Thanks to the six-month long Crackgate scandal and the ensuing media coverage, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is one of the most recognizable people in the world. Ford has become a running segment on The Daily Show. He's been ridiculed by David Letterman, Jay Leno, the Jimmies (Kimmel and Fallon), Howard Stern and Saturday Night Live. It seems like the whole world is talking about Toronto's mayor. But is there an objective way to see how big the Rob Ford story really is?
Enter Google Trends. It's a tool that shows how often a particular search term is entered relative to the total search volume on the Internet. You can compare search terms and segment queries by region, time period, language, etc.
I used Google Trends to display the volume of news searches for the name 'Rob Ford' anywhere in the world in the past 30 days. To put the story in context, I also entered other popular search terms, including 'Obamacare', 'Lady Gaga', 'Stephen Harper' (Canada's Prime Minister who is also embroiled in an ongoing political scandal) and 'Fukushima', the crippled Japanese nuclear plant that is currently back in the headlines. Here's what the results look like:
While Lady Gaga (the yellow line) edges out Rob Ford for peak search volumes around November 12, she can't compete with the sheer volume of searches for the name Rob Ford (the blue line) over the course of the entire month.
A crisis that is well-handled from a media relations perspective should look like a neat little triangle. As you can see, the Rob Ford line looks more like a roller coaster, with each peak representing an incredible amount of global news search attention. To get an idea just how big the Rob Ford story continues to be, compare it with the term 'Obamacare' (the red line), which has also been making global headlines for its troubled launch.
The Fukushima story (the purple line), a true disaster with long-term health implications for millions, is flat-lining in comparison.
And Prime Minister Stephen Harper (the green line) may want to send a thank you card to Rob Ford for knocking his government's Senate expense scandal off the front pages.
As you can see, the blue line is on another upswing as of yesterday. It's clear that the Rob Ford story is still far from being over.