There's often a chasm between what people say they want and what they really want; TV viewers tell researchers they want more educational programming, then tune into lightweight reality shows. That's what's so fascinating about Top 10 lists from major search engines: the lists don't lie.
The major search sites - Google, Yahoo, Bing and AOL - have just released their Top Search lists for 2009. These lists of the most popular searches this year reveal what we really want, what we're thinking about, and what fascinates us. What do the results say about us? Here are some conclusions we can draw from the lists.
Want search engine fame? Try dying. Michael Jackson has been famous for decades, of course, but his untimely death catapulted him to the top of Yahoo's Celebrity Farewell Search list. He also topped Bing's list of Top Trending Topics, which included Farrah Fawcett and Patrick Swayze, who also died this year.
We love fantasy. AOL's top-searched films for 2009 included these first five: Twilight; Star Trek; Terminator Salvation; Transformers 2; and Harry Potter. Spot a theme here? All are fantasy tales featuring vampires, robots, extraterrestrials or wizards.
Money matters - a lot. The economy was awful this year, but you already knew that. Internet users were fixated on finances. "Stock market" made Bing's Top Trending list, while "coupons" topped Yahoo's list of top economy-related searches.
Pandemics are scary. The swine flu epidemic was heavily queried around the globe, according to Google. No surprise there.
President Obama's honeymoon is over. Google's data drives the point home: "Barack Obama" is number 4 on Google's list of fastest falling global searches. Amy Winehouse is on there too, which is probably good news for her.
Fame is fleeting. Robert Patterson (star of the vampire film Twilight mentioned above) and pop singer/fashion victim Lady Gaga are popular search topics this year. Where will they rank in 2010?