The Trend Cycle: How we monitor breaking news

By Joe DiSipio

Late Sunday night, news of a violent Canadian tragedy spread. Details were scarce in the various alerts blasted into my inbox.


Google is usually the place the search starts. In the case of last night’s horrific tragedy, the moment when the news started to spread can be pinpointed by the Google Trends graphic below.


Little more was known then the fact that three gunmen had entered a mosque in Quebec City and killed 5 people during evening prayer, as reported by Reuters.


As the public heard the story, they turned to Google, searching for more details.

Plotting the phrases “mosque”, “Quebec City”, and “shooting” against each other, we can see that right around 8:45 p.m. EST searches began to spike for all three.

Tracking these three separately shows the development of the attention focused on the story. There was no one searchable term that encompassed all three at the time. Comparing all three illustrates a trend of growing popular interest and knowledge.

Before this evening, Quebec City and mosque were both relatively un-searched terms. Shooting has a consistent search interest hovering around 9.

Once the news began to spread though, interest climbed rapidly. Quebec City reached a peak of 100 relative search interest by 10:20 p.m.

As more information became known, interest in these general search terms tapered off.

This is the pattern when a major news event begins to break. When the newsrooms of cable news channels and major newspapers do not provide enough immediate information, news consumers turn to the web and google it. As trending news becomes breaking news, the media outlets take back traffic from general searches.

Google has become the destination for all information. Keeping an eye on the Trends can help predict the next day’s headline.







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