It's that time of year again. Yahoo has released its 2009 Year in Review, highlighting the top searches and trends on its properties. Taking into account billions of searches, Yahoo's review offers keen insights into what people are interested in and how they use the web to find news and information.
From 1,000 feet, Yahoo's review demonstrates how the web played a key role in the news cycle. People flocked to the Internet to find news about a variety of topics, from the economy to health care and from Michael Jackson to Jon & Kate Plus 8.
Yahoo also reports signs of thrift during the second year of the recession. Yahoo searches highlight old-fashioned thrift as a necessity as people labored to save money. Searchers also sought to distract themselves from the economic crises at hand by following entertainment dramas that made headlines in 2009.
"We saw consumers escape to the web hoping to pursue news and their guilty pleasures: Vampires, political implosions, how to moonwalk -- you name it, people went online to find it," said Vera Chan, a Yahoo search trend analyst. "And with economic uncertainty looming, people looked for ways to find stability by searching the web for new jobs, unemployment benefits, and ways to save through old-fashioned coupon hunting."
Searching for Pop Culture
Overall, Michael Jackson topped all searches in 2009. The king of pop overcame Britney Spears, who dominated Yahoo's Top 10 overall searches for the past four years. Spears fell to fifth place as other pop-culture phenoms rose to fame, including the book and film series Twilight, World Wrestling Entertainment, and Megan Fox.
Not surprisingly, Jackson's death broke many records on Yahoo. His memorial was the single most streamed event in Yahoo's history, with five million total streams. Beyond Jackson, celebrity deaths for Farrah Fawcett, Patrick Swayze, and Ted Kennedy also ranked high in 2009 searches. And sudden-fame searches highlight Scottish singer Susan Boyle, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, and Portuguese water dogs.
Another noteworthy finding is the mobile factor. Yahoo reports people are using mobile devices more than ever to find information and stay connected to friends and family on the fly. Top mobile searches include Megan Fox, mobile games, Michael Jackson, movies, Rihanna and mail, in that order.
Searching for Politics
A shaky U.S. economy dominated headlines in 2009, sending Americans to the Internet to search for new jobs, education opportunities, money-saving tips, and advice on how to start a business. President Obama's stimulus plan and Bernie Madoff's financial scandal were also among the top searches.
On the political front, Obama was in the news every day and searchers went online to follow the stories. The top Obama search was related to his inauguration, followed by key phrases like Obama biography, Obama speech, Obama stimulus plan, and Obama family, respectively.
The year-end top search queries lists always capture the zeitgeist, albeit edited and sanitized somewhat, said Greg Sterling, principal analyst at Sterling Market Intelligence. These top lists, he noted, are building a kind of time capsule or pop-culture history for future generations to look back on.
"The top searches reflect what people were interested in and what they cared about. They reveal the most popular news items, celebrity scandals, the hot political and economic issues of the moment," Sterling said. "The Yahoo data capture all that, too, with Michael Jackson as the top overall search and terms like coupons, unemployment and stimulus plan as the top economic searches."