To jump the shark – a term used to describe something that has reached it’s apex and has started its decline. This term came from an episode of Happy Days. In this episode the Fonz jumps a shark on water skis. Critics and fans agree that at this point the show had hit its peak and was in a decline.
At work today I noticed an interesting Google Trend. If Google searches are an indication as to what people are thinking about, then plugging a band’s name into this tool can be used to show if a band has jumped the shark or is still relevant.
Example 1 – Pop acts
Since Google has only been tracking these statistics since 2004, it’s hard for me to gauge these findings accurately. I would say not enough time has passed for many of the flavors of the week and one hit wonders of popular culture to become a distant memory.
- Jonas Brothers – the Jonas Brother’s meteoric rise to fame can be seen in this graph. The graph also shows their popularity peaked mid 2008. If you notice the bottom graph, the one that tracks news interest on the net, shows the general lag of the news media. The Jonas Brothers have already peaked in the interest of the public, but the news media seems to lag behind several months in their Jonas Brothers coverage. With more people turning away from main stream media (MSM) for their news, relevancy and timing could be the mitigating factors in saving the newspaper industry.
- Brittney Spears – despite several comeback attempts, the graph of social interest (the trend report) for this princess of pop shows she hit her peak in 2006. Unlike the Jonas Brothers, who could swing back, we can all agree she has definitely jumped the shark.
- Hillary Duff – I wanted to pull a pop act from a few years back, but had trouble thinking of one. I don’t know why, but I feel like she never had the popularity of the other people in this trend comparison, but you’ll notice she’s been on the decline since Google started reporting this information. Game over Hillary.
- Lady Gaga – a recent entry into the pop culture scene, it seems like her career is still on the up. Congratulations on still being relevant.
Example 2 – Bands with long-term appeal
Established bands seem not to peak as much as the pop acts and have some consistency in their search volume. These bands aren’t likely to lose popularity, but probably won’t see any dramatic increases in searches.
So, can you tell when a band has jumped the shark? You can, but you’ll need a few years worth of data to be sure with any consistency. One of the most important things to note is the news coverage compared to public interest (based on Google Trends). Of course, not everyone searches using Google, so this can’t be entirely accurate. I’d still say the margin of error is within 10 percent.
What do you all think? Is Google Trends a reliable way to determine the popularity of something? What can the MSM do to make sure they stay ahead of the curve and report what is truly new in a digital age?