Is Twitter really costing $14 billion in lost productivity?

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In a brilliant piece of deduction, Pat Phelan and Florian Seroussi of telco startup Maxroam estimate on their blog that time spent on Twitter will cost $13.5bn in lost productivity 2008. How did they reach this eye-watering figure?

Reversing the normal question ‘what are Twitter’s costs’ to ‘what’s the cost of Twitter’ Phelan and Seroussi got out the calculator. Settling on a million Twitter users (based on 750,000 registered users and 60,000 new users a month), they found estimates of 11,000 requests per second being made to Twitter. They further estimate 27 million minutes per day spent on Twitter for the average user, for about 450,000 hours a day or around 13.5 million hours a month. This, coupled with Twitter doubling in size every 6 weeks, means they expect Twitter to cost 30 million hours per month of productivity. This all adds up to $13.5bn in 2008, which, neatly, is Facebook’s estimated value.

Given that many firms have banned access to Facebook, I am starting to wonder if the same fate may ever fall to Twitter? I do hope not – it’s so much more useful.

  • Lloyd Davis

    Mike, you answer your own question by remarking how useful it is. I don’t see any real research on that post (it’s late and I’m not up to looking *that* carefully) rather someone having an idea, lobbing some big numbers at it and pushing it out as a bit of self-publicising shock-horror. But worst of all, they assume that all twittering is unproductive.

    What bollocks. Show us *your* referral stats for TCUK. I know (because I often click on them) that you always announce on twitter when you post here. How many hits do you get that way? Doesn’t that count as promotion? Isn’t that productive? How much is it worth? – who knows, but I’m pretty sure it’s worth more than the amount of time it took for you to set up a bit of code to pimp your blog on twitter every time you post.

    bah! I seem to be taking this far too seriously, it really must be time for bed :)

  • Tejas Patel

    With different ways that we can access Twitter, it will be hard to completely block Twitter out.

  • alan p

    I looked at their numbers…..I think the estimate of time spent per *average* user is way high, and they are also I think forgetting that the no. of actives is typically only about 10% of the total user base….a nice piece nonetheless :D

    I did a similar bit of analysis on the Business Model stuff here:

  • John Handelaar

    Trying not to leap on Pat in particular, since there’s a similarly dumb statement in every newspaper every day.

    Notwithstanding that anything outside work hours should be excluded anyway, no, it’s not $14bn in “lost productivity”. It’s that this one app might take about a $14bn share of the countless trillions *already and irrecovably committed* to the not-working market pool.

    In any given average white-collar 40-hour work week, at least 35 aren’t being used on productive work. It’s not news, it’s not interesting, and isn’t it time people were a little smarter, just absorbed this fact and *moved the fuck on* ?.

    (The “unproductive hours” number’s rather lower if you’re actually working for a living, getting your hands dirty.)

  • Twitter’s cost in productivity? Zero - -

    […] estimates are that only 10 per cent are highly-active — as Alan Patrick of Broadstuff notes in a comment on the TechCrunch UK post. Much of the math is also questionable, but let’s leave that […]

  • Mike Butcher

    I think the ‘thought experiment’ Pat did was worth the while, even if the end result is slightly nonsensical, at least so everyone can pile in and pick holes in the argument. I for one am definitely losing productivity whenever I read the tweets of certain people! ;-)

  • Guy Millar

    This navel gazing about a USA company is so pointless. Come on Mike either give us some of your own original thoughts on hot new technology initiatives – DiSO, Erlang, SimpleDB, APML or is easier to just write about another under funded European startup you heard about via a press release or in-crowd drink.

    If technology is too hard then at least do some analysis on the UK scene. Let us know if Trusted Places, Nestoria, Mydeo, etc are profitable and thus going to get further funding in 2008 or will they all close down. Is OpenCoffee now gone cold. Does SeedCamp still matter and what has happened to the companies who won $50k.

    Will Segala ever get funding and launch a business, much like your Co-minded post. Will Paul Walsh stop going to parties and actually get the funding to start Segala.

    Finally in 2008 which startups should we be looking out for? Will it be in the mobile, web or enterprise space. My point is stop writing about US companies and do some local work please.

  • Dominic Hodgson

    I don’t think they could block twitter per say, sure they could block the website but 90% of people use one of the many applications to twitter..

    from the firefox extension that sits in your address bar to snitter.

  • gonzo

    Mike, have you become the PR pet of Mr Phelan. you reports every one of his farts. Just another roaming sim reseller. common !

  • Hubert

    These kinds of dollar-cost figures are as worthless as estimates of damage due to software piracy. They are based on the simplistic assumption that every second spent on Twitter/Facebook/whatever would otherwise be spent doing productive work. This is of course nonsense. People who are going to waste time on Facebook rather than getting work done would probably play Solitaire if all web access were banned. Particularly addictive sites may take up a bit more time than less interesting diversions, but these loss figures based on average usage times are worthless. is a similar article with some employment law company’s estimates on what Facebook allegedly costs UK businesses.

  • Is Twittering really costing $14 billion in lost productivity? - I say no… « The last man in Europe…

    […] I know. I assure you I do read more widely… Anyway, in answer to Mike’s question – Is Twittering really costing $14 billion in lost productivity? – I’m going to have to say no. Whilst the mathematics of Pat and Florian seems to be […]

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