Tuesday, December 01, 2015
Surprise surprise: Cilla Black beats Kim Kardashian in the Bing celeb searches

I love Cilla.

She was always my #1 favourite TV show host. I'm too young to know her as a singer but old enough to have been obsessed with Blind Date which was, when you think about it, a pioneering precursor to Take Me Out, Love Island and - my new favourite - Dinner Date. She was a genuine national treasure and I was sad when she died this year.

But this news story, claiming that Cilla was a more popular search term than Kim Kardashian in 2015 has two main flaws.

Number one.

The stats are from Bing, which represents just 6% of users in the UK (which I'm guessing is the geographical location these results are from).

I speculate that Cilla came higher in Bing searches because a significant percentage of people that 'Bing' anything are older (statistically likely to be over 45), use a PC with the factory-installed software, and Bing is the default search engine built into Internet Explorer (and used by 85% of IE users). Of course they were looking for news about Cilla when they heard she was ill or had passed away.

Look at Google, which has around 89% of the market, and the results are very different. On Google, Kim had more than three times more searches than Cilla in 2015.

See the graph below, where Kim searches are in red and Cilla searches are in blue (yeah, I actually went to Google Trends and tested the data).

Number two.

Cilla DIED. Yes, Kim may have recently poured thousand-dollar-a-bottle champagne into a crystal flute balanced on her buttocks, released a 325-page book of her own selfies, and wore underwear for the first time a month before her 35th birthday, but Cilla died. She was a beloved part of our lives, a popular public figure, a reportedly generous and kind person, and she passed away.

This was a huge loss to the world of entertainment, felt deeply by the people she touched through the decades, and - most importantly - not a publicity stunt. Comparing the two searches is not just crass. When you really think about it, it's actually pretty sick.

One of the most important rules of any survey that is destined to make sweeping statements about national sentiment is that you need to use a representative sample. Without that, the conclusion is meaningless.

To summarise the story in more realistic terms: Less than 6% of people in the UK, more than half of whom are likely to be over 45, searched for Cilla Black more than Kim Kardashian in 2015. No surprise there, then.

In this instance, I'm not sure what's worse - that Bing used Cilla in this way to generate a few headlines, or that it actually worked.

Click the image above to donate to Cilla Black's Just Giving page, in support of Great Ormond Street Hospital Children's Charity.