"What time is the Super Bowl?" 

In the days and hours before the Super Bowl this year, thousands of people will type that exact phrase into Google. The multiyear trend leads to dozens of articles addressing the answer, many carrying the exact query in the headline--much like this one.

For the record, the Super Bowl LII starts at 6:30 p.m. ET Sunday evening in Minneapolis, when the Philadelphia Eagles will take on the New England Patriots.

The game will be broadcast in the United States on NBC, including NBC's various live streaming apps. The weather outside will be way below freezing--perhaps as low as 3 degrees. Fortunately, they'll be playing indoors, at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Pink sings the national anthem; Justin Timberlake headlines the halftime show.

There, we got that out of the way.

But since you're reading this on Inc.com, let's take a look at the phrase, "What time is the Super Bowl?" and with it, explain why articles with this headline bubble up year after year.

They owe their existence, apparently, to a single editor at the early version of The Huffington Post, whose job back then was to study constantly what phrases were trending on Google.

His name was Craig Kanalley, according to The Atlantic, and his official title at the time was, "senior editor, traffic and trends." 

And is Kanalley who is credited (or blamed) with having noticed on the day before the Super Bowl in 2011 that this straightforward and simple question--"What time is the Super Bowl"--was trending, along with variations like  "superbowl time" and "superbowl kickoff time 2011."

Kanalley jumped on it, capitalizing on all that search engine traffic by writing the first article headlined "What Time Does the Super Bowl Start?"

He included misspellings and variations of the phrase (like "what time is the super bowl 2011," "superbowl time" and "superbowl kickoff time 2011") within the first few sentences, in order to take further advantage of lesser trending terms.  

"It was a different world back then," Kanalley told The Atlantic's Robinson Meyer three years later. "I almost think it was a trend in itself, of covering trends."

It worked: massive traffic.

And in the years that followed, HuffPost did the same thing--with the same headline--over and over.

Other digital media brands hopped on it, too: The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, Time, Gawker (RIP), and even NFL.com itself (which makes sense).

And then, suddenly it stopped.

Or at least, people in media who write about other people in media seemed to think it stopped. They put the date at around 2014, as the zeitgeist (and business model) in digital media turned largely toward social media. 

But then again, probably not.

For one thing, you're here.

For another, Deadspin started publishing a compendium called "What Times Does 'What Times Does the Super Bowl Start?' Start?" this year.

They found 73 different entries for 2018 that began posting on New Year's Eve. Some outlets published multiple different versions, addressing that same crucial issue time after time.

I guess this one makes 74. Touché. Go Pats.

Published on: Feb 2, 2018
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