Analysing 2.5 Million News and Politics Search Queries for the BBC

Yesterday (Oct. 2nd, '12) I spoke at the StrataConf as part of the Ignite event, discussing some research I've recently completed for the BBC.

The BBC commissioned me to investigate how people in the UK search online for News and Politics. Being a bit of a political nerd it's been a great project, fascinating in many ways e.g. finding out that if you're a Government MP, unless you're in the Cabinet (and not a maverick such as Nadine Dorries), very few people search for you.

I gathered together 2.5 million search queries (from Experian Hitwise) that led to around 130 websites over a twelve-month period, grouped the search queries into clusters of queries of similar meaning and/or pattern (I refer to these clusters as "search clusters" or "demand clusters"), and analysed the data for key trends in how people search for people, places, organisations and events.

There were various findings such as the impact the Budget (March 2012) had on searches for child benefit (it reduced the number, but the anxious nature of the queries remained the same). Two other findings (of many) that popped out were:

"The Only Way is Essex" was Searched for more than David Cameron

Searches for David Cameron versus searches for TOWIE in Hitwise search cluster data

The total number of searches for TOWIE from June 2011 to June 2012 was just a little more than searches for the UK's Prime Minister, David Cameron. This may not surprise some, after all we see and hear from David Cameron all the time, nonetheless the decisions that he and his government makes impacts us all, so you would have hoped that people would be more curious about him than TOWIE.

And Google Trends backs this up:

Searches for David Cameron versus searches for TOWIE in Google Trends

Nottingham Forest was Searched for more than Nick Clegg:

In a similar veign, it was also clear that the mighty Nottingham Forest was more popular than Nick Clegg ... the Deputy Prime Minister:

Searches for Nick Clegg versus searches for Nottingham Forest in Google Trends

Further reading:

The above is only the briefest summary of the research, hopefully a BBC blog post will reveal more in the not-to-distant future, otherwise please do look at the slides from the talk yesterday, and/or get in touch.

The Ignite Event at Strata

Ignite event
Ignite event imminent. Original by Chris Jones (@cmsj)

The Ignite event was held at the end of the O'Reilly StrataConf, in the main hall.

It's an event that limit speakers to 20 slides in 5 minutes, each slide automatically moving on after 15 seconds ... so you don't have control over the progression of the slides. Lose your place, fall behind, and you're doomed. In addition, the audience has had some booze by this point, so it's a bit more lively than a sober audience.

Strata/Ignite Venue
Strata/Ignite Venue. Original by Chris Jones (@cmsj)

I gave a 5-minute talk on this research at the as part of the event. Annotated slides can be found here. It seemed to go pretty well I think. Organisers and comperes for the evening were Stewart Townsend of and Simon St. Laurent of O'Reilly who kept things running v smoothly. The other talks (where everyone rose to the challenge) were given by:

All in all, both the research, and the event have been great experiences. Thanks to the Beeb and O'Reilly.