Rates from Bankrate.com

  • Mortgage
  • Credit Cards
  • Auto

#DigitalSkeptic: Hurricane Internet Is the Most Evil of All

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- With all due respect to Sandy, Andrew, Betsy, Donna, Camille, Katrina and all the rest of the extended late-summer hurricane family, in terms of pure dollar-value destruction they've got nothing on the monsoon that is the Internet.

The Information Age takes a strange pleasure in totting up the havoc caused by the weather's biggest disasters.

"Storm damage provides one way to compare events at different points in time in terms of their impacts on things we care about," said Roger Pielke, professor of environmental studies at the University of Colorado Boulder, who studies the cost of natural disasters. "So we keep top 10 lists and carefully account for lives lost and dollar damage."

So whether (get it?) it's academic blog posts such as Pielke's Normalized U.S. Hurricane Damage 1900-2012, including Sandy, or the National Hurricane Center's almost delightfully gruesome Hurricanes in History Web page, or Redlands, Calif., data visualization service Esri's interactive Top 10 Most Damaging US Hurricanes, assuming we focus strictly on dollar losses, it's almost too easy to get a Digital Age feel for the total damage done by the wind and tide.

So what's the wrecker's bill for the weather's worst blows? Pielke estimates that the median annualized hurricane loss from 1900 to 2012 is $12.8 billion per year, expressed in 2012 dollars. Multiply that annual loss by the 112 years tracked and we get a darn good, round-number estimate of $1.4 billion lost.

That's a nice-sized chunk of destruction. But believe it or not, those thousand some-odd billions is nothing more than a run of bad weather when compared with the once and future tzar of dollar-amount devastation: the Digital Economy.

Trillions in market cap go missing
For better or worse, when it comes to valuing what has vanished in the Virtual Age, the music industry remains the valuation bellwether for digital markets. Music lives on the banks of the Information Economy, ahead of publishing, movies, financial services, corporate IT and higher education. It was first to feel the full blow of the Category 5 Digital Age cyclone as it made landfall at the dawn of the 21st century. And this coastal habitat gives it both the longest series of numbers to analyze and the deepest set of stories to count.

To wit, a May 2013 report, Global Music Production and Distribution, from IBISWorld, the Santa Monica, Calif., research shop is worth a look. The report estimates that from 2004-13, total worldwide music revenues fell to $27.6 billion from $49.5 billion.