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Animated Map: What America Searched for on Google, Over the Last Decade

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What America Searched for on Google, in the Last Decade

Cultural shifts come in many shapes and forms, and some are harder to measure than others.

Thankfully, Google search volume provides an easy avenue for measuring large-scale cultural trends. And because Google makes up more than 90% of all internet searches in the U.S., looking at what’s trending on Google is a great way to understand the shifting questions and interests that are captivating society at any given time.

This animated map by V1 Analytics provides an overview of the top trending Google searches in every state over the last decade. It sheds light on what types of new information, events, and stories received the most attention in the last ten years—and more generally, it shows us what the U.S. population has been thinking about.

Trending Searches versus Top Searches

Before diving into the top trends of the decade, it’s worth taking a moment to distinguish between “trending searches” and “top searches”:

  • Trending Searches: Keywords that had the largest increase in traffic, in a specific period of time
  • Top Searches: The most searched keywords in a given time frame

This video would look a lot different, and a lot less interesting, if it showed Google’s top searches. To give some perspective, here are the Top 10 Searches in the U.S. (as of 2020):

RankKeyword
#1facebook
#2youtube
#3amazon
#4gmail
#5google
#6weather
#7ebay
#8yahoo
#9walmart
#10yahoo mail

Understanding the difference between trending searches and top searches is important because it gives us insight into why certain keywords trend in some places, but not others. For instance, in March 2020, the word “coronavirus” was trending throughout a majority of the U.S., with a few exceptions—it wasn’t trending in Massachusetts, California, Texas, Nevada, or Arizona.

It’s easy to make the assumption that people in these states were not concerned about COVID-19—however, that’s not necessarily the case.

It’s important to remember that trending searches are measured by the increase of traffic, not just the overall amount of searches. Therefore, in states where it wasn’t trending, the word “coronavirus” may have already been a popular search term for a while, so the keyword didn’t see a sudden spike in interest like it did in other places.

Undivided Attention

In the last decade, there were moments when the entire country was googling the same thing. Some keyword trends lasted a day, while others lasted over a week.

Here’s a look at keywords that took over the whole U.S, and when they were trending unanimously:

Date RangeCategorySearch Term
Feb 4, 2011MusicAdele
Feb 6 - Feb 23, 2011MusicBorn This Way
Feb 28, 2011MusicBorn This Way
March 22 - Apr 1, 2011Pop CultureRebecca Black
June 12 - June 27, 2011TV & FilmGame of Thrones
Nov 9, 2012Current EventsAbortion
Jan 10 - Jan 27, 2014TV & FilmFrozen
Feb 28 - March 2, 2014ElectronicsSamsung Galaxy s5
Jan 11 - Jan 13, 2015MusicBlank Space
Feb 26 - Mar 30, 2015MusicUptown Funk
June 5, 2015Pop CultureCaitlyn Jenner
June 16 - June 19, 2015TV & FilmJurassic World
Feb 26, 2016Pop CultureDamn Daniel
June 3, 2016Pop CultureHarambe
June 20, 2016TV & FilmFinding Dory
June 30, 2016TV & FilmFinding Dory
July 6, 2016TV & FilmFinding Dory
Aug 4 - Aug 7, 2016TV & FilmSuicide Squad
Aug 24 - Sept 8, 2016Pop CultureHarambe
Sept 23 - Sept 26, 2016Pop CultureBrad Pitt
Oct 21, 2016ElectronicsGoogle Pixel
Nov 24, 2016ElectronicsGoogle Pixel
Dec 14 - Dec 20, 2016Current EventsAleppo
Jan 7 - Jan 10, 2017TV & FilmThis Is Us
Jan 23 - Feb 2, 2017TV & FilmThis Is Us
Feb 8 - Feb 12, 2017SportsSuper bowl
Feb 22 - Feb 24, 2017TV & FilmThis Is Us
March 7 - March 11, 2017ElectronicsNintendo Switch
March 21 - Apr 1, 2017TV & FilmBeauty and the Beast
May 7 - May 16, 2017Pop CultureFidget Spinner
June 17 - July 18, 2017MusicDespacito
Sept 22, 2017TV & FilmIt
Oct 13, 2017Current EventsHarvey Weinstein
Nov 3, 2017Current EventsKevin Spacey
Jan 12 - Jan 23, 2018Current EventsLogan Paul
Feb 6 - Feb 11, 2018TV & FilmAltered Carbon
March 15 - March 29, 2018Video GamesFortnite
May 4, 2018Video GamesFortnite
July 21, 2018Video GamesFortnite
Aug 5 - Aug 22, 2018Video GamesFortnite
Jan 17 - Feb 3, 2019Music7 Rings
Feb 21 - Feb 23, 2019Current EventsJussie Smollett
March 12 - March 22, 2019TV & FilmCaptain Marvel
March 27, 2019MusicBillie Eilish
March 30, 2019MusicBillie Eilish
Aug 24 - Aug 27, 2019MusicBillie Eilish
Oct 9 - Oct 29, 2019TV & FilmJoker
Nov 20 - Nov 24, 2019TV & FilmThe Mandalorian
Dec 5 - Dec 14, 2019Pop CultureBaby Yoda
Jan 15, 2020Current EventsPrince Harry
Jan 20, 2020Current EventsPrince Harry
Feb 13 - Feb 15, 2020TV & FilmJojo Rabbit
May 5 - May 14, 2020Current EventsElon Musk
June 24, 2020Current EventsBubba Wallace

It’s interesting to look at the variety of topics that dominate the population’s collective thoughts. There’s a unique mix of popular culture, entertainment, electronics, prominent figures, and public scandals.

Something else worth noting is how country-wide trends became a lot more common in the latter part of the decade—in 2019 for example, 9 keywords trended unanimously. This was more than in the entire first half of the decade.

While the secret to going viral remains a mystery, one thing remains clear—the public certainly has a broad range of interests. So really, it’s anyone’s game.

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Which U.S. Generation Wields the Most Cultural Power?

Visual Capitalist’s first-ever Generational Power Index looks at which U.S. generation holds the most cultural influence in American society.

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cultural power GPI

Which U.S. Generation Wields the Most Cultural Power?

This year, our team put together Visual Capitalist’s inaugural Generational Power Index (GPI), which looks at power dynamics across generations in America.

We considered three categories in our quest to quantify power: economics, political, and cultural. And while it turns that out Baby Boomers dominate when it comes to economics and political factors—the are of cultural influence is a different story.

Here’s a look at which U.S. generation holds the most cultural power, and how this power dynamic is expected to shift in the coming years.

Generations and Power, Defined

Before we get started, it’s important to clarify which generations we’ve included in our research, along with their age and birth year ranges.

GenerationAge range (years)Birth year range
The Silent Generation76 and over1928-1945
Baby Boomers57-751946-1964
Gen X41-561965-1980
Millennials25-401981-1996
Gen Z9-241997-2012
Gen Alpha8 and below2013-present

Using these age groups as a framework, we then calculated the Cultural Power category using these distinct equally-weighted variables:

cultural power category breakdown

With this methodology in mind, here’s how the Cultural Power category shakes out, using insights from the GPI.

Share of Cultural Power by Generation

Overall, we found that Gen X captures the largest share of cultural power, at 36%.

GenerationCultural Power Share
The Silent Generation8.8%
Baby Boomers25.1%
Gen X36.0%
Millennials23.9%
Gen Z6.1%
Gen Alpha0.00%
Total99.9%

*Note: figures may not add up to 100% due to rounding.

Gen X is particularly dominant in the film and TV industry, along with news media. For instance, over half of America’s largest news corporations have a Gen Xer as their CEO, and roughly 50% of Oscar winners in 2020 were members of Gen X.

Baby Boomers come in second place, capturing a 25% share of cultural power. They show particular dominance in traditional entertainment like books and art. For example, 42% of the authors on the NYT’s best-selling books list were Baby Boomers.

However, these older generations fall short in one critical category—digital platforms.

The Dominance of Digital

Why is digital so important when it comes to cultural power? Because digital media becoming increasingly more popular than traditional media sources (e.g. TV, radio).

GPI Cultural Power By Generation Supplemental Time Spent on Media

In 2020, Americans spent nearly 8 hours per day consuming digital media, nearly two hours more per day than they spent with traditional media.

This divide is expected to grow even further over the next few years. With younger generations dominating the digital space, Gen X may soon lose its place as the top dog of the culture category.

Celebrity 2.0: The Social Influencer

As audiences flock to online channels, advertisers have followed suit—and they’re willing to spend good money to gain access to their target demographics.

In fact, spend on influencer marketing has steadily increased in the last five years, and it’s expected to reach $13.8 billion by the end of 2021.

GPI Cultural Power By Generation Supplemental Influencer Marketing Spend

This shift to social media advertising is redefining the notion of celebrity, and who reaps the financial benefits of content creation. For instance, six-year-old Vlogger Like Nastya made an estimated $7.7 million per month from her YouTube channel in 2020. And keep in mind, this estimate is purely based on YouTube revenue—it doesn’t even include corporate partnerships and/or merchandise sales.

With all these shifts occurring, culture as we know it is at a crossroads. And as we continue to move towards a digital dominant society, those who hold power in traditional realms will either adapt or pass along the torch.

Download the Generational Power Report (.pdf)

The Generational Power Index

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Ranked: The Most Popular Paid Subscription News Websites

Many consumers are reluctant to pay for their news, but those that do turn to trusted sources. Here’s a look at the most subscribed to news websites.

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Ranked: The Most Popular Subscription News Websites

While paywalls are becoming increasingly more popular among news websites, most consumers still aren’t willing to pay for their online news.

In fact, a recent survey by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism reveals that only 20% of Americans pay for digital news, and of those that do, the majority subscribe to only one brand.

This begs the question—which news outlets are audiences willing to pay for?

Using data from FIPP and CeleraOne, this graphic looks at the most popular news websites across the globe, based on their total number of paid subscriptions.

*Note: This report relies on publicly available data, and should not be considered an exhaustive list.

The Full Breakdown

With 7.5 million subscriptions, The New York Times (NYT) takes the top spot on the list. 2020 was an exceptionally strong year for the outlet—by Q3 2020, the NYT had generated the same amount of revenue from digital subscriptions as it had for the entire year of 2019.

RankPublicationPaid Subscriptions
1🇺🇸 The New York Times7,500,000
2🇺🇸 The Washington Post3,000,000
3🇺🇸 The Wall Street Journal2,400,000
4🇺🇸 Game Informer2,100,000
5🇬🇧 Financial Times1,100,000
6🇺🇸 The Athletic1,000,000
7🇬🇧 The Guardian790,000
8🇯🇵 Nikkei769,000
9🇬🇧 The Economist516,000
10🇨🇳 Caixin510,000
11🇩🇪 Bild494,000
12🇬🇧 The Sunday Times337,000
13🇬🇧 The Telegraph320,000
14🇺🇸 The Atlantic300,000
15🇮🇹 Corriere Della Sera300,000
16🇫🇷 Le Monde300,000
17🇺🇸 The Boston Globe270,000
18🇦🇷 La Nacion260,000
19🇦🇷 Clarin260,000
20🇫🇷 L'equipe259,000
21🇺🇸 Los Angeles Times253,000
22🇸🇪 Aftonbladet250,000
23🇺🇸 The New Yorker240,000
24🇵🇱 Wyborcza240,000
25🇧🇷 Folha de S.Paulo236,000
26🇸🇪 Dagens Nyheter208,000
27🇺🇸 Business Insider200,000
28🇫🇷 Mediapart170,000
29🇳🇴 VG150,000
30🇺🇸 Wired142,000
31🇨🇦 The Globe and Mail139,000
32🇩🇪 Welt132,000
33🇳🇴 Aftenposten119,000
34🇫🇷 Le Figaro110,000
35🇺🇸 Chicago Tribune100,000
36🇺🇸 Star Tribune100,000
37🇳🇴 Dagbladet100,000
38🇫🇮 Helsingin Sanomat100,000

The Times is the most popular by a landslide—it has over double the number of subscriptions than the second outlet on the list, The Washington Post. Yet, while WaPo is no match for NYT, it still boasts a strong following, with approximately 3 million paid subscriptions as of Q4 2020.

Japanese outlet Nikkei ranks number one among the non-English news websites. It’s the largest business newspaper in Japan, mainly focusing on markets and finance, but also covering politics, sports, and health.

Legacy Papers: Which Websites Come From Traditional Media?

Most of the websites on this list stem from traditional media. Because of this, they’ve had years to establish themselves as trusted sources, and win over loyal readers.

Interestingly, more than half of the outlets included in this ranking are at least 100 years old.

PublicationYear LaunchedAge (Years)
🇬🇧 The Guardian1821200
🇬🇧 The Sunday Times1821200
🇫🇷 Le Figaro1826195
🇸🇪 Aftonbladet1830190
🇬🇧 The Economist1843178
🇺🇸 Chicago Tribune1847173
🇺🇸 NYT1852169
🇬🇧 The Telegraph1855166
🇺🇸 The Atlantic1857164
🇳🇴 Aftenposten1860160
🇸🇪 Dagens Nyheter1864157
🇺🇸 Star Tribune1867154
🇳🇴 Dagbladet1869152
🇦🇷 La Nacion1870151
🇺🇸 The Boston Globe1872149
🇮🇹 Corriere Della Sera1876145
🇺🇸 Washington Post1877144
🇯🇵 Nikkei.com1876144
🇺🇸 LA Times1881140
🇬🇧 Financial Times1888133
🇺🇸 Wall Street Journal1889132
🇫🇮 Helsingin Sanomat1889132
🇧🇷 Folha de S.Paulo1921100
🇺🇸 The New Yorker192596
🇨🇦 The Globe and Mail193685
🇫🇷 Le Monde194477
🇦🇷 Clarin194576
🇳🇴 VG194576
🇫🇷 L'equipe194675
🇩🇪 Welt194675
🇩🇪 Bild195269
🇵🇱 Wyborcza198932
🇺🇸 Game Informer199130
🇺🇸 Wired199328
🇺🇸 Business Insider200714
🇫🇷 Mediapart200813
🇨🇳 Caixin200912
🇺🇸 The Athletic20165

Yet, undeterred by these well-established outlets, a few scrappy websites made the cut despite a shorter history. Four out of the 38 websites are less than 20 years old.

The Athletic is the newest outlet to make the ranking. Established in 2016, the outlet’s target demographic is die-hard sports fans who miss the days of in-depth, quality sports writing.

The Need For Trusted Sources

Amidst the global pandemic, issues involving misinformation and fake news have helped reaffirm the important role that trusted news sources play in the dissemination of public information.

With this in mind, it’ll be interesting to see what the future holds for digital media consumption. With paywalls becoming increasingly more common, will consumers jump on board and eventually be more willing to pay for their news?

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