The web has not just given us a new way of making money, meeting friends, having affairs and seeking recreation. It has also put at our fingertips some of the most powerful predictive, analytical tools on the planet. If we know how to use them much of what is secret, isn’t.
Take the Oscars for example.
On Sunday night the Oscars will create mega-stars of popular actors, dash the hopes of many and fete a few with an honour which in our celebrity-driven world is akin to wearing (for a little while) the mantle of godhood.
Such are the hopes, the reputations and the mega-bucks riding on this one night that it’s like having the Olympics and Miss World thrown together in just one night. The results kept secret with a ruthless efficiency the MI6 and the CIA could actually learn a lot from.
Yet the decision on who will get the Oscar on the night is not a random one. It is based upon criteria which appeal to the masses and if the masses could cast an actual vote the chances are that they would find their unelected representatives, the critics, and themselves in a synch which Democratic governments and their constituents cannot even begin to dream about.
In Online Marketing Help I detailed the tools you can use to scour the web for trends and intelligence which can take your business forward. Here I will use just two resources which are readily available: Google Trends and TweetReach. Google Trends uses Google’s considerable position in global search to help you uncover popular trends and underlying search patterns as they develop through search user queries (which show their interest in a particular subject) and TweetReach mine’s Twitters dominance of the real-time web to reveal real-time, accumulating interest in specific subjects.
Just for the record I will also mention that for those who want to have a little fun between now and Oscar Night and do not want to spend the weekend crunching numbers Google have also created an easy to use Oscar Night research tool which allows you to search Oscar film trends.
I did not want to delve too deep or spend too long researching the Oscars. I have a book to finish and a site to run and writing commitments all over the place. Yet the time-pressures being applied upon me are little different to those faced by the average webmaster or online start-up entrepreneur and, as such, created the perfect opportunity for me to test just how accurate online predictive tools can be.
For my experiment I made two assumptions: The first one is regarding Google Trends – I assumed that the more people search for a particular actor or a particular movie the more likely it was that that actor or that movie had impressed them. It was also more likely, I hypothesized, that the Oscar judges would also see the same qualities in the actor or the movie that public saw, and vote accordingly.
For TweetReach my assumptions were that the more a film name or actor’s name was mentioned the more interest it gathered and the more people responded to it in retweets. Therefore that would also be the deciding factor in terms of mass popularity.
While these are admittedly not very refined (and with a little more time and thinking I could have refined them a lot more) they will nevertheless provide me with a picture which I expect will be pretty close to the final outcome. The purpose of the exercise, of course, is not so much to really predict what will be announced on Oscar Night but to showcase the potential real-time web online research tools have of allowing you to mine data with the kind of precision and reach which, in the past, would have been the exclusive province of large corporations with teams of analysts.
Google Trends Showed Last Year’s Oscar Winner
Hindsight, of course, is always 20/20 and last year’s Google Trends showed that the results, pictured below, matched the search patterns of those looking through Google’s search properties.
This year by combining the data from two points I have come up with the list below. The numbers next to them have to do with reach, meaning how many people actually get to see them and respond to them. In my research Black Swan actually came above The King’s Speech in absolute numbers using the term. I had to adjust it slightly using a normal deviation pattern and take into account the fact that ‘Black Swan’ also refers to the popular ballet.
Best Picture By Reach
The King's Speech - 40,289,920
Black Swan - 39, 287, 354
Inception - 36,536,916
True Grit - 35, 536, 916
The Social Network - 34,492,492
The Figheter - 33,556,445
Toy Story 3 - 23,556, 455
127 Hours - 13,474,201
Winter's Bone - 13,405,666
The Kid's Are All Right - 12,345,671
Now we have just two short days to see whether I am right or wrong and by how much! The thing to remember is that I used real-time web tools to mine data for fun. They are the same tools which should be your starting point when researching business and business models or when you are looking at trends which will determine supply and demand of products and services.
Update 28.02.11 - The Oscar Best Picture Results
It is now the day after the night before and you can see how my relatively quick and ready approach to analysing raw data allowed me to predict, correctly, the best picture winner.
The results can be seen here.
What is of value in this exercise is that the same tools I used can be employed to analyze anything online. Any trend, any issue, any breaking fad with the same high degree of accuracy. For an entrepreneur thinking of sinking his heart and soul into a new start-up or a business owner who is about to carve a new direction this is invaluable.