Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Snowboarding Trends of 2010 According to Google

Google run the internet and they watch and record every single thing you do online, which is bad for things like personal privacy, but great for producing interesting snowboarding statistics.  They've just released the Google Zeitgeist which is a list of the most searched terms in 2010. Snowboarding clearly doesn't have the same significant global impact as the earthquake in Haiti, the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico or Justin Beiber, but we did find a few interesting things and while we were at it we took a look at some of the other snowboarding related stats we could ply from Google’s cold electric soul. In this article we find out lots of exciting snowboard facts including:

  • Which country loves snowboarding the most
  • What the kick-ass Boy Scouts were wearing in 1983, and...
  • Is Shaun White bigger than snowboarding? 
This is a tool that has been available for a couple of years and it allow you to get an idea about how popular a search phrase has been on Google. Unfortunately Google doesn’t provide a scale, which means it’s really just useful to compare different search terms against each other. Let’s take a look at the old favourite skiing vs. snowboarding.  
According to Google almost twice as many people are interested in skiing (1.0) compared to snowboarding (0.54). Oddly the proportions of skiing vs snowboarding searches closely mirror the proportions of dogs vs cats searches, but I'm not sure there is much we can read into that. The good news for snowboarding is it does look like the gap might be closing, in 2010 snowboarding was up to 62% the size of skiing and there was even a short period at the end of 2008 when there were more snowboarding searches than skiing searches for the first time.

Other interesting things to look out for are the very seasonal trends in the quantity of searches which peaks about now and mirrors the snowfall in the northern hemisphere and the massive bursts of interest around the Olympics in 2006 and 2010.

We mentioned the Google Zeitgeist at the start of the article and it’s a look at the most searched for terms in 2010. Although snowboarding didn't even get close the Vancouver Winter Olympics did. Google designed a pretty nice interactive map that allows you to compare the interest in the Olympics against other major events like the football World Cup.
The World Cup was 3.2 times bigger than the Olympics, but the Olympics was about three times bigger than a cloud of ash.
Along with the Zeitgeist, Google also pushed out another product called Google Insights, which is an improved version of the Google Trends tool. It adds the ability to look at the searches in a bit more detail.

For example if you look at the term snowboarding since 2004 the tomato prince, Shaun White, was the second and third most common search after the word snowboard. Not only was he second and third but he’s the quickest growing search term too. He even beat uberbrand Burton’s two appearances in the top ten terms. I imagine Illicit Snowboarding will make the top ten in 2011.

And snowboarding is searched for the most (proportionally) by the New Zealandish…
As we saw earlier the search patterns of people using Google mirror the snow conditions. For anyone looking to snowboard throughout 2011 here’s how you do it…

There is an interesting difference between the searches for snowboarding and snowboard. We saw a few months ago, when we looked at the different words for snowboarding around the world, that the basic word snowboard is used in a number of different languages, but the term snowboarding it is only used in the English language. As a result the searches for the word snowboard represents a more worldwide search and the results are quite different.  Now the most snowboard obsessed country actually turns out to be the Norwegians.
The Czech Republic comes in at number three since 2004 and number two if you just look at 2010. That’s a big snowboard obsession for a country with no proper mountains.

How big is Shaun White?
You often hear the phrase, “No sportsman is bigger than his sport” banded about in the press, but a look over 2010 shows that for a couple of weeks at least Shaun White was bigger than snowboarding.
Shaun White is denoted in the colour ginger.
Thankfully he is now back in his box, but Burton are consistently bigger than snowboarding which is just a bit creepy.

Here’s one last interesting Shaun White fact, the country that did the forth most searches for pictures of Shaun White this year was India. Why?

Google Books
Not content with tracking all the virtual content in the world Google has also started to collect and track as much offline content as they can. Using the Books Ngram Viewer you can track how much information was published on a specific subject and when. Here’s the chart for skiing and snowboarding.
It’s a good chart for showing the timing of the rise of the two sports, skiing had a big head start. When you compare this to the search trends it interesting to see just how much more written material there is on skiing, I guess that’s got something to do with other forms of media taking over in recent years during the rise of snowboarding. I've also added surfing and skateboarding for comparison and snowboarding has just overtaken skateboarding.

Despite the lack of snowboard books there are still some interesting gems. Here are a few that came up in the books search...

I'm glad that phrase isn't still around. Being from the UK that phrase has a whole different meaning 
A Hardy Boys comic from 1991. 
“On the slippery slopes of international intrigue the competition can be deadly”
And this is an old Burton advert that appeared in the Scout’s Magazine “Boys’ Life” in November 1983 on page 57.  It’s an interesting piece of history and shows how Burton were trying to sell the whole sport in the early days and not just their own equipment.

Things have changed a fair bit since 1983 and not just for Burton. That edition of Boy’s Life magazine also included a strange and harrowing article about a prisoner in Vietnam and how scouting helped him survive 5 years in a bamboo cage, there are some pretty awesome old videogames ads and back then they were selling the best jeans in the world, ever. 

For significant events Google changes the logo on its homepage and they’ve kept a record of the Doodles that have appeared on the site here. These are the snowboarding ones from past three Olympic Games (they only started Doodliing back in 1998 so they missed the forst appearance of snowboarding at the Olypics).
Looking at the search trends, I suspect that the Google Doodle for the 2014 Olympics will just be a sinister Burton ad featuring the gurning face of Shaun White.

Happy New Year from Google
This used to be the official Google logo. Sinister

Related Articles...
91 Words for Snowboard – The different words for snowboard around the world 

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