Use Google Trends to develop story ideas

By Nicole Garner

While working in a television newsroom over the summer, I learned a tactic for finding story ideas for that day's newscast: Ask yourself and colleagues, "What are people talking about today?"

Whether you're working in a day-turn newsroom or starting to scope out ideas for a long-form journalism project, finding out what people are discussing can lead to interesting stories. But how do you do that on a large scale? It has become routine to check out Twitter trending hashtags, but you can also use Google Trends.

Google Trends has two basic functions: it shows you what hot topics are currently being searched for and allows you to search any topic to view how others are also searching for the same item.

Google Trends doesn't just show you what's trending online, it also shows you why. To do this, the search interface is broken down into several clickable categories: links to relevant news articles, blog posts and top web search results. And if you want to see how popularity has risen, Google Trends can show you an in-depth look at when a particular topic because to generate more searches (and when it peaked). If that weren't enough, you're given a list of related searches, which could be used to find more information on the topic you're researching.

The best part of Google Trends is that it's real time. Refresh the page you're on to see if search results change, searches for a topic have increased or decreased and where they're coming from. The list of hot searches (rightly named) updates and recalibrates to what's actually being searched.

Of course, not every story can come from Google Trends, but the Google staff has developed a product that shows what's popular at this moment - something journalists can use to tap into deeper stories.

And if Google Trends weren't interesting enough, Google's also developed Flu Trends, a worldwide influenza tracker based off of searches related to keywords like "flu." So, even if you don't find a story idea from Google Trends, you can have an idea on when you might be having a few sick days out of class.

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