I posted a stat the other week related to me by a Google exec casually in a meeting (not sure the original source): 2/3 of search was driven by traditional media and offline influences or activity. While that makes lots of sense it’s counter-intuitive for people who work in the Internet and often deny the relevance of traditional/offline media.
The query “Michael Jackson” is a great example of this interaction between events, word of mouth, news coverage and search. No doubt lots of people found out about it from online news, but most probably heard about his death from friends, TV or radio — and then went online to learn more. The news was also a big driver of mobile search volumes as well. According to the Google Blog:
Search volume began to increase around 2:00pm, skyrocketed by 3:00pm, and stabilized by about 8:00pm. As you can see in Google Hot Trends, many of the fastest rising search queries from yesterday and today have been about Michael Jackson’s passing (others pertained to the death of another cultural icon, Farrah Fawcett). People who weren’t near a computer yesterday turned to their mobile phones to check on breaking news. We saw one of the largest mobile search spikes we’ve ever seen, with 5 of the top 20 searches about the Moonwalker.