A triviality, for today....
In my days at YU, I took a Sociology class for which we read a book called How to Lie with Statistics. The book was a fun read, but it had nothing on a column I saw yesterday, Communicating in 2010: Why leaders cannot ignore the impact of social media, which used (without attribution!) statistics from Socialnomics.
The article consists largely of a set of statistics selected to show that social media outlets in the age of the Internet (a) have grown quickly and (b) now reach a lot of people. Neither is a particularly novel or controversial point... which, perhaps, is what drove the author to use inappropriate comparisons and conclusions in order to say something that would grab people's attention. It's like a rabbi in a speech, extending himself to greater and more outlandish hyperbole in an attempt to grab people's attention.
Here are examples:
* It took radio 38 years to reach 50 million users, television 13 years, the Internet four years, and the iPod three years. In just a nine month period, Facebook added 100 million users, and downloads of iPhone applications reached one billion.
- The Facebook total is cumulative, including people who joined and never used it, or who joined and left and re-joined with another name. The radio and television users are simultaneous - 38 years after radio's inception, 50 million people were listening;
- iPhone applications are not one-per-person, and therefore they don't reflect an accurate means of comparison with the other items.
* Print newspaper circulation is down 7 million over the last 25 years. But in the last five years, unique readers of online newspapers have increased 30 million.
- Print circulation is down 7 million from a very, very large number. (Anyone know it?) Online newspapers are up from 0.
* Collectively, ABC, NBC, and CBS get 10 million unique visitors every month, and these businesses have been around for a combined 200 years. YouTube, Facebook, and MySpace get 250 million unique visitors each month, and they’ve only been around for the last six years.
- The unique visitors to networks are people who watch lots of television, at least 30-minutes worth. The unique visitors to MySpace include people who look at just one page.
- 'Unique visitors' to networks are gauged by household, and so 10 million may actually be 40 million or more. 'Unique visitors' to Internet sites are gauged by individual.
- I am not at all clear on why we are combining the network ages at all, but if we are then we should also combine the ages of Youtube, etc. for consistency.
* In 2008, John McCain raised $11 million for his U.S. presidential bid through traditional campaign fundraisers. Barack Obama leveraged online social networks to raise $55 million.
- Note: This was not on the Socialnomics site; don't know where she got this one.
-Why are we comparing apples (McCain and traditional fundraisers) to oranges (Obama and online fundraising)? Probably because Obama raised some $650 million dollars overall, which makes $55 million via social media look a little lame.
- Also unclear: McCain raised more than $30 million for his campaign - so did 2/3 of his fundraising come from online social networks? I'm confused.
* More than 1.5 million pieces of content are shared on Facebook daily.
- Define "content"!
* 80 per cent of companies are using LinkedIn as a recruitment tool.
- Going back to the data source shows they are actually using the site as a way to do research on prospective hires, once they have located the candidates in more traditional ways.
And so on.
Who cares? I do; I like statistics, but I also like honest presentations. Seems I have a תרתי דסתרי problem here. [תרתי דסתרי doesn't really translate into English; best I can do is "inherent contradiction.]