....LMB: ""Time is Money" is Clever PR"....

May 30, 2002

I noticed yesterday that several news websites had picked up a story with a strange mathematical formula at the top:

I ignored it till a friend forwarded me the whole story. The above formula is new equation by ecconomist professor Ian Walker, of Warick Univeristy in England. The "W"= your hourly wage, the "t"= your tax rate, and the "C"= your local cost of living. Plug in the numbers and you can calculate "V", how much an hour of your time is worth in hard currency. Gleeful news editors could now print this press release verbatim, with cute headlines like "Time Really Is Money".

This whole story baffled me. First of all, the formula doesn't exactly work (it presumes that all money paid in taxes is lost, when most folks do receive some return on their tax money in the form of public services). But more importantly, why was this story getting printed at all? This is not new scholarship, it's a simple economic principle called "opportunity cost." I learned about it in junior high school. At any given moment, you could be out making money, or doing something that won't make you money. Simple as that. So why is this news?

After a bit of digging (especially in non-American sources), I found out another angle on this formula. If you read the CNN article above, you'll notice a "How much is your time worth?" link. The link takes you to a simple web form that will calculate how much your time is worth per hour and per minute, how much it "costs" you to brush your teeth and make dinner.

And of course, the telling thing is where the calculation site is located: the website for Barclaycard, a UK-based credit card line offered by financial conglomerate the Barclays Group. And if we look at our UK news coverage, we learn that Barclaycard commissioned Prof. Walker to come up with the formula in the first place.

The whole thing appears to be a news hook for a new Barclaycard ad campaign that focuses on "helping you make the most of your time." Like I've said, half the job of public relations is to disguise advertising as news.

And the other half is to make "unpleasant" news disappear altogether.

Posted by Jake at 12:36 PM

As someone whose life has been turned upside down by credit card debt ($18,000 accrued in six years, across six cards, now all closed and currenly undergoing credit counseling and monthly consolidated payments) this makes me ill...but not the least bit surprised.

These people's financial well-being is directly tied to your ignorance of basic mathematics and statistics. No surprise that they're turning out a "formula" for the value of your time: they know that no one they are actually targeting as a consumer for their product (i.e., someone who would never use credit cards) will actually apply it.


Posted by: michele at May 30, 2002 05:51 PM

Dear Michele,

Like you I could not calc this formula.
I am starting to question this formula..
How is the (cost of living) C derived.
Please let me know if I can speak with you on this formula.
Maybe, I forgot my Algebra ; I don't know ??


Micahel Perry
Las Vegas, NV.

Posted by: Michael Perry at September 11, 2002 01:04 PM
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November 16, 2004

Tales of Media Woe

Senate May Ram Copyright Bill- one of the most depressing stories of the day that didn't involve death or bombs. It's the music and movie industries' wet dream. It criminalizes peer-to-peer software makers, allows the government to file civil lawsuits on behalf of these media industries, and eliminates fair use. Fair use is the idea that I can use a snippet of a copyrighted work for educational, political, or satirical purposes, without getting permission from the copyright-holder first.

And most tellingly, the bill legalizes technology that would automatically skip over "obejctionable content" (i.e. sex and violence) in a DVD, but bans devices that would automatically skip over commericals. This is a blatant, blatant, blatant gift to the movie industry. Fuck the movie industry, fuck the music industry, fuck the Senate.

Music industry aims to send in radio cops- the recording industry says that you're not allowed to record songs off the radio, be it real radio or internet radio. And now they're working on preventing you from recording songs off internet radio through a mixture of law and technological repression (although I imagine their techno-fixes will get hacked pretty quickly).

The shocking truth about the FCC: Censorship by the tyranny of the few- blogger Jeff Jarvis discovers that the recent $1.2 million FCC fine against a sex scene in Fox's "Married By America" TV show was not levied because hundreds of people wrote the FCC and complained. It was not because 159 people wrote in and complained (which is the FCC's current rationale). No, thanks to Jarvis' FOIA request, we find that only 23 people (of the show's several million viewers) wrote in and complained. On top of that, he finds that 21 of those letters were just copy-and-paste email jobs that some people attached their names to. Jarvis then spins this a bit by saying that "only 3" people actually wrote letters to the FCC, which is misleading but technically true. So somewhere between 3 and 23 angry people can determine what you can't see on television. Good to know.

Reuters Union Considers Striking Over Layoffs- will a strike by such a major newswire service impact the rest of the world's media?

Pentagon Starts Work On War Internet- the US military is talking about the creation of a global, wireless, satellite-aided computer network for use in battle. I think I saw a movie about this once...

Conservative host returns to the air after week suspension for using racial slur- Houston radio talk show host (and somtime Rush Limbaugh substitute) Mark Belling referred to Mexican-Americans as "wetbacks" on his show. He was suspended for a couple of weeks, and then submitted a written apology for the racial slur to a local newspaper. But he seems to be using the slur and its surrounding controversy to boost his conservative cred with his listeners.

Stay Tuned for Nudes- Cleveland TV news anchor Sharon Reed aired a story about artist Spencer Tunick, who uses large numbers of naked volunteers in his installations and photographs. The news report will be unique in that it will not blur or black-out the usual naughty bits. The story will air late at night, when it's allegedly okay with the FCC if you broadcast "indecent" material. The author of this article doesn't seem to notice that Reed first claims that this report is a publicity stunt, but then claims it's a protest against FCC repression. I'd like to think it's the latter, but I'm not that much of a sucker.

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Mission: Mongolia

Jake's first attempt at homemade Mongolican barbecue:


What went right: correctly guessing several key seasonings- lemon, ginger, soy, garlic, chili.

What went wrong: still missing some ingredients, and possibly had one wrong, rice vinegar. Way too much lemon and chili.

Result: not entirely edible.

Plan for future: try to get people at Great Khan's restaurant to tell me what's in the damn sauce.

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