Central Ohio's unwavering, relentless pursuit of information related to Ohio State University athletics is rarely trumped. But if our hearts are tied to what we Google, the Buckeyes take a back seat to a handful of other pursuits. Need a hint? Let's just say it's a little more "skin" than "pigskin."

Central Ohio's unwavering, relentless pursuit of information related to Ohio State University athletics is rarely trumped. But if our hearts are tied to what we Google, the Buckeyes take a back seat to a handful of other pursuits. Need a hint? Let's just say it's a little more "skin" than "pigskin."

Think of all the words you've typed into that little search box on Google.com. Maybe it would be easier to recall what you haven't typed. But now, thanks to some free online software, the world can get a better handle on just what Columbus is searching for.

Since its launch in June, Google Trends has tracked the most popular search words on Google.com with easy-to-read graphs and downloadable spreadsheets-and results are free to the public.
Is "McCain" being searched more than "Obama"? Is chocolate ice cream more in demand than vanilla? Data geeks around the globe are using this information to predict election results, monitor consumer preferences or measure the success of PR campaigns.

In a pending criminal case in Florida, defense lawyers for the operator of an adult website are using Google Trends to prove the moral compass of Pensacola is not as rigid as prosecutors proclaim. By comparing search data for terms like "orgy" to "apple pie," defense attorney Lawrence Walters hopes to fight obscenity charges by convincing the judge that his client's cyber avocation has, by no means, violated community standards of decency. But the good people of Pensacola might not be the only group looking up unwholesome things on the Internet.

You'd think that Columbus's unbridled devotion to all things Ohio State would be reflected in our thirst for Buckeye knowledge via the Internet. But here in Ohio, Google Trends proves that "Buckeyes" as a search term loses in a landslide to virtually every dirty word The Other Paper staff could fathom this week.
Not surprising? How about this data quirk: Searches for the word "porn" spiked dramatically among Ohioans during the week prior to OSU's appearance in college football's national championship games in each of the past two seasons. Furthermore, the most noticeable "porn" spike occurred in the days after Illinois stunned the then top-ranked Buckeyes in a 28-21 loss in 2007.

But aside from our apparent penchant for relieving the stress and nurturing the wounds of Scarlet and Gray fandom by indulging in cyber salaciousness, what else does Google Trends reveal of Central Ohio's sense and sensibilities?

Google spokeswoman Jennie Johnson confirmed this week that although results can be broken down by country and state, "it isn't possible to find out the top searches for a single location using Google Trends."

The bad news is that it's virtually impossible to create a tidy list of the top 10 things Columbus residents are searching for. Sorry. Google Trends does, however, rank the top 10 cities for each search term. Sometimes we got lucky.

Here's a look at a few other comparisons we ran. Winners are in bold.

Steve Stivers vs. Mary Jo Kilroy

In the race for the 15th Congressional district, Republican Sen. Steve Stivers may be forgiven for feeling a bit inconsequential. He's not alone. Stivers, like many of the local politicos or celebrities we trended, hasn't generated enough search volume to be recognized.

Kilroy, on the other hand, was the subject of a healthy amount of searching during her race against incumbent Deborah Pryce back in 2006, giving the Democratic Franklin County Commissioner enough of a bump to trounce Stivers by-well, whatever beats nothing.

Although Google itself calls the trend software "mostly accurate," suggesting in its FAQ section that "you probably wouldn't want to write your Ph.D. dissertation based on the information provided by Trends," the Kilroy camp sees exciting fundamental truths in the results.

"People are searching the Web more about Mary Jo because she's run an accessible campaign based on bold ideas and direct language," said Brad Bauman, a spokesman for Kilroy's campaign. "When you do that, people want to learn more about your plans for changing Washington."

But do Internet searches translate into votes? Stivers's campaign doesn't think so.

"Just because someone does a Google search for Mary Jo Kilroy doesn't mean they support her," said Michael Hartley, Stivers's campaign manager. "You get voter support by going door-to-door and [making] direct contact."

"Besides," Hartley added, "this data disenfranchises Yahoo users and we're an all-inclusive campaign."

Democrats vs. Republicans

There's more good news for Dems.

In Central Ohio, Internet users searched for "Democrats" about 40 percent more often than they searched for "Republicans."

Before liberal types celebrate victory, however, it should be noted that the terms "poop" and "Hannah Montana" individually outpaced both parties by at least 3-to-1 margin.

Andrea Cambern vs. Monica Day

On the Internet, a mere traffic and entertainment reporter smashed Channel 10 news anchor Andrea Cambern's presumed No. 1 status as Central Ohio's most popular female news personality.
Day's easy upset took her bosses by surprise.

"I thought you were going to say Ellie Merritt," said NBC4 marketing director Janna Buckey, pointing to the First at 4 anchor's popular blogging efforts.

But Central Ohioans are Googling Day-who was crowned Miss Congeniality in the 2008 Miss USA pageant-more than any other local news personality. Why?
"I fear it might be because she has some pretty nice pictures online related to the Miss USA stuff," Buckey speculated.

NBC4 news director Stan Sanders did not allay those fears.

"She has had more regional and national exposure due to holding the title and participating in the pageant," he said via email.

Columbus vs. The Rest of The World

If that nugget about stress relief for Buckeyes fans, or Central Ohio's proclivity for poop, didn't sufficiently impress, check this out: It's no shock that Columbus residents are worried about gas prices. But who knew that we worried more than any other community in the rest of the world? As of early this week, Columbus was ranked as the No.1 city on the planet when it came to Googling "gas prices." Honest.

To save you the trouble, we'd like to offer that the Mobil station on Dublin Granville Road in Linworth is peddling petrol for $3.84 a gallon.

Jack Hanna vs. Short North

One is the quirky face of the Columbus Zoo and the other is a high-profile arts district recently featured in the New York Times. Both boast a national cachet.

But in Google searches across the country, frequent Letterman guest Jack Hanna beats out the Short North by a surprisingly slim margin.

"The man is an icon," explains John Angelo, president of the Short North Business Association. "Jack's entertainment consortium invests hundreds of thousands of dollars-if not millions-in marketing."

The Short North, on the other hand, "is really just coming of age."

To obtain more favorable trends, Angelo said the arts and business district would have to "keep it fresh," staying true to its Bohemian spirit.

"We can't lose sight of that."

Nut vs. Nut

From sea to shining sea, Brutus Buckeye proved himself the more beloved nut mascot, prompting more Internet inquiries than the monacled Planter's mascot, Mr. Peanut.

Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Columbus Clippers vs. Columbus Crew vs. Columbus Destroyers

The Crew had the most statewide appeal, beating Columbus's other pro sports teams by an easy margin. Here in Columbus, however, people more often sought out Clippers info.zDave Stephany, the Crew's director of communications, wouldn't boast or belittle his peers in the arena or on the field. He attributed the Crew advantage to a "passionate, tech-savvy fan base."

But why didn't the Crew fare so well in its own back yard?

"It's encouraging, really," he said. "Google isn't a requirement for tracking down information. People just know to go to Crew.com."

Gordon Gee vs. Messiah

So Gordon Gee generated the equivalent of about 5 percent of the Messiah search quotient in the Ohio. But here in Columbus, he sliced the margin of victory into manageable bites. For every two savior queries, at least one person searched for the affable, bow-tied university president.

Chris Spielman vs. Banana Bread

In the ultimate web slam, former OSU linebacker and radio host Chris Spielman was barely a blip when compared to the sweet, yeastless quick bread. The indignity goes even further. The Google Trend stats were pulled from his football-crazy hometown of Massillon.