Study reports that deleted spam is costing billions

February 7, 2005

Following up on my post concerning the faulty logic used for the Super Bowl productivity waste comes a study from the Center for Excellence in Service at the University of Maryland‚??s Robert H. Smith School of Business and Rockbridge Associates, Inc. calculating the costs of . Now don‚??t take my next comments the wrong way. I feel spam is an enormous problem and a productivity drain. What I do have a problem with is the methodology with which this study was performed.

Spam‚??s price tag now reaches $21.58 billion annually in lost productivity according to the results of the 2004 National Technology Readiness Survey (NTRS). Findings from the 2004 NTRS, an annual survey that tracks U.S. consumers‚?? technology opinions and behaviors, indicate that online users in the United States spend an average of three minutes deleting spam each day they check e-mail. Aggregating their usage across the 169.4 million online adults in the United States, this equals 22.9 million hours a week, or $21.58 billion annually when based on the average working wage.

The authors reached a dollar figure by multiplying their 3 minute per day average by the 169.4 million online adults in the U.S. which equates to 22.9 million hours per week. Where do I start with the absurdity? First, “online adults” does not equal “working adults with internet access”. Second, how many of these people are deleting spam that comes to a work email address versus a home / personal email address? To leave this out invalidates the entire study. If an unemployed person spends 3 minutes or 3 hours deleting spam, the action in no way impacts any productivity to any business. Likewise, the casual user checking their AOL email account and spending 3 minutes deleting spam in the evening again does not impact productivity. The key metric here is where the user is checking their email account and to a lesser extent what type of account it is (personal or work).

I recognize and agree that spam is an issue. Really, who doesn’t? I‚??d prefer to see a well thought approach to measuring its impact though, instead of this nonsense. This just goes to show that statistics can be manipulated to tell any story you want.

While I‚??m on the subject of spam, let‚??s talk about what‚??s more annoying and a bigger waste of time in my opinion ‚?? postal mail spam. I get tremendous amounts of junk mail every single day at home and the office. Once you get your name on someone‚??s list, it‚??s there for eternity. It takes me about a second to delete email spam. It takes me 20 to 30 times that long to get rid of junk mail. This is mainly because it’s hard to tell the difference anymore between legitimate mail and the junk (especially the mortgage refinance mailings). Unfortunately, I have to actually open the majority of junk mail to make sure there isn‚??t something important I‚??m throwing away. Now that is a real waste of time.

Related:

Deleting Spam Costs Billions, Study Finds – Washington Post
ContractsProf Blog
Russ Abbott
Breaking Windows 2.0

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