Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Happy Black Friday

Agnostic's post from a couple of weeks ago got me wondering at what point Black Friday became a bigger deal than the holiday it follows (or used to follow--it now tends to start on said holiday, or even before the holiday begins).

Well, Google Trends provides a powerful picture of the transition. Here is a comparative graph of search volumes for the term "thanksgiving" and the phrase "black friday", extending back a decade in time:

Notice that over the ten-year period, up to this point more total searches have included Thanksgiving than have included Black Friday, but it is only a matter of time before the latter overtakes the former. On an annual basis, Black Friday took the lead in 2010, and the yearly gap has widened steadily since then.

If there is any better single illustration of how consumerism has come to dominate the American socio-cultural landscape, I'd like--in a masochistic sort of way--to see it.


Jokah Macpherson said...

Wow, that is incredible and depressing.

Billcat said...

Is this a trend for US-only?
If not you have to take into account that Black Friday has gone international, whereas thanksgiving hasn't.
We've got black friday sales all over the net here in Norway, and I'm pretty sure that's the case a lot of other places. So, international searches for black friday will skew this statistic.

Dan said...

The optimist in me hopes that this is not a direct reflection of interest in Thanksgiving vs. Black Friday so much as the fact that people use search engines heavily for shopping these days.

The search term Thanksgiving has not declined.

I can imagine a person searching 'Black Friday Macys' followed by 'Black Friday Walmart' and ten more in an effort to locate those doorbuster sales.

I celebrate Thanksgiving every year with family, but I have no idea what I would put 'Thanksgiving' into Google for.

Audacious Epigone said...


Good point, thanks. It's international, although the results for US-only don't look much different.


Could be. "Thanksgiving deals" or something similar probably doesn't come to many people's minds anymore because of how ubiquitous the phrase "Black Friday" has become.

Vincent Castrillo said...

I was thinking the same thing as Dan. Why would anyone type in Thanksgiving? Even ten years ago? Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Special?? The point being people look for deals more and more online and then go to the stores to save time or simply avoid them altogether. "Black Friday Sales" etc.

This might not actually be a bad thing as prices have gone way down for Christmas stuff over the years in my home. This graph more closely tracks the decline of big box retailers over the same span if you imagine the red line to be in store sales vs. online sales (blue).

I think this is a bit reaching, though I fully agree with the sentiment.

Audacious Epigone said...


Good points. The interpretation may very well be off the mark. I ran the search quickly just to see if something might show up and lo and behold it did.

Dan said...

Off topic: Considering how much I've seen in recent years of scientists willing to stretch or break the truth toward social justicy ends, I wonder more about that great whale, the 'Flynn Effect.'

I'd like to personally take a look at different versions of the Sanford Binet test and Wechsler test that were issued over the decades.

Ideas on where these might be found?