GOOGLE SEARCH engine statistics for 2008 reveal that more Irish people searched for Eurovision entrant Dustin the Turkey than for Brian Cowen, more people looked for websites on the television show Big Brother than on the Lisbon Treaty, and shoppers sought bargains in Newry over New York.
Social networking site Bebo was the most searched-for term in Ireland in 2008. However, rival Facebook was the fastest-growing search term last year, while Polish social networking site Nasza Klasa topped the rising searches list in Limerick and Galway.
The statistics can be found at Google’s Insight for Search subsite (www.google.com/ insights/search/), which provides information on the most popular search terms in different geographical categories and time frames.
In January, “Heath Ledger” was the fastest-growing search term in Ireland following the death of the actor from an accidental overdose of prescription drugs at the age of 29.
In February, Irish film Once received an Oscar for the song Falling Slowly by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova. In the same month, Irglova’s native Czech Republic produced the most searches for the phrase “Falling Slowly”.
The following month, weather-related searches spiked as Easter and St Patrick’s Day holidays fell during the wettest March in 20 years.
Searches in Ireland for “weather” in 2008 were higher than in the previous five years.
In April, then taoiseach Bertie Ahern’s announcement that he was to resign sparked a flurry of searches about him and his potential successor, Brian Cowen.
When Mr Cowen became Taoiseach in May, searches for him were higher than those for Mr Ahern.
However, searches for “Dustin”, the turkey puppet entered by Ireland in May’s Eurovision Song Contest, were more than double those for “Brian Cowen”.
Overall in 2008 searches for “Bertie Ahern” were almost twice those for “Brian Cowen”.
Searches for “Lisbon Treaty” shot up in May and June. However, these were the only two months with a significant level of searches for the term. In no month did searches for “Lisbon Treaty” exceed those for “Big Brother”.
In June, searches for the word “recession” peaked at 30 times the 2007 average. There were almost three times as many searches for “recession” as there were for “Celtic Tiger” in 2008.
On July 1st new rules for provisional licence holders came into force, resulting in a peak in searches for “driving test” on June 29th. Outside Dublin, such searches were most popular in counties Louth, Galway, Kildare and Cork.
As barriers were removed on the M50 toll bridge in August, searches for “M50” reached levels not seen since 2005, when the National Roads Authority first held talks with the bridge owners about removing the barriers.
On sport, searches for “Olympics” and “Beijing Olympics” were up to 10 times higher than queries about other major sporting events, with the exception of “premier league” and “fantasy football”.
Crises in the banking industry and stock market came to a head in September, resulting in the Government’s bank guarantee scheme. However, while worldwide searches for “banking” increased by more than one-third on 2007, Irish searches for “banking” increased by only 15 per cent.
Searches for “budget” were 80 per cent higher in October 2008 than in the previous budget month of December 2007. Of the main cuts and taxes which arose from the budget, “medical card” was the most searched-for term.
Irish interest in US president-elect Barack Obama peaked on election day, November 4th, the Google searches indicate.
At all times in 2008, searches for Mr Obama were ahead of those for Hillary Clinton and John McCain. The only candidate who at any time had more searches than Mr Obama was Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin. Her popularity lasted for six weeks after her announcement as Mr McCain’s running mate.
In December, the recall of all Irish pork due to the presence of dioxins in some feed broke on the same night as the final of reality television song contest X-Factor. Despite the significant rise in searches on pork, searches for X-Factor were five times higher that weekend – an indication perhaps of the age profile of internet users.
As sterling almost reached parity with the euro, interest in Christmas shopping across the Border rocketed. In 2007, searches for the phrase “New York shopping” were five times those of “Newry shopping”. However, in the final two months of 2008, searches for “Newry shopping” were seven times those of “New York shopping”.
For the entire year, searches for “Newry” were one-third higher than searches for “Lisbon Treaty”.
Searches for one of the most popular currency converter sites, XE.com, were also up by 40 per cent in December.