HITS Spring: Google Keynoter Shares How Search Equals Truth

UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif. — Qing Wu, principle economist for Google, earned some easy laughs to begin his keynote presentation May 23 at the annual HITS Spring event: his opening slide showed how you can predict when the terms “vodka” and “hangover” will trend on Google search, with the former spiking on Friday and Saturday nights, and the latter showing up most often on Sundays and New Year’s Day.

“It’s really powerful,” Wu said. “You can find out a lot about what users are doing, and you discover behavior patterns really quickly.”

But the insights the media and entertainment industry can mine from Google Trends are no laughing matter: the analytics studios can garner can predict the outcomes of box office results, digital sellthrough, advertising marketing campaign, even retail strategies. His keynote — “Mining Google Trends for Entertainment Analytics” — walked attendees through how Google Trends has actually put truth to the term “Google as the barometer of the world.”

When the first trailer of a new theatrical film is released, shortly before its debut, around its first post-theatrical release, and during an awards event are all times films will see spikes in Google Trends, Wu said, and getting down to the details among those searches with designed market areas (DMAs) and demographics can yield important insights.

“Those trends give you a bird’s eye view of the buzz around a film,” Wu said.

A peak at the geo variances around a film like “A Madea Family Funeral” will show not only a heavy search emphasis among black and rural voters, but will also show the age groups interested in the film (25- to 64-year-olds yes, under 25 not so much). Just as crucially, Google Trends will point out that the film searches skew female, don’t occur often in urban areas, and usually involve lower household income families. “These give you an idea of the populations interested in the film,” Wu said. “You can also find out what else people who are interested in this film are [searching for]. You can paint a portrait.”

And what Wu has noticed during his time studying entertainment and Google Trends is that accuracy is fickle in the 1.5-3 months before a film’s release … but it’s spot on the final week before a debut. That can allow studios to use the technology for a final marketing push in all the right places. “It’s an effective way to find out if your advertising is working or not,” he said.

Before Wu’s keynote, Patrick Baca, CTO of Entertainment Partners, prepped the full crowd of HITS Spring attendees with a preview of the day. “There are all sorts of challenges that are unique to technology,” he said. “We like change, but we seek consistency. Create the right environment that introduces the right amount of change, but also evolves talent.”

“Ultimately, this is the group charged with bringing our business into the next era,” added Guy Finley, president of the Media & Entertainment Services Alliance (MESA). “Never before have we gone through a transformation like this. What’s important is we embrace these technologies, not fear them.”

HITS Spring was presented by Entertainment Partners, with sponsorship by LiveTiles, 5th Kind, Amazon Web Services, Birlasoft, Exactuals, Expert System, MarkLogic, Microsoft Azure, Richey May Technology Solutions, SoftServe, Spark Digital, Avanade, CDSA, Cinelytic, EIDR, MicroStrategy, Signiant, the Trusted Partner Network, human-I-T, and Zaszou IT Consulting.

The event was produced by the Media & Entertainment Services Alliance (MESA) and the Hollywood IT Society (HITS), in association with Women in Technology: Hollywood (WiTH); the Content Delivery & Security Association (CDSA); and the Smart Content Council.