Comparing Searches for 'Iran' in 2009 with 'Egypt' in 2011

February 10, 2011

As major demonstrations have taken place in Egypt over the past 17 days, comparisons have been drawn between those protests and the ones that took place in Iran in 2009, specifically in regards to the kind of incredible on-the-scene footage being posted to YouTube.

Looking at YouTube search data for the terms "iran" and "egypt" over the past two years delivered some interesting results.

Video searches for both terms were at their highest during those respective protests -- "iran" was highest the week of June 21st, 2009 and "egypt" was highest in the past week -- but when you compare them directly, searches for "iran" in 2009 were twice as high searches for "egypt" have been thus far.

Here's a chart showing video searches for "egypt" (blue) and "iran" (red) in the United States:

(*Searches measured by proportional interest. Data for the final point is incomplete.)

Why the disparity exists is unclear, but there are a few potential explanations. One is the wider availability in 2011 of this user-generated video on television and other news platforms. Another is the phenomenon surrounding the "Neda" video, the eye-opening and award-winning footage of Iranian protester Neda Agha-Soltan who was killed during Iran's demonstrations.

The top search term associated with "iran" on YouTube during those protests was "neda," while no major second term can be tied to "egypt" this January and February, suggesting their's not one "must-see" video associated with these events. There are certainly some videos of the violence in Egypt over the past two weeks that have spread around the web, however, and drawn high view counts. Perhaps the most iconic clip has been the early video of a protestor facing a police water cannon.

One thing we don't think this data suggests is a lack of public interest in this story. In fact, when you look at Google searches for the same terms, the graph is essentially flipped:

All of that said, Egypt's unrest is currently ongoing and it's unclear what tomorrow will bring. Through our partnership with Storyful, CitizenTube is featuring playlists from each day of the events in Egypt. Here are a few:

Tuesday, February 8

Wednesday, February 9

Thursday, February 10

Friday, February 11