How many times have you been in a presentation with a digital guru and heard a whole lot of stats that on the surface sound too good to be true.
“xyz.com is growing at 15,000% per minute. It already has half the worlds population using it” or “if zzz.com was a country it’d be really big and bigger than many medium sized countries.”
You very rarely here a stat that isn’t one known in the biz as a “power stat” … the only figures we want to quote are ones that show massive growth, or lots of zeroes or big impactful statements around ‘the future’. I worked at one place and they had a collection of these on a folder on the network. “xxxx.com’s monthly users could fill the Telstra Dome 17 times” … erm, what does that even mean?
So I saw this article slapped across the front page of the SMH.com.au yesterday and it caught my attention as it had a big dramatic headline that grabbed me.
“Myspace loses market share as social networks soar”
“New figures released by Nielsen this week revealed that Australians spent 1.6 million hours on social media sites in June this year, up from 800,000 hours a year earlier.
“The two major beneficiaries of the social media rush have been Facebook and Twitter, which, according to Nielsen, now have 8 million and 1.5 million unique Australian users, respectively.”
1.6m hours. Sounds like a really long time.
Then you have a closer look. Facebook has 7.9m users. Divide 1,600,000 by 7,900,000 and it works out at just over 12 minutes per person. Hardly earth shattering and not really front page news.
Unfortunately, the data is wrong. Very wrong. Actually ‘very wrong’ is an understatement And what makes it worse is ‘research experts’ are quoted in the article.
Here’s the issue. Facebook has 7.9m users … each user on average spends 374 minutes per month on the site.
7.9m multiplied by 374 equals 2,954,600,000 minutes … or 2.95 billion minutes. Work this back to an hourly figure and it’s 49.2m hours.
I’m quoting Nielsen numbers here too. Now this data is from August and the article refers to June data – but the increase between June and August isn’t enough to account for what is a massive difference.
49.2m hours per month for Facebook versus 1.6m hours per month quoted by the SMH for the entire ‘social media category’. That’s a pretty remarkable difference.
Now, I don’t think this is any more than a lazy journo looking for an easy story and not checking them against a source … but it does show as an industry we perhaps have a pretty lax attitude to how robust the data we claim as valid is.
How could this have slipped through? 1.6m hours across 8m+ people over a month is hardly news, is it? Or is it?