Never, Ever, Believe Numbers You See In The Newspaper, No Not Even In The Daily Mail


That we should in general be suspicious of things we see in the news, online or printed, is true. We do, after all, have all that fake news floating around. But there is also the point that the newspapers tend to be written by the arts graduates. Those with no basic grounding in numbers, no sense of proportion over what might be true or possible. Thus we get, often enough, assertions which simply cannot be true. Such as this idea that Amazon is half of all retail sales. But this is what is being said:

A new report from digital marketing research firm eMarketer indicates that the Silicon Valley giant is expected to capture a whopping 49.1% of the US retail market by the end of 2018.

Err, no, really, just no. We’re not going to have one company handling 50% of retail sales, jut not going to happen. If we got anywhere close to that there would be, despite the impossibility, antitrust action to make sure it didn’t.

Amazon on track to capture nearly HALF of US retail market by the end of 2018, research shows
Amazon is on track to grab almost half of the US retail market by the end of 2018

Just no. So where did this come from? Ah, here:

Amazon is set to clear $258.22 billion in US retail sales in 2018, according to eMarketer’s figures, which will work out to 49.1 percent of all online retail spend in the country, and 5 percent of all retail sales.

50% of online retail sales and 50% of retail sales are really rather different things. Like, say, an order of magnitude apart? People should instinctively get this difference, there should be an alarm bell that goes off when anyone thinks they’re the same. But then, you know, we’re dealing with numbers and those arts graduates.