Do as I do, not as I say

Wonderful story in today’s Times on using Google data to show what we’re really interested in: more orgies than apple pie. The peg is an obscenity trial in Florida in which the defense attorney demonstrates through Google Trends data that there are more searches for group sex than for recipes. And so, if you truly want to see the community standards that define obscenity we’ll know when we see it, then don’t listen to our preaching but to our searching.

Marketers have always known this. Back when I was at People, we’d test covers of Diane Sawyer in a suit vs. Brooke Shields in a bathing suit and in person, people would say they’d buy the former but on their own, in the newsstand, they, of course, bought the latter. Behavior trumps opinion.

And now we have so many more ways to know what the market is really doing, what the people are really thinking: Google, Flickr, Amazon…. That is the key value of the internet and companies on it: collected knowledge.

And so yesterday, as the nation mourned George Carlin, it’s a wonderful thing to look at the uses of his seven dirty words on Twitter and in blogs, our views of him saying them on YouTube, and — as I’m sure we’ll see in a few days — our searches on Google and purchases on Amazon. There, FCC, is the best evidence of our community standards. Actions speak more truthfully than words.