Having always been a fan of penguins, I was surprised when I first typed "penguin" into Google Trends. The birds have had a recent surge in popularity, beginning in late 2006. Why is this is the case?
First, I thought that it must have had something to do with the Disney movie Happy Feet. The coinciding of the movie's release with the upswing in popularity appeared to confirm my suspicions. However, after looking at Google Trends charts for "penguin" and "Happy Feet" in different geographies (as Happy Feet was released earlier in the United States than in the rest of the world), I became unconvinced that there was a relationship between the terms. Another popular penguin-themed movie, March of the Penguins, also failed to explain the surge of interest.
It then occurred to me that Club Penguin, an online interactive game for young children, was released in late 2005 and that the site has become increasingly popular. In fact, the chart below demonstrates that it has become such a success that searches for "Club Penguin" completely explain the rising online popularity of the word "penguin" alone! As a point of interest, Disney acquired Club Penguin in August 2007 for $700 million in cash and future considerations.
In sum, while naively it looks like internet users have become captivated by black and white birds, in fact their children are the ones who are entranced by a website having nothing to do with the Antarctic creatures.
Click here for a live view of this trend.
Update: Thanks to the power of Google Insights, we can provide an even more informative graph (though I wish it had weekly data rather than monthly). The red line represents the search volume for "penguin"; the yellow line for "club penguin"; and the blue line is the difference between the two. In other words, the blue line represents the relatively constant search volume for information on flightless birds (note the seasonality as it peaks each December and ebbs in the summer), after stripping away searches for a website for children:
A live view of this graph is available here.
The title of this post was almost "Tuesday trends are turning into a penguin." Bonus points for knowing the source. -J