Chart Of The Day, Billionaire Edition

by: Felix Salmon

click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Many thanks to Peter Rudegeair for pulling this data from Factiva: it shows how often the word “billionaire” has appeared in headlines from 1984 to date. We’re looking, here, only at three publications: the NYT, the WSJ, and Reuters News. (And we’re excluding Bloomberg, which has its own dedicated billionaires section.) For 2013 the dark-blue line is the year-to-date figure; the light-blue line is what happens if you extrapolate what we’ve seen so far to the year as a whole.

There’s a billionaire bubble here: we’re on track to see 158 billionaire headlines this year, or more than three a week. In most of those headlines, the term is entirely gratuitous: “Cyprus rescinds citizenship of Assad billionaire cousin,” for instance. In many cases, it’s not even entirely clear that the people being referred to are billionaires.

Back in 2006, 59 appearances of the word “billionaire” in headlines was an all-time high — but that record was obliterated in 2007, when it popped up 103 times. Never again would we see anything near 2006′s relatively modest total, not even in the depths of the Great Recession. And now, it seems, there’s no limit to how high the totals can go. Can anything burst this bubble? Please?