Beel den Stormer Presents the Only Fishery Blog You Need

Fish, Fisheries and Queryomics

The Day the Ocean Sunfish Went Viral: a Look back on 2012

Botelho sunfish

This photograph, of an ocean sunfish Mola mola, was taken by Daniel Botelho in 2010.  In July 2012 he ran across it, and posted it to his Facebook page.  The picture went viral, drawing over 1000 likes within 36 hours, thousands overall.

Facebook and other social media are one way of assessing the impact of a phenomenon.  But there are others. For example, one might ask whether the popularity of Botelho’s photograph resulted in an increase in internet searches, either for the photograph itself or for information about the ocean sunfish. 

Beel got curious and looked.  Please, let Beel present the results of a Google Trends search for ocean sunfish.

ocean sunfish trends

There is always some baseline interest in ocean sunfish, but this peaked in December 2006 (sorry, Beel has been unable to find a definative reason for that) and again in the first week of August 2012, coincident with the viral explosion of “likes” of Botelho’s photograph.  Please note, the information summarized here is weekly search volume, so it is likely the August 2012 peak was much sharper and narrower than figured here.

In this case, the value of Google Trends is that Beel can not only demonstrate the impact of this photograph, but also, in retrospect, its short life and the return to normalcy.  Facebook likes do not roll over.  They are cumulative.   People move on.

Beel is sorry to note that the ocean sunfish had its 5 minutes of fame and then lost out to the next big thing. Probably a photograph of Kim Kardasian, from behind.

Beel still likes ocean sunfish.

Beel notes that even a humble blog such as this was affected by the momentary fame of the ocean sunfish.  Beel posted about the ocean sunfish on 12 February 2012.  Due to views of that post, Beel’s blog had its busiest day ever on 1 August 2012, the day Botelho’s photograph went viral.  Thanks, Dan.


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This entry was posted on January 3, 2013 by in Commentary, Google Stuff and tagged , .
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