Name That Data!


This is the face President Obama will make if you get the answer wrong. Don't disappoint him. (Mandel Ngan/Agence France-Presse)

Today we're going to try something a little different — all I need from you is a single word.

The data in question come from Google Trends. What I'm looking for is a one-word search term. Monthly search volume for this word from January 2010 to the present is represented by the thick dark line in the chart below. I've plotted search volume for "Barack Obama" along with it, to give you a sense of the overall popularity.

data-challenge-v1

You'll notice that search volume for the mystery word was zero-ish up until late 2011/early 2012. That big spike happened in April 2012. Volume has tapered off since then, but remains comparable to search volume for Barack Obama. Keep in mind that the y-axis in Google Trends charts is just a relative measure of volume, not any absolute, concrete number. You can read more about their methodology here.

Here's another comparison between "Barack Obama" and the mystery word. This shows the number of New York Times articles that mention those terms per year, from 2010 to 2014. The data comes from the Times' new Chronicle tool, which is basically like Google Trends for NYT articles.

data-challenge-v2

This shows that compared to Barack Obama, our mystery word is barely a blip on the Times' radar. The line for the mystery word is non-zero, but just barely. In 2014 so far, for instance, Barack Obama has been mentioned in 5,313 Times articles. The mystery word has appeared in just 22. The word was in the Times 4 times in 2010, twice in 2011, 16 times in 2012 and 18 times in 2013.

So there you have it. There's a word that's as popular in Google searches as "Barack Obama," but which barely appears in the New York Times at all. You know the drill by now — tweet me with #NameThatData, e-mail me, comment below, but whatever you do, do it by Monday morning if you want to know what it feels like to be Right On The Internet.

Christopher Ingraham writes about politics, drug policy and all things data. He previously worked at the Brookings Institution and the Pew Research Center.

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