Everyone knows that everyone else on the Internet is Googling things like Megan Fox and Tiger Woods' girlfriends. But what about weather radar, malls and local credit unions?
Google, the world's largest online search provider, has come out with its annual Zeitgeist list, or "the spirit of the times" — a breakdown of the year's most Googled terms. And this year, the Internet's leading search engine is providing regional breakdowns, throwing out the stuff everyone everywhere has searched for this year — like "Michael Jackson" — and focusing on terms of local interest.
Rather than providing a voyeuristic glimpse into the secret business of Tampa Bay area Internet users, the top 10 list shows something closer to a slice of everyday bay area life, the core of what locals searched for on Google in 2009.
By that standard, the Tampa Bay metro area's top search this year is "Klystron 9" — Bay News 9's well-advertised weather radar, which also is featured on tampabay.com, the Web site of the St. Petersburg Times.
Other top searches include a diverse cross-section from around Tampa Bay, including Polk County, which Google lists in the metro area. That's part of the reason why the No. 2 most-searched local term is "Polk State College," formerly Polk Community College, which has campuses throughout Polk , and offers online classes to hundreds of high school students.
Because students use the Internet more frequently than many other age groups, it's also no surprise that "usf blackboard" and "usf oasis" are also on the list. Those searches refer to University of South Florida sites where students can download course notes and register for classes.
Searches for "grow financial" and "gtefcu login," referring to the GTE Federal Credit Union, also make the list. Both are local credit unions, and locals seem to use their online banking features quite readily, placing GTE at No. 5 and Grow Financial at No. 10.
Searches for Pinellas County bus schedules and the Wiregrass mall come in at Nos. 3 and 4, and Gasparilla, the largest festival in Tampa, came in at No. 9.
And No. 6? "Hcso arrest inquiry."
It seems a lot of folks around here have been checking on who's in the Hillsborough County Jail.
While other topics might not be unique to Tampa Bay, like sports, religion, shopping and sex, Google has provided search data for these subjects too.
When it comes to porn, "Porn Tube" and "Porn Hub" seem to be mainstay searches, with searches for the site "Xhamster" on a steady rise — which would make sense, since those sites allow users to upload their own home-made porn, following the greater societal trend of content-sharing sites like YouTube and Facebook.
The bay area's most porn-consuming city is Tampa, where residents include the word "porn" 16 percent more often in their searches than, say, residents of Pinellas Park. The generic term "sex" saw a spike in popularity over the Thanksgiving weekend, and Tampa residents are 60 percent more likely to search for the term than residents of Clearwater.
At the other end of the search spectrum, Lakeland residents type in "God,'' "bible,'' and ''church' much more than others in the area. Lakeland residents are 74 percent more likely to search for "God" on Google than St. Petersburg residents and 60 percent more likely to search for "bible" than Tampa residents.
When it comes to clothes, like the rest of the state, young Tampa residents seem to be searching for the "Hollister" brand, and shirts designed by Ed Hardy.
Searches for "tebow," referring to University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, have never been surpassed this year around Tampa by searches for either Evan Longoria or Derek Jeter. But Longoria's team, the Rays, has been searched for locally more than any other sports team this year. St. Petersburg residents are 27 percent more likely to search for the Rays than Tampa residents.
Dominick Tao can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org