Friday, March 24, 2006

Duke fans, back to work! 

Our local paper repeats the story of how much time is lost at work from people surfing the Internet watching the NCAAs, estimating the cost to the US from lost productivity of $3.8 billion.
Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a Chicago-based outplacement firm, estimates that $3.8 billion in production is lost by American companies during the tournament.

They say for every 13.5 minutes the almost 60 million basketball fans spend on the Internet watching March Madness games, the cost to employers in lost wages alone exceeds $237 million.
Carl Bialik researched this number two weeks ago,
Last year, Challenger relied on a survey from the NCAA in 1997 that found 22.9 million Americans are college-hoops fans, meaning about 14.3 million working Americans follow the sport (Challenger used Census stats on the proportion of Americans in the work force). This time, Challenger used an unrelated Gallup poll, conducted in 2004, that yielded a number four times larger than the NCAA's for the proportion of Americans who are fans of the sport.

Gallup's managing editor, Jeffrey M. Jones, told me in an email, "I don't agree with the estimate," citing the concern that not all self-identified fans will surf the Web, even if they can. He added, "To be fair, they probably should compare how much is lost to productivity by surfing the Web or sports sites on a typical day, and subtract that from their estimate since companies probably lose money every day by employees surfing the web, not just during March Madness. They also mistakenly assume that there will be lost productivity over a three week period. There are only two days where there are games during the working day, the rest are at night and on the weekends."
In other words, the number is garbage. The proper number is a net figure. How much additional time surfing do you do that you don't make up staying late at work? Bialik credits David Nicklaus for some of the analysis, as did Phil Miller. Our young SC Times reporter could have used a little more research on this story.

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