Them Maths Is Hard

This morning's NYT contained an article on search engines which contained a claim of such discombobulated mathematical incompetence, I just had to share:

It’s no secret that even with their recently-announced alliance, Yahoo and Microsoft will lag well behind Google in the hugely profitable search and search advertising business. How far behind? With a combined 28 percent of the American search market, Yahoo and Microsoft could double their usage and still trail Google, which accounts for 65 percent of the market.

I don't have to get all Mark Liberman on you to explain what's wrong with this claim. If Microsoft/Yahoo! doubled their 28% market share, that's 56%, at which point they would no longer trail Google who could have no more than 44% of the market.

Maybe it's finally time to stop reading the NYT...


Q. Pheevr said…
They do say "Yahoo and Microsoft could double their usage," not "could double their share," so I think the claim is not mathematically impossible, though it is both confusingly worded and rather unlikely. If Yahoo and Microsoft managed to double their usage in absolute terms by expanding the market rather than by taking users away from Google, then they could double their usage to 56% of the current market and still trail Google--they would end up with 43.75% of the expanded market, while Google would have 50.78% of it. But it's not at all clear that the writer had a scenario like that in mind; more likely, they were just looking for a way of saying that Yahoo and Microsoft currently have less than half as large a share as Google's.
Chris said…
Yep, it's a good point.

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