|Google publicly released a set of mobile location data used in ad targeting, to provide insights into what has changed in response to work from home, shelter in place and other policies aimed at flattening the curve of the COVID-19 pandemic. “These reports have been developed to be helpful while adhering to our stringent privacy protocols and policies,” wrote Jen Fitzpatrick, SVP of GEO, and Karen DeSalvo, Chief Health Officer at Google Health, in a blog post. For the period from February 16-March 29, the anonymized user data shows a 47% drop in visits to retail and recreation sites, 38% drop in workplace, and 12% increase in residential. Data for NYC shows plunges of 86% for retail and recreation and 57% for workplace, and an increase of 19% for residential.
Google also reversed its stand on political groups running ads related to COVID-19, and will allow them “soon.” While the ban had been intended to block ads that capitalized on short-term events like natural disasters, said Mark Beatty, Google’s Head of Industry for Elections, the pandemic “has become an ongoing and important part of everyday conversation, including a relevant topic in political discourse.”
Everybody’s talking: As Americans self-isolate, they’re staying in touch over the phone. For the three weeks that ended on March 31, AT&T reported that voice calls went up 33%, instant messaging rose 63% and text messaging increased by 41%. On April 1, the number of WiFi minutes used increased 105% from a typical Wednesday.
Business conference apps are doing a booming business in this time of social distancing and working from home. The week of March 14, they topped a record 62 million worldwide, according to a report from App Annie, up 45% from the week prior, and up 90% from the weekly average of Business app downloads in 2019.
Suddenly ubiquitous Internet videoconferencing platform Zoom is suspending videoconferencing development for 90 days to address privacy and safety concerns that have emerged in at least one lawsuit. “We want to do what it takes to maintain your trust,” founder/CEO Eric Yuan wrote in a blog post. Zoom said when it upped its server capacity to accommodate the barrage of suddenly-homebound users, it mistakenly routed some calls through Chinese data centers to handle the congestion.
Bustle Digital Group laid off the staff The Outline, halting operations of the tech-focused site founded by Joshua Topolsky. The move was part of a workforce reduction that hit 24 employees across the company.
Hulu is being integrated into Comcast’s Xfinity X1 devices. Users can stream both the AVOD and ad-free versions of Hulu, and have access to features like Hulu’s “Taste Picker” function. Hulu was added to Comcast’s Flex platform last month.
Roku is rolling out an OS9.3 update that will make Roku Voice search results more visual and categorized in rows like relevant movies and shows, and offer a list of channels featuring programming sorted by price. The company is also adding support in the US and Mexico for Spanish-language commands to launch channels, search for titles and more, as well as control media playback.
Time spent streaming video during the day is soaring, up 40% in the US in recent weeks, according to data from Conviva. “As we all adjust to the new normal, streaming and social video have become even more important to many American households,” said Conviva CEO Bill Demas. But as daytime streaming has surged, typical primetime viewing has dipped by 2%. “While the circumstances are unique and the shifting primetime is surprising, the streaming growth is not,” said Demas. “We anticipate streaming providers will retain new viewers long after the coronavirus crisis has ended, as viewers embrace the variety and flexibility of the medium.”
The Media Rating Council sent a notice reminding measurement services of the importance of having “objective criteria in place to guide their determinations concerning the quality of data that is collected and reported under unusual circumstances that potentially could impair data quality,” as the industry grapples with COVID-19 disruptions. “It is understandable that in the current environment measurement services may want to adjust controls to maintain operations,” said George W. Ivie, Executive Director and CEO of the MRC. “Additionally, we recognize the unprecedented challenges these companies are facing, which may include workforce reductions, as well as forced transitions to remote workforce arrangements; the curtailment of field activity related to in-person research and panels; and the need to place greater reliance on automation for certain processes that might otherwise be done with enhanced manual oversight. However, now more than ever, the industry needs transparent and reliable data with which to make critical decisions.” For the full notice, go here.
Alphabet health sciences subsidiary Verily is growing its California-based coronavirus drive-up testing initiative, and is now offering guidelines and resources for anyone else looking to set up a community-based initiative. Their documents can be downloaded here: https://www.projectbaseline.com/covid-19-guide/.
WeWork is selling a subsidiary, social networking platform Meetup, to AlleyCorp and other private investors. Meetup, which has 49 million registered members, in November announced cost-cutting measures that included layoffs. “This acquisition provides the long-term capital to ensure that Meetup focuses on what is most important: the organizers who make Meetup successful, our passionate members, and our dedicated employees,” said David Siegel, CEO of Meetup. “We are excited to continue on our mission of empowering personal growth through real human connections, and I’m happy to have brought in a team of smart investors who share and support the same values.”
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Discovery platform Taboola announced a collaboration with Moat by Oracle Data Cloud to give Taboola advertisers the ability to purchase video impressions on an outcome-based method, including viewable or video completion events. When buying on a vCPM model, advertisers will only pay for viewed impressions, and when buying on a CPCV model, advertisers will only pay when their ad has reached their desired completion point, both as verified by Moat. “Through this collaboration, we’re giving peace of mind to advertisers and making it simple to prove ROI, backed by our trusted verification provider Moat,” said Adam Singolda, CEO and Founder, Taboola. “As brands are looking to diversify outside of the walled gardens, the opportunity to bring video formats into the open web, measured where you only pay for success, is a huge opportunity.” For more, go here.
Sixty percent of consumers say they are less inclined to use a product if the brand uses their data for any purpose, according to a GroupM survey, “Consumer Trust in Digital Marketing.” The report also said 37% of consumers feel digital ads are too intrusive, and are increasingly deleting cookies and browser history. “Marketers need to focus on using the right digital platforms to reach consumers, to be transparent about how data is gathered and used, and to think holistically about the many media venues where they can build consumer relationships,” concluded the report.
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