(UPDATE: Dewey Defeats Truman! In case you didn't know, Google and Twitter were wrong.)
The digital ad agency 360i has a well-documented post today on Mashable predicting that Adam Lambert will win "American Idol." But the agency's point isn't to jump the gun on tonight's results show; it's about Google as a predictive tool, and not just by examining raw search volume. For instance, in the weeks leading to his eventual victory, season five's Taylor Hicks had more searches than second place finisher Katherine McPhee, and way more than third place contestant Elliott Yamin (see chart below, via 360i). Though the exact nature of the trends shift from one season to another, Google has predicted the winner in every one of the last four years.
If you take this bit of insight and apply it to the larger world of predicting consumer trends, you can see this data can be much more powerful than its ability to decide who the next forgettable pop star will be. In fact, it plays nicely into Twitter founder Biz Stone's assertion at the Reuters Global Technology Summit yesterday that Twitter wasn't interested in advertising but in things like selling data analytics tools to companies. Never has the world had such a massive window into what people really are thinking about.
To that extent, Twitter and Google seem to be in sync on the pressing "American Idol" question. Adam Lambert has been outpacing other contender Kris Allen as a Twitter trending topic all day. As an aside, I'll say that Twitter also seems to be predicting good things about "Glee," the "High School Musical"-style show that debuted on Fox last night right after "American Idol." It is currently trending topic number six.