Cost-conscious netizens


I recently came across a map from circulating on Twitter that purported to reveal the most searched-for price points for every country in the world. By taking advantage of Google's autocomplete function, which provides suggestions based on the previous searches of other users, the author claimed to have sussed out the most common terms used to fill in the blank for the phrase "How much does (a) _____ cost?" Below is the Asia section of the map, which asserts that people in China are most concerned with the price of electronics.

For those of you living in China or any country where English isn't the dominant language or Google isn't the sole search engine, the flaws with this approach should be obvious. Google is famously blocked in China, meaning that search suggestions will likely overwhelmingly be drawn from English-speaking expat circles, provided they can even find a way to access Google from within mainland China. Most are probably using VPNs to access the web through a tunnel that pops up elsewhere in the world, effectively adding to other countries' search records instead.

Naturally the next question is what prices people are actually searching for in China. For that, Baidu Index provides a handy cross-check. The Chinese phrase for "how much is ____?" actually starts with a blank: "____是多少钱?" But in lieu of a perfect proxy we can look at Baidu's list of related search terms:

(Click for full-size.)

It turns out that over the last 12 months, people in China were generally pretty curious about how much a Toyota Corolla costs, among other (mostly foreign) vehicle models. And for reasons that aren't entirely clear, the cost of a crossbow has shot up in popularity rather dramatically. Of course, these terms don't perfectly correlate to user interest in sundry expenses--but the results are a far sight closer than they would be using a foreign language and an inaccessible website. 

Author: Hudson Lockett (@KangHexin)