How Much YouTube Do Employees Really Watch at Work?

J.C. Penney employees are reported to have watched five million YouTube videos from the office during the month of January.

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Reuters

The number of YouTube videos employees watch is not exactly the kind of number tracked by corporate analysts or released by companies. Suffice to say, on the evidence of being a human being in the white-collar workforce, I have long been sure that the number of YouTube videos watched on the clock is astronomical, belonging to the category of numbers so large that you should write them like this: 107

But it's hard to calculate. There are too many confounding variables. YouTube says it streams more than 4 billion videos per day, with about 40 percent coming from the US, so 1.6 billion American streams each day. Let's assume there are 300 million Americans who all watch exactly the same amount of videos each day. That'd be five per day per person in the United States. But how many come outside of work? How many come from the country's 55 million white-collar workers during the hours between 8 and 6pm? We just can't know. 

But, a factlet in a Wall Street Journal article on retailer J.C. Penney's struggles confirms that, under the right circumstances, desk jockeys can be extreme consumers of online video:

During January 2012, the 4,800 employees in Plano had watched five million YouTube videos during work hours, said Michael Kramer, a former Apple executive brought in by Mr. Johnson as chief operating officer.

As New York Times Magazine Hugo Lindgren noted on Twitter, that's 50 videos per person per day. J.C. Penney's Chief Operating Officer called the company's culture at the time "pathetic." But I wouldn't be surprised if the white-collar worker average was 10 videos a day or even more. Nine hours a day is a long time to stare at a screen and Aunt Laura keeps sending such funny clips!

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