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Each American Consumed 34 Gigabytes Per Day In '08 245

eldavojohn writes "Metrics can get really strange — especially on the scale of national consumption. Information consumption is one such area that has a lot of strange metrics to offer. A new report from the University of California, San Diego entitled 'How Much Information?' reveals that in 2008 your average American consumed 34 gigabytes per day. These values are entirely estimates of the flows of data delivered to consumers as bytes, words and hours of consumer information. From the executive summary: 'In 2008, Americans consumed information for about 1.3 trillion hours, an average of almost 12 hours per day. Consumption totaled 3.6 zettabytes and 10,845 trillion words, corresponding to 100,500 words and 34 gigabytes for an average person on an average day. A zettabyte is 10 to the 21st power bytes, a million million gigabytes. These estimates are from an analysis of more than 20 different sources of information, from very old (newspapers and books) to very new (portable computer games, satellite radio, and Internet video). Information at work is not included.' Has the flow and importance of information really become this prolific in our daily lives?"
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Each American Consumed 34 Gigabytes Per Day In '08

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  • Yes, but... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tool462 ( 677306 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @01:13PM (#30378352)

    How much of that is redirected to /dev/null?

    • Re:Yes, but... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by dotgain ( 630123 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @01:17PM (#30378402) Homepage Journal
      and did they calculate the total the same way as they do the "street value" of "drugs"? 34 gigs a day, come on...
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        They average everyone's among everyone, thus all the data of data centers and the like are probably included. In the end these stories are generally always full of shit and misleading.
      • Re:Yes, but... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Bakkster ( 1529253 ) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .nam.retskkaB.> on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @02:26PM (#30379220)

        It seems they converted any information you consume to digital. For example, the headline "The New York Times" would be 18 bytes encoded as characters (assuming no byte packing). Television and audio (including radio and phone) were also measured, I assume by the size of the digital signals on the provider's backend.

        TV was 45% of the overall data consumed per day, clocking in at 4.5 hours of watching. That's 34GB * 45% = 15.3GB of television. 15.3GB/4.5 hours = 3.4GB/hour => ~1MB/s => ~8Mbit/s. That's a fairly reasonable (and conservative) estimate, since compressed 720p is 20Mbit/s. I'd say 34GB/day overall is a reasonable number.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          So the TV numbers are reasonable, but the radio ones are not.

          Radio was 10.59% of the overall, or 34GB * 10.59% = 3.6 GB per day. CD quality is 44100 * 16/8 * 2 = 176KB/sec. So they're saying the average American listens to stereo CD-quality radio for over 20 hours per day? I doubt it.
      • by Jurily ( 900488 )

        wtf is "information consumption", anyway? If I watch a movie, am I "consuming" more, than if I read a .txt? Does 12 hours of Stargate contain more information than a Physics 101 textbook?

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by von_rick ( 944421 )

          Way more.

          Now if you start assigning value to the kind of information based upon your preference, you may have a different opinion. But you can't change the fact that 12 hours of Stargate is packed with considerably more information than a Physics textbook file.

      • and did they calculate the total the same way as they do the "street value" of "drugs"? 34 gigs a day, come on...

        I need my bandwidth man.... Just a few gigs worth, a little something to get me through the rough patch so I can torrent my show. It's the season finale! I just gotta see it, man! You need... something? I can do it, just give me some bandwidth.

        After this, I'm going cold turkey.

    • by IANAAC ( 692242 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @01:45PM (#30378768)
      I'm only half joking.

      If you visit any sort of tech site, you see the same stories/pictures/videos on many, many sites (this is from a blog, but I read the same story over on Gizmodo this morning).

      I remember when you could come to slashdot and truly read original content. Now all these sites just seem to regurgitate the same thing.

      • by SomeJoel ( 1061138 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @02:10PM (#30379026)

        I remember when you could come to slashdot and truly read original content. Now all these sites just seem to regurgitate the same thing.

        The original content appears in the comments.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward

          In Soviet Russia, beowulf cluster of the Natalie Portman's hot grits welcome you as their overlord.

          • by IANAAC ( 692242 )

            In Soviet Russia, beowulf cluster of the Natalie Portman's hot grits welcome you as their overlord.

            This was modded off-topic, but it nicely pokes fun at the "original content". Something the moderator apparently missed.

        • It's only original until it gets a +5. Then it's repeated over and over...
      • halcyon1234 notes that 'the original content appears in the comments [slashdot.org]', says tech site Salshdot regular SomeJoel.

        Update: as several readers have pointed out, the name of the site in question is "Slashdot" and not "Salshdot".

        tags: yes no maybe fuckyouhalcyon1234 micro$oft !dupe dupe

    • by crovira ( 10242 )

      where even the original is content-less, never mind all of the repros and repeats.

      There is an awful lot of crap on the tube, in print and in the movies which is just more-of-the-same.

      Still, with the internet, the population of the western world and Europe has never been so educated nor have had they has such opportunity to drink so deeply from the fount of knowledge.

      I blame "The System" for teaching these unwashed masses to read. :-)

    • Re:Yes, but... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Medieval_Gnome ( 250212 ) <[medgno] [at] [medievalgnome.org]> on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @02:17PM (#30379114) Homepage

      Exactly. I could make the outrageous claim that I am currently consuming 12 gigabytes of data per second, based on my monitor's resolution and refresh rate. And since it's hooked up over DVI-D, this is, strictly speaking, digital information.

  • obligatory (Score:4, Funny)

    by Icegryphon ( 715550 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @01:18PM (#30378412)
    how many of these [loc.gov] is that?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    you should see how much i consume in illegal MP3 / MOVIES

  • by 14erCleaner ( 745600 ) <FourteenerCleaner@yahoo.com> on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @01:19PM (#30378424) Homepage Journal

    Has the flow and importance of information really become this prolific in our daily lives?

    No, they're just making up big numbers to get attention. Apparently, it's working.

    Consider how many "gigabytes" you "consume" just by watching TV for a few hours. Nothing new here...

    • by jandrese ( 485 ) <kensama@vt.edu> on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @01:21PM (#30378458) Homepage Journal
      I was wondering how much this number jumped up since Americans started buying HDTVs. It's a completely useless statistic regardless though.
      • by King_TJ ( 85913 )

        Heh... maybe not much, if you consider the old *analog* TV format was uncompressed and used a lot more of the frequency spectrum than digital TV does....
        If you wanted to actually try to measure the "bandwidth consumed" of watching analog over-the-air television broadcasts, I bet the number would be up there.

    • by Tired and Emotional ( 750842 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @01:26PM (#30378534)
      But they said information, so not much TV counts. (do they subtract for Fox news?)
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by lwsimon ( 724555 )

        Opinion is information, and at least it is presented as such on Fox.

        I don't understand the blind hatred for Fox by many libs --- MSNBC is the equivalent on the left, and you guys never get upset about that. CNN is left-of-center, but not as extreme. Neither separate opinion from news in their programming.

        The only complaint I have with Fox is the whole "Fair and Balanced" line. They aren't balanced, and that's okay - they should own up to it.

        • First, I disagree that either CNN or MSNBCs inserts opinion into their news shows, and second, Fox is much worse about just plain making [mediamatters.org] shit [mediamatters.org] up [mediamatters.org]

          • Ah, yes. The very unbiased Media Matters for America.

            Why is it that on the front page of a "media watchdog" site, everybody listed is conservative and/or Republican and/or a conservative organization? Beck, Rove, Limbaugh, Palin, Washington Post, Fox News, Robertson, Fox, "the conservative media's increasingly lame attacks," etc. What, they can't find ANYTHING in mainstream news media outlets that tend towards more liberal viewpoints to criticize? How about someone like ... Reid or Pelosi, who continual

            • about medial matters [mediamatters.org]

              Launched in May 2004, Media Matters for America put in place, for the first time, the means to systematically monitor a cross section of print, broadcast, cable, radio, and Internet media outlets for conservative misinformation — news or commentary that is not accurate, reliable, or credible and that forwards the conservative agenda — every day, in real time.

              (emphasis mine)

              No one is pretending media matters is neutral - anyone is free to start up their own service fact chec

              • Granted, they are not biased nor neutral.

                So, why can't Fox News criticize people in a biased way, too, and believe [insert news agency] over [insert another news agency]?

                Agreed, Olbermann is not a newscaster. But MSNBC thinks he is:

                Keith Olbermann is host of “Countdown with Keith Olbermann.” “Countdown,” a unique newscast that counts down the day’s top stories with Keith’s particular wit and style, telecasts weeknights, 8-9 p.m. ET on msnbc.

        • by LandDolphin ( 1202876 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @02:14PM (#30379088)
          "When we do it, it's ok" is usually a good reason.

          I personally don't watch MSNBC or CNN, so I couldn't really respond to their programing. However, I do occationally watch Fox News (good to know what others are thinking and being told). The reporting is far from fair and balanced, but they say it is to mislead their audiance. They use horrible tactics (Glenn Beck) and sometimes down right lie (Daily Show pointed this out with footage of Washington Demonstrations).

          The reason you see more hate for Fox News is probably because it is not only the "libs", but some middle of the road people who take offense to their "journalism".

          Also, I'd be willing to bet that Fox has much higher ratings than MSNBC. So, beign larger, they get more attention.
    • Me, I just find it ironic they felt compelled to ask the question on Slashdot, home of the biggest information junkies around...

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by devjoe ( 88696 )
      Since it is counted by bytes, the old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words is a bit of an understatement. Digital cameras these days put out 2 MB jpgs, compared with the average word taking about 6 bytes. So a picture is actually worth about 300,000 words.
    • Consider how many "gigabytes" you "consume" just by watching TV for a few hours. Nothing new here...

      It's totally meaningless, too, since it depends on the particular compression algorithms used. (For example, it's probably theoretically possible to get much better video compression than current block-based DCT technologies by better understanding and modeling how the human brain processes images.)

      Back in the 1970s before MPEG was invented, measuring video data rates would have required about 720*480*30*2 = 20 Mbytes/sec. So someone who averaged 2 hours of daily TV would have "consumed" about 150 GB per da

      • by Yvan256 ( 722131 )

        What do you mean "*2"? Shouldn't that be "*3"? Or do you think video was limited to 65536 colors?

    • Well even the computer portion seems to be a huge overestimate. 26.97% of 34GB/day = 9.1GB/day, or 3.3TB/year. It's also -- and this is key -- 275GB per month, which is 25GB over the cap on Comcast's "unlimited" service.

      I've *seen* usage charts for my ISP (not Comcast) and 275GB/mo would place you squarely in the top 2%, and after the top 5% there's a very long and shallow tail. Either these numbers were simply pulled out of somebody's rectum, or if they did an actual study with very flawed methodology.

    • An hour of standard television is 90gb of raw data approximatley, this varies with PAL/NTSC and HD standards would be a factor of 2x 4x and more. I would hope this was ignored, but I somehow doubt that. They likely considered a compressed stream of data rather than raw images.

      The actual bitrate of information content of TV is lower of course, and varies greatly. In some cases a negative bitrate: reality TV can actually suck information out of your head.
    • by tgv ( 254536 )

      Come on, you're trolling! I easily memorize 34Gb per day. That's only 4 to 5 DVDs, pixel by pixel, with a few sound tracks, just over 1500 per year. No problem at all, you Thomas.

    • Has the flow and importance of information really become this prolific in our daily lives?

      No, they're just making up big numbers to get attention. Apparently, it's working.

      I would say that yes the flow of information is important, it has been for a long time. The flow of entertainment on the other hand is almost a river of piss.

  • Data Hogs (Score:4, Funny)

    by Reason58 ( 775044 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @01:19PM (#30378426)
    The study found that the top 5% would digest over 70 GiB a day. Upon reading this Comcast, for the purpose of easing traffic, has installed horse blinders on them.
  • is really fast there!!

  • by anticlone ( 1245294 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @01:20PM (#30378456)
    only the bandwidth hogs using P2P are responsible for almost all of that. The rest of "normal" American users only read a couple emails a day...
    • You say that like there is a Shortage of Bandwidth.
      You don't have to stand in line so you can get a roll of bandwidth to wipe your butt.
      Thank god we don't, some people may neglect wiping.
    • You forgot the porn. Once you factor that in, it makes perfect sense.
  • Pretty impressive (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dingen ( 958134 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @01:21PM (#30378460)
    Especially considering 10% of US internet users are still on dial up.
  • I can believe it (Score:3, Interesting)

    by alop ( 67204 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @01:21PM (#30378468) Journal

    Just think of ALL the information... Pandora in the background, HDTV at home... pr0n.... SMS messages. I guess this includes things like the Newspaper you'd pick up in the morning, or the leaflet you grab in a lobby of a building. It can all be considered data.

    I would be interested in how much *information* we consume also.

  • by richmaine ( 128733 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @01:22PM (#30378480)

    Their definitions almost allow grandma to count time sitting in a rocking chair on the porch watching the outside world as "consuming information". Lots of bits of data comming into those eyeballs. Or maybe even if she closes her eyes and starts daydreaming, those dreams count too. :-)

    When a "report" spends a substantial amount of time explaining the notations for large numbers, it is a pretty clear sign that it isn't a very serious work.

    • You hit this on the head. It's easy to get gigantic numbers when everything coming in counts as data.

      In addition, they count all 'data streams' received as being consumed, despite the chances of occurring at the same time. It's like saying that a hydroelectric dam consumes all water that passes it - whether it passes through the turbines or over the causeway.

      There may be some interest in comparing the change in this number as a percent, but the fact "34 Gigabytes consumed per day" by itself means next to

      • Data is just data. (Score:3, Insightful)

        by crovira ( 10242 )

        Knowledge is data in some form of context.

        Wisdom is the ability to shape these contexts correctly.

        This "34 Gigabytes consumed per day" metric is worth nothing except to estimate the size of the pipe required to deliver the bilge.

      • I'm not understanding the Dam Metaphor. Could you rephrase it using cars instead of a dam and water?
        • by Yvan256 ( 722131 )

          Sure, here you go buddy.

          In addition, they count all 'data streams' received as being consumed, despite the chances of occurring at the same time. It's like saying that a hydroelectric car consumes all water that passes it - whether it passes through the turbines or over the causeway.

    • Since all the visual information has nearly-infinite resolution and analog color depth is infinitely-nuanced, your grandma is consuming +infinity bits of information at any given time. Sound and smell data...who knows.

      Someone should throttle her connection, she's hogging all the bandwidths.

  • by Darkness404 ( 1287218 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @01:26PM (#30378542)
    If the average American gets 44.8% of their information from the TV, per day. Something is wrong with the MPAA/RIAA's facts. Also odd seems to be the 10.59% of radio that the average American listens to. And also strange is the 1.11% of recorded music that the average American listens to. That means that 55.44% of words that Americans listen to is controlled by many factors, including the government and private (think RIAA/MPAA) interests. This study should more or less prove that the RIAA is in no danger, as user created and RIAA/MPAA uncontrolled mediums only add up to 28.28% of what an average American is exposed to.
  • Consumed...? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by eepok ( 545733 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @01:27PM (#30378558) Homepage
    Ya... I consumed 64GB per day. That's right. I also consumed a couch last night. And I consumed an apartment. And I consumed a 2009 Mazda MP3. And I consumed a Christmas tree.

    Sensationalist weasel words...
  • by jcronen ( 325664 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @01:29PM (#30378586) Homepage

    This number is entirely meaningless.

    Is a phone conversation "consumed" as its transcript (a few hundred bytes) or as an audio file (a few hundred kb) or a really well sampled audio file that conveys nuance perfectly (a few Mb)?

    A tweet is 140 characters, but if I were to take a screenshot of a screen with Twitter (and about 20 tweets) that could be a couple of Mb.

    And much of that "data" could be compressed in a meaningful way. I spend most of my day in my cubicle staring at my monitor. Does all of the visual data that my eyes are receiving (about eight hours' worth of grey walls and a small computer monitor's contents) count?

    • by McNihil ( 612243 )

      Or why not take a couple of 100MP shots of the screen at different light and angles and post those huge file... should be worth a couple of gigs right there :D

      • by McNihil ( 612243 )

        And I mean posting it as bmp's with full 32 RGBA glory!

        Oh did I crack someones monitor? Sorry!

    • by xZgf6xHx2uhoAj9D ( 1160707 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @02:22PM (#30379172)

      It shouldn't be entirely meaningless. Claude Shannon [wikipedia.org] showed that no matter how you represent something, it contains the same amount of information. If I remember right, he did a study early on that showed that each letter in English text carries, on average, about 1 bit of information (in the information theory sense of "information"). You can store it in ASCII or UCS-4 or as a JPEG and even though the different representations require different amounts of data, they all contain the same amount of information: some representations just have more redundancy than others. (Sadly it's undecidable to determine how much information something contains; otherwise compression would be a lot easier).

      Unfortunately this study seems to have ignored all of that good research and ignored the whole field of "information theory" in general. The numbers they're using on page 8 are totally exaggerated and seem to have no basis in information theory. There's no way a "small picture" contains 8 million bits of information, and even if it did there's no way a person could actually appreciate all that information unless they were staring at it for hours.

    • A phone conversation would be a 64 kbps audio file (on PSTN, or less than that on a cellphone). You get more than just the text from listening to someone speak.

  • by mtrachtenberg ( 67780 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @01:29PM (#30378594) Homepage

    While the average American uses 34 gig per day, the average citizen of a developing country uses only 27.3 megabytes.

    A proposal to cap and trade rights to generate and transmit information was introduced today by Bernie Sanders; Fox News immediately called it a "dangerous step towards communism."

    Sarah Palin said she didn't believe Americans used that much more information than the rest of the world, and if we did it's just because Americans are smarter.

    President Obama, in a forty minute speech (30.27 gig), explained the details of information theory and laid out a twenty point plan for getting Congress to reduce Americans' transmission of information by 10% over the next thirty years. A coalition of conservative Democrats replied that the President, while obviously well-informed, was moving too aggressively, and that more research was needed.

    George W Bush asked what a gigabyte was.

    • In other news, the Defense Advanced Research Agency, in association with MIT (a wholly owned subsidiary), announced that it would be hiding the Democratic party's cojones at three sites, each visible from roads. The Republican party's heart, once located, will be placed at a fourth site. The American people's intelligence... no, never mind.

    • by tmosley ( 996283 )

      George W Bush asked what a gigabyte was.

      Technically, he asked what a jiggabyte is. He then asked if it had anything to do with nukeular bombs.

    • How many millions is a Brazilian?

  • window (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bigdavex ( 155746 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @01:36PM (#30378668)

    If I look outside my window and observe reality in its full high-definion glory, am I consuming data?

    If not, what if I set up a camera outside my home and watch the video feed on my televion?

    • TFS and TFA grossly underestimate the data stream, at least for people who are not blind. The whole time our eyes are open, you and I are consuming terabytes' worth of high definition "video" per hour, and it is all processed in realtime. What is the resolution of the human eye equivalent to in terms of pixels at a given viewing distance, what would the color depth be, and what would that stream be uncompressed? That doesn't take into account the equivalent data produced by your other four senses.

      However, t

  • by mattOzan ( 165392 ) < vispusloNO@SPAMmattozan.net> on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @01:39PM (#30378702) Homepage Journal
    Data is not "consumed." That is a ridiculous way to put it. Tt has no shelf life, it produces no waste byproducts, it can be reused indefinitely. It is transmitted, stored, deleted, and maybe in there it delivers information to a brain. Even then, do we really delete data, or just representations of data?
    • by wdavies ( 163941 )

      actually, I believe physics shows there is an energy cost to data, or rather more precisely maintaining information. Too early in the morning for me to go and look it up in Wikipedia. I'm sure someone can elaborate. I believe data doesn't have an independent existence - if a picture is on a hard-drive, and you drop it in acid, that picture, is gone. Sure it existed in some time frame, but you REALLY can't afford the energy to retrieve it.

    • by Locke2005 ( 849178 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @02:00PM (#30378930)
      You should never anthropomorphize data -- it hates it when you do that!
  • by bugi ( 8479 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @01:42PM (#30378734)

    More interesting would be how much data is collected on each American each day.

    Be sure to count each datum separately for each person to make sure it's a big number. Please also break it down into several categories, both private and government.

  • Shameful (Score:2, Insightful)

    by miasmic ( 669645 )


    Shameful that the 'researchers' thought this information worthy of release - anyone with brain cells would revise their metrics after their data showed results like this.

    Shameful that the NY Times didn't discard it as self-promotional garbage from UCSD.

    Shameful that it made it to the front page of Slashdot.


  • Prolific (Score:2, Interesting)

    What has become prolific is the amount of useless (read advertising) information consumed each day. And, ironically, we consume more paper (in our paperless society) than ever to print all this crap out. The bean counting business has never been better. Just another day in a bureaucrat's paradise...

  • Yes and... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by shaitand ( 626655 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @02:02PM (#30378958) Journal

    any ISP peak bandwidth caps should be required by the fcc to use this as a baseline. Caps below the consumption of the average american are obviously anti-consumer.

    This includes cell phone data plans of course.

  • Having taken "Informatics" (which I still consider a useless course as this is the first time I have had a chance to use it in everyday life) at the university I studied at, I feel obligated to point out the fact that "information" only exists when you take "data" and put it together with a "frame of reference". Hence, the "recievers" are getting so and so many gigabytes of "data" as opposed to information.
  • I would be more interested in how much information was processed overall, as in without counting each tv show separately for each person watching it.

  • Bugger - I only have a 56K modem.

  • Today I ate a carrot, which is estimated at over 1*10^9 cells, each cell has over 4*10^8 worth of DNA base pairs, at 2 bits each, that's over 100 quadrillion bytes.
    I suspect the average American eats more than one carrot a day...

  • your average American consumed 34 gigabytes per day.

    What is my daily allotment based on a 2500 calorie diet?

"So why don't you make like a tree, and get outta here." -- Biff in "Back to the Future"