)?

Second, I would have expected the number of searches for 9/11 to be lower, because most people over the age of, say 20, will still remember the event very well. The media coverage was so thorough that there's hardly a soul who wasn't immersed in the events of that day. So there is less reason to search for it if you can still remember it like it was yesterday.

Craig

RFook,
The second spike was higher because it was the 5 year anniversary. People checking for charities, anniversary events, etc.

SteveSailer

A quick Google search shows 3.3 million hits for "Pearl Harbor" and 26.7 million for "Holocaust."

Similarly:

Hitler -- 39.6 million pages
Tojo -- 1.5 million pages

In our culture, Hitler has achieved quasi-mystical significance as the New Lucifer, the embodiment of absolute evil. How can Pearl Harbor compare to that?

mwpowers

I bet it's because history classes in high school & below often require some sort of an assignment on World War II or Pearl Harbor specifically. Do schools teach about 9/11? When I was in school during the 90's, I don't think we ever covered anything extensively past WWII. Vietnam was not covered much at all, and I didn't know what the term "cold war" referred to until I was about 16, though I did know the Soviets were the bad guys for some reason thanks to Rockie 4 and other movies.

ejp1082

Google doesn't give hard numbers, but here's the Trends analysis for the search terms "9/11", "September 11", "9-11", and "911".

Not surprisingly, there's an annual spike on the anniversary. "9/11" is the most common search, and correlates pretty well with searches for "911" - though the fact that 911 is an emergency number probably confounds it.

Google Trends for 9/11 vs Pearl Harbor shows that 9/11 obliterated Pearl Harbor in 2004 - presumably that's because it was such an election year issue though. 2005 has them roughly equal except around the respective anniversaries. 2006 has a *huge* spike for 9/11 queries on the anniversary... I can't imagine why that would be though

Read more...