Please note – this post relates to Google search interest in footballer Jake Daniels, who recently came out as the only openly gay professional male footballer to be playing in the UK. It explores how much search interest there has been relative to other topics and how quickly this search interest materialised after his announcement. It then finishes on why this matters.
It is not a post about Jake’s decision or the wider issue of acceptance in sport. However it is to be hoped that one day, a footballer coming out will not be newsworthy at all, nor will how anyone chooses to live. Jake’s bravery will undoubtedly help to bring that day closer.
Jake Daniels’ entire first-team playing career amounts to 13 minutes of action and, results-wise, it has not been overly lucky.
With Blackpool losing at Peterborough in the sort of final-day fixture that garners almost no wider attention, he was sent on for his debut. Two further goals followed and the thrashing was complete – Peterborough 5, Blackpool nil – not that it mattered much to Blackpool. A lower mid table Championship finish had long since been assured.
Nevertheless, Jake’s achievement in simply being selected was noteworthy. Not many 17-year-olds get to play in England’s second tier. With a fair wind, it will prove to be the first of many hundreds of performances in a fine career.
His debut will have led to some slight search interest – probably mostly in Blackpool. Young players making debuts is interesting but hardly unprecedented. As the clock ticked towards full-time, maybe a few Tangerine fans Googled ‘who is Jake Daniels’ both out of idle curiosity and also to give themselves something to watch other than the ongoing thrashing.
A few days later, a lot more people would be Googling Jake Daniels. In fact, more people than Googled any other sporting name of late in the UK.
On Monday evening, Jake came out as the first openly gay male footballer playing professionally in the UK. Instantly, and it really was instantly, people across the nation put ‘Jake Daniels’ into their search engines, fueled by a desire to learn a bit more about this young man.
Google Trends allows us to track the interest. Some readers will be familiar with how Google Trends works and so a detailed explanation of process would be sucking eggs territory. For others, there might be a need to explain more fully, and yet derail what the data shows us.
I will try to walk a middle ground and kindly ask that you simply message me if you want anything explaining more fully.
Trends always gives a top ranking of 100, and everything else is relative to this, this allows us to compare interest in terms and also see how search ebbs and flows over time.
In a previous post, I discuss some of the methodology used in making comaprisons through Google Trends data. (and yes, it is as exciting as it sounds)
Eclipsing Interest in Other Stories
We can both compare interest in Jake against interest in other search terms, and then see just how suddenly search peaked. It taps into the public’s need to know and demand for instant information.
The peak in interest came between 5 and 6pm on Monday – and there was far more search for Jake during this period than there was for any footballer involved in the FA Cup final at any stage of the game.
Konstantinos Tsimikas saw the peak interest of any player in the final as people searched his name as he scored the winning penalty. The interest in Tsimikas was huge; it prompted me to blog on the topic, but it was only a fraction of the peak search seen for Daniels. About 57/100 as a fraction to be very specific.
The past week also saw Spurs thrash Arsenal in a key North London derby. The player to attract most interest in that game was Rob Holding as the defender put in what’s best described as a ‘horror show’. Peak interest in Holding was one twentieth that seen in Daniels.
In cricket, England named a new coach of the men’s Test team. People cared, they cared a great deal, but not in a way that can be compared to the sudden interest in Jake. Peak search interest in McCullum was a fiftieth of the levels seen for Jake Daniels.
There was one other huge football story – Man City agreeing a deal to sign Erling Haaland. Every football site went crazy on this table, producing endless content. Peak interest? Big, for sure, but not Jake Daniels big. Haaland will almost certainly be the biggest signing made by a Premier League club this year, and yet peak interest as seen by people Googling his name was a mere 43% of the peak interest in Jake Daniels.
Away from sport, I tried news to provide further context. Johnny Depp and Amber Heard have dominated headlines, but peak interest less than half that seen for Jake Daniels. The number of people tapping in Rebekah Vardy, Wagatha Christie, Colleen Rooney or even ‘Davy Jones’ Locker’ was never more than a small percentage of those who searched for Jake around teatime on Monday.
The only person found that eclipsed Jake Daniels in terms of peak interest – the number of searches inside an hour – was Sam Ryder, Britain’s Eurovision entrant. Given the way Eurovision dominates TV and the social spaces, this shows the levels of interest we are looking at.
The Rapid Rise – and slower fall – Of Search Interest
By definition though, peak interest can never last.
For searches in Jake Daniels, there is a sudden surge from zero (essentially) up to 4.59pm, then rapid acceleration. For the minute of 5.00pm to 5.01, Google records ‘2’ – this is 2% of the peak searches for Jake, this figure alone equivalent to the highest interest in the aforementioned Brendon McCullum, let’s not forget.
A minute later, it is 51 – an increase of more than 2,500% inside 60 seconds, and this after an increase probably larger still from ‘zero’.
Interest then stays around 25, until a second increase from 5.30 – this presumably tied to a particular news report or similar. Across 10 minutes, the relative search goes 23, 51, 78, 100, 96, 76, 58, 51, 46, 42.
It takes three minutes to climb from 23 to the peak of 100 then, four minutes later, it is back down to around half this level.
It is instant gratification, phone in hand, looking up the topic that has just come to your attention.
Unsurprisingly, interest in terms of searches continues to fall away, though it is worth continually remembering that the peak was SO large that even 5% of this still represents a shed load of search queries. It’s still Premier League player does something truly noteworthy in a key match levels of search.
Nevertheless, if we look at how it reduces, we can see that it is true to say:
Peak interest is at just after 5.30pm – we’ll call this 100.
- After 4 minutes, half as many people are searching
- After 15 minutes, a third as many are searching as the peak
- After 45 minutes, search is one fifth the peak
- After 110 minutes, it is one tenth
- Buy 9.30pm, so four hours later, it is one 20th
- By the next morning, it has settled into being around one 30th of the peak levels of search.
It is also true to say that the interest does not follow a smooth path, one example being the report on the BBC 10pm news. A small spike is seen at 10.01pm and then a larger one at 10.20 that perfectly coincides with the news item. Search levels at 10.20pm are triple what they were at 9.59pm, and yet by 10.23 the increase has receded once more.
To look at it another way, by aggregating the search levels over 10-minute periods and also running 60-minute totals, we can get a real feel for the relative changes in search numbers.
In the 10 minutes to 5.40pm on the Monday, the total was 642 (this the total of relative search levels), given the following morning the average had dropped to a relative value of three per minute (this not real figures of course – more an index), this means that more people Googled Jake Daniels in 10 minutes on Monday evening than did in over three hours the following morning.
Or, to use another stat, the total search in the hour from 5.30pm will have been equivalent to the search across more than 12 hours the following day – and peak 8am to 8pm type hours, so the entire standard working day and then some.
Why Publishing Promptly Matters
People search for information, why does this matter? Jake’s coming out would be no less brave had the peak search been 30% lower, it is clearly an irrelevance in some ways.
And yet, it does matter, or it can matter.
It should matter to editors and those who want their very best writing to reach the biggest audience. It matters that articles and opinion pieces that could be of true benefit find as wide an audience as possible.
Of course, there could be a cynical approach, publishers getting out as much as they can as quickly as possible to hit peak audience. We don’t care about them here.
The utility lies in that honest, open reaction which could change someone’s life being up that bit quicker, when it might find the person whose life it can change. Behind all those relative search figures and trends are real people and some of these will have been those who also want to come out or have questions about their own sexuality.
It is almost certain that more teenagers and children with questions about their own sexuality, or concerns about how they can come out will have Googled Jake Daniels at 6pm and 7pm on Monday than will all day the following day. It also isn’t an either or. Get the article up at 7pm and it can be of use to people searching both then AND those who search in the morning. Clearly, holding off publication to 8am means that it cannot be found by the previous day’s audience.
Articles can have links to helpful information, or the sheer fact they exist might give someone the reassurance that there are role models out there. But, they can only do this if they exist when people are searching for them.
Search, of course, is not the only route to these articles, but it is a major one. Search is also the one thing that taps into a genuine interest at that very moment – I care enough about this to search it out, not just select something that comes my way via social.
In choosing to come out, Jake Daniels has changed his own life. Search shows us that by being prompt, publishers can also find true utility to perhaps help others change their life too, or at least feel accepted.
If I may end on a personal note, this feeling of acceptance is what matters to me too as a father to two autistic boys. Sometimes it feels like everything is geared towards the majority, and yet difference is good and everyone should be welcomed and embraced.
The opportunity to build on the bravery of those who stand up to be counted should not be wasted.