Rock Block: When Employers Ban Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Pandora, Spotify

Music Services and Social Media Restricted At Work (Source: Media Survey 2013)


Don’t assume your music or social media messages are always making an impression during working hours. That’s the takeaway of a survey of more than 500 IT departments around the country by Modis, an IT staffing and recruiting agency.

A telephone survey in February conducted by Braun Research on behalf of Modis queried 502 IT professionals about their companies’ policies and actions toward social media and streaming audio and video. Nearly half (48%) of those surveyed said their companies take some type of action to block, throttle or ban the streaming of non-work content at the workplace. More specifically, 22% have a company policy banning the streaming of non-work content, 17% throttle streaming content and 17% block streaming content. Half of the companies represented in the survey don’t have a policy of throttling or blocking streaming content.

These policies mean music isn’t reaching a large group of Americans who use their companies’ network during the day. Streamed live events are targeted by 37% of employers, which affects nearly 42 million people, according to Billboard’s estimate (taking into account the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ figure for private employment minus people employed in non-office, goods-producing areas like mining and manufacturing). That goes for the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament (the reason for the survey), but it could also get in the way of content from such events as Bonnaroo or South by Southwest.

These policies undoubtedly have an impact on businesses. Google is reportedly in talks with rights owners to launch its own ad-supported music subscription service based on its ubiquitous YouTube model. Yet YouTube is targeted by 33% of companies, affecting more than 37 million employees. Pandora recently implemented a monthly cap on mobile listening, leaving its heaviest users to switch to desktop listening or pay for additional time. But about one in four companies target Pandora, leaving more than 29 million employees with either substandard service or no access to Pandora on their work computers. Pandora says the listening cap affects 4% of its listeners, but it’s understandable why some people would have to choose mobile over desktop.

Spotify is targeted by 22% of companies, affecting about 21 million employees. That should be extra incentive for U.S. users to use Spotify’s free mobile U.S. radio service—in theory, at least. Spotify has one other hurdle to clear: Employees would have to install the application on a computer to listen at work. YouTube and Pandora work in Web browsers.

Exceptions to the rules are made, but mainly for older senior employees who are less likely to use these services. According to the survey, the head of the company gets a pass 28% of the time while rules are bent for 22% of senior employees. Exceptions are made for only 7% of midlevel employees and 4% of junior employees.

This story originally appeared in April 6, 2013
issue of Billboard

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