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11/6/2003
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Fantasy Sports, Auctions, And Games--Oh, My!

According to a survey by the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, there are more than 15 million fantasy-sports participants, up from 300,000 in 2000.

The biggest time wasters at work are the sites and online activities that are most addictive. When site popularity is measured, the focus is on the amount of time visitors spend at the site ("stickiness") and how often they revisit the site. Aside from chat, E-mail, and instant messaging, the most popular and stickiest sites online usually fall into a few categories: sports, stocks, cyberdating, gaming, and shopping. And, of course, searching for the sites and information is a big time drain as well. Sites such as Amazon.com and eBay are famous for attracting and keeping their users glued to the computer screen. Others, such as Neopets and Friendster, are less-famous favorites but every bit as compelling as their more-famous counterparts (just ask anyone under 30).

There aren't definitive statistics about which site people prefer to surf while cyberloafing, but some statistics exist in connection with fantasy sports and work time. According to a survey conducted by the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, there are more than 15 million fantasy-sports participants, up from only 300,000 in 2000.

Not surprisingly, 62% of fantasy-sports participants check their teams from work. Most of the fantasy-sports enthusiasts are white males and married. About half of them have children. And 16% of fantasy-sports participants are in executive or managerial positions or higher. Most players spend about three hours a week managing their teams online, although there are no statistics covering how much of that time is spent from work.

Take Parry Aftab's Cyberloafing Survey


Fantasy football accounts for about 90% of all fantasy sports, according to the fantasy-sports trade group. And fantasy sporting is a $3.5 billion industry growing rapidly. An average fantasy-sports fan spends $154 annually, of which $98 is for entry fees. To get a sense of the popularity of this pastime, ESPN.com estimates that fantasy sporting accounts for roughly 20% of its traffic.

The leading fantasy sites include CBS Sportline.com, which reported revenue of $11 million last year; NFL's Fantasy Extra 2003; ESPN; and Yahoo. Some charge for team management and research reports, while others are free.

Yahoo, a free site, is the longtime favorite of "Bob," a young and successful advertising executive. Bob is a typical sports-fantasy game owner, although he began playing fantasy sports earlier than most. He has owned fantasy-sport teams since 1996, when he and a fraternity brother purchased their first hockey team. (Their team actually was ranked 10th in the United States one year.) Bob currently owns three fantasy-football teams, three fantasy-baseball teams, and one fantasy-hockey team and plays the hot new "what-if" sports. ("What if" sports allow you to design a team using former as well as current players, where you can combine Babe Ruth with Don Mattingly using their original stats.)

When asked how much time he spends online with his fantasy sports, he explains, "Everyone, no matter what they might tell you, who plays fantasy football checks their stats and lineups on every Monday morning during football season. Most also check their stats again on Tuesday to see where things stand after the Monday night football game." (Baseball team stats are checked and lineups reviewed daily during baseball season.) He says that most teams can be managed on one hour a week of workday time.

Bob likes Yahoo's fantasy sports best because it's free. "Many other team owners," he says, "get very intricate in their management of teams and find a value in the special features the pay sites offer." Although he likes ESPN and other sites that offer pay-per-play and management of fantasy teams, he doesn't believe in paying for what he can get for free online.

In addition to being a fantasy-sports team owner, Bob is young, successful, single, and a very hard worker. Because much of his professional time is devoted to developing Internet promotions for his clients, he believes that his online activities keep him ahead of the game with knowing what's new and hip online. This benefits his clients. And although he puts in 14-hour days regularly, he checks his fantasy teams during breaks in the workday. He claims it lets him recharge before he refocuses on work. But Bob is a principal at his advertising agency and can justify his fantasy-sports activities to his partners. It's unlikely that leisure surfing by his administrative staff would be met with the same view.

Return to main story: Cyberloafing's Drain On Productivity

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