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DEPARTMENT OF STATISTICS

The screensaver as pulse taker

March 14, 2004|Michael T. Jarvis

Celebrity's ephemeral and it's sometimes hard to quantify when hot shifts to the inevitable warmed-over. Sensing a demand for that precise bit of intelligence, Screensavers.com, a service that provides free celebrity screensavers and wallpaper, decided to quantify the tastes of its customers -- who hit the download button 6 million times a month.

The resulting bit of spin is the Celebrity Download Index of Movers and Losers, which Screensavers.com general manager Adam Solomon describes as "kind of like a petri dish of pop culture."

"In terms of people interested in something, it's pretty accurate," he says. "You only pick what interests you. It's very easy to change, and so it's really easy to keep our finger on the pulse of what's happening. Within a few hours of anything happening, we know about it." It is, he proclaims, a trend-spotting index.

A division of Starware software, the site went into overdrive after Janet Jackson's Super Bowl spectacle last month, Solomon says. "It just went off the chart. It exploded. We had just pictures of her face and people were grabbing it. We quadrupled our traffic in one day."

The site records the fluctuations in downloads on its "Movers & Losers Report," whose February stats suggest the decline, for example, of "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy." "The Fab Five will fade fast despite book and CD hype," Solomon predicts. "They've been Osbourned. Too much exposure, fad not fashion. We give 'em three months of buzz and they're toast."

But some celebrity forces are unstoppable, Solomon says. "People cannot get enough of 'The Matrix.' That's been in our Top 10 forever. 'Finding Nemo' is incredibly popular. Orlando Bloom of 'Lord of the Rings' is right behind Britney Spears." And, he adds, "Tupac Shakur is still popular -- even after he's dead."

-- Michael T. Jarvis

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