If you need to keep up with what's happening in the world in general, or in a specific niche field, you're going to really enjoy Google's new enhanced Trends service; their biggest expansion since 2012. It's based on the information that they have gleaned from over 100 million searches per month, according to their official blog post. You are now able to explore - minute by minute - as news stories wax and wane and during major world stories and events you'll be able to drill down to see what people are interested in, and where they happen to be searching from. Trends has a new home page, with current trending stories upfront and centre which you can scroll through. You can choose a particular region (such as the UK) and one of a small number of categories, such as Sci-Tech, or you can simply go with the front page as displayed for you and shown below:
You can then choose a subject to explore in more depth - I chose to look at the crisis in Greece:
This does help give you a clear idea of the level of interest in the subject over time. Below this graph is another that looks at which countries are particularly interested in this subject, top questions on Google about the subject (in this case, links to sites or stories talking about the possibility of Greece exiting the Euro), and finally related topics. These can then be followed, to see other related searches, and how popular they are.
You can of course run your own searches for subjects that are of interest to you. I did a search for 'library closures' and was displayed the following graph:
By hovering over each letter I was shown a brief outline of the story, and I could then click on it and go straight to the original source. I could then go into specific periods of time - hours, months or years, to get more data. Unfortunately with my library closures search Google didn't have much to work with apparently, which was disappointing. However, in other subject areas I was easily able to drill down into specific time periods to research a subject of interest. Google also offers information on which countries are interested in the subject area, and related searches - but once again, you have to chose fairly high volume subject areas.
You can also compare different terms quickly and easily; I tried a search for iphone, ipad and android.
It was really easy to swop terms in and out by using the dialogue boxes. Then I could narrow the search down again of course to a specific region, period of time, subject area and news/image search. Instead of searching for results from web searches when I searched for News, it brought up really interesting results:
It was quite easy to see when different versions of the devices had been released, and I could track interest over time, as well as clicking on specific stories as they were displayed. Of course, if there was something interesting that Trends didn't offer me, I could always have gone back and searched at the period of time that interested me.
Google has also provided a useful left hand side menu:
I can use this to once again start to drill down and explore items of interest. I can see trends in the UK as of about an hour ago, and I can also see what was of interest yesterday.
I can click on the title of the piece and run a search on it, search the subject indepth, share on G+ Twitter and Facebook, or click directly on the news link and go straight to that story.
I can also see what's trending on YouTube as well - and once again by country, over a period of time, and I can choose to have a safety filter on or off. I was slightly bemused that 'The secret life of pets' trailer was not regarded as 'safe', but there you go.
You can also do a retrospective search to see what top charts were trending in years gone past, and there's also a subscribe option to keep up to date. There is a link through to Google Correlate where you can compare different search patterns. Finally, there is also a link through to the Google data store, where you can download different collections of data to do your own research on.
In summary - this is a really welcome improvement on the trends service which only seemed to be valuable at the end of the year as an amusing filler story at Christmas to see what we'd spent the year looking for. If you are a journalist or researcher, I suspect that the new improved Google Trends is going to swiftly become irreplaceable. The inevitable question of course is 'how long is it going to last?'