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Spinning Digital Straw Into Gold: Part One, The Straw

April 18th, 2010 · 3 Comments

Internet search engines, with Google leading the way, offer rich opportunities to spin digital straw into gold.


By Roger Ewing

What Are We Searching For?

According to Piper Jaffrey, a U.S. investment banking firm, the global internet search environment looks something like this.

  • 20% of all searches are for entertainment information.
  • 15% are commercial.
  • 65% are informational.

Much of the informational searches could easily be considered commercial.  BIA/Kelsey, a leading provider of strategic research, analysis, data and competitive metrics, indicates that 25% to 35% of all searches are local, and most of those are commercial, looking for a restaurant for example.

Interestingly, internet penetration in the United States is somewhere north of ten times the average for the rest of the world.  However, far more searches are done internationally than in the US, by a factor of about five to one.  What does this tell us?

When the entire world has complete access to the internet, Search may well become the most important activity involving humankind.

The Speed of Information

Researchers Hal Varian and Peter Lyman, two economists at UC Berkeley, calculated our total global information production for one year. In their study “How much information?” they measured the total production of all unique information channels in the world for two different years, 2000 and 2003.

Their research revealed a mind numbing 66% rate of growth in information per year.  Roughly 3.5 exabytes!

According to Wikipedia as of May 2009, the size of the World’s total Digital content has been roughly estimated to be 500 billion gigabytes, or 500 exabytes.  There is clearly no shortage of digital straw.

What’s An Exabyte?

In case you were wondering, an exabyte is a unit of information, or computer storage, equal to one quintillion or 1 followed by 18 zeros (1,000,000,000,000,000,000) bytes.

Let’s just say it’s a really big-ass number, but not as big as a googol, which is 1 followed by a hundred zeros.  Stanford graduate students Larry Page and Sergey Brin took creative liberties when they named their company Google.

So much for the straw in our spinning analogy.  In Part Two of this blog I will focus on winning the GOLD.

Tags: Marketing · Social Media

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Alex Beattie // Apr 18, 2010 at 8:40 pm

    Interesting Roger. Search, coupled with “like-minded” networks is the late Eleanor Rigby’s golden calf.

    Clay Shirky has an interesting analysis on this, as it relates to how the media captures our attention. It is a bit of a twist. But certainly worth taking a look at, if you haven’t already.

    I look forward to reading part II.

  • 2 Karen Crystal // Apr 18, 2010 at 8:59 pm

    Information is all around us now, and it is being consumed in a variety of ways from the internet…through “tribes” and facebook Fan pages…and Tweets and Wikipedia… fact, the consumer’s job will soon become sifting through the mass quantities of information…and then determining for themselves what is relevant.

  • 3 Stephen Roesler // Apr 19, 2010 at 9:35 am

    Some good statistics here. I found the most profound statement to be, “search may well become the most important activity involving humankind.” Think about how this will condition humanity’s acquisition of knowledge. We will soon “know” many of the things we know through the use of a machine. Verbal communication seems to be waning.

    Looking forward to hearing about the gold.

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