Wednesday, February 7, 2018

What does it mean that Facebook usage is down by 50 million hours a day?

Sometimes we find headlines which are obviously nonsense. A piece is missing so the story being told becomes an unfinished puzzle. A good example is a January 31, 2018 post by Jane Genova on her Speechwriter-Ghostwriter blog titled Facebook – Usage Down 50 Million Hours a Day. There are exactly 24 hours a day, so she must have meant something else. And that would be user hours per day. But we have no idea what that 50 million really means. To understand it we would need to know two things – how many daily Facebook users there are, and also how many hours per day each one was on there in the fourth quarter of 2017.  

She linked to an article at Business Insider by Troy Wolverton titled Facebook says its users are spending 50 million fewer hours a day on the platform. Mr. Wolverton’s article shows a bar chart indicating the number of Daily Active Users (DAUs) was 1,401,000,000. But his article doesn’t say how many hours per day there were for the average Facebook user. That’s the missing piece we need in order to make this puzzle meaningful. If we assume it was one hour, then there would be 1,401,000,000, and being down by 50,000,000 would be a ratio of 0.0356, or a drop of just 3.56%. That isn’t negligible, but is not very serious.

I didn’t find how many hours a day there were for the average Facebook user in the fourth quarter of 2017. But a May 5, 2016 article in the New York Times by James B. Stewart has the headline that Facebook has 50 minutes of your time each day. It wants more. If we use that 5/6 hour instead, then it would be a ratio of 0.0428, or a drop of 4.28%.

When I run low on ideas for posts, I just look at Jane’s blog. Over at Speaking Pro Central there are 37 trending articles and 25 of them are hers. But quantity sure does not mean quality.

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