Google Zeitgeist: Paul Walker, Cory Monteith, Aaron Hernandez, Travyon Martin and more confirm we’re really into death and bad things

I’m obsessed with Google Zeitgeist. Think about this: the site may be responsible for 100 billion searches per month. As a result, any snapshot data it gives you on a year has to be somewhat interesting, no? Here’s a good rundown of some key categories via The New York Daily News, and here’s the official Google blog post about 2013 in search. Let’s look at the top 10 global trending searches of the year quickly.

Nelson Mandela: Logical, as he’s a prominent world figure and passed away towards the end of the year. If anything short of Pope Francis or typhoon relief had jumped Mandela, that would be a bit depressing.

Paul Walker: I’m surprised this ranked so high globally, but Fast and the Furious is responsible for $2 billion world-wide, and not many franchises have done that (18, by one count). Walker was in the top of numerous categories, including “Trending People” as well. I’m sure the hideous nature of the death played a role here.

iPhone 5s: Not a huge surprise either, although this is sometimes considered a “down year” for Apple. 5s sales were fairly strong, though.

Cory Monteith: Glee was a fairly popular show, especially in the context of revenue generated per half-hour, so one of its most notable stars dying would rank as a global event. Again, the hideous nature of it (drugs, fall from grace, etc.) probably played a role.

Harlem Shake: I can’t explain this. Oh wait, I can. 

Boston Marathon: Again, an event mixing patriotism, horror, and a movie-esque situation with the two brothers.

Royal Baby: This ranked high around the world, including the U.S. (not surprised there). Americans may be obsessed with British culture, and vice versa.

Samsung Galaxy s4: This is the flip side of the Apple search above; Samsung does better globally, overall.

Playstation 4: Console wars heated up this year, for sure.

North Korea: North Korea pushed itself from “most isolated country in the world” to “weirdest country in the world” to “absolutely surreal” in the course of 2013.

Google Maps got some more intel on North Korea early in 2013, too.

Here’s the U.S. trending list.

Walker, Monteith, Hernandez, Gandolfini, Deen, McCready, Trayvon: all negatively-associated. Miley, Bynes: most likely negatively associated. Adrian Peterson: depends on the context, but it’s possible searches spiked off this story. In that way, the entire top 10 U.S. trending list is based on depressing events or train wrecks (the glass-half-full version is “remembering those lost,” etc.)

You can also search trends via the whole globe and month periods. People in Prague apparently love to search for info on Larry Flynt. Odd.

Check out the U.S. beer list too. The craft revolution is not quite here.

Just go mess around with it for a while; all the links you need are above. It’s super interesting. You can also compare it to some data on the YouTube Year In Review, the Instagram Year in Review, and the Facebook year in review. (Theme across all three: we’re big fans of death, the Pope, and the Harlem Shake.)

Ted Bauer