Big Tech Firms Are Thriving in the Midst of Global Pandemic

In the economic crisis generated by the coronavirus pandemic, Big Tech companies like Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google are thriving. Amazon and Facebook are viewed as essential services, and Apple and Google are working on tools that will help the nation’s state health departments trace COVID-19 infections. While funding for startups shrivels, these companies are hiring. Only months ago, these companies were embattled by regulators and privacy advocates. Now their lobbyists are working to delay California’s new privacy law. Continue reading Big Tech Firms Are Thriving in the Midst of Global Pandemic

Google Aims to Make Life Easier While We’re Stuck at Home

Google Search has been offering personalized movie and TV recommendations since last fall. Now it is adding a new Watchlist tab that enables mobile users to easily track and save desired content. In addition, to help Android TV users navigate news and entertainment as we spend more time sheltering at home, Google has introduced three new rows of content from YouTube on the home screen: COVID-19 News, Stay Home #WithMe videos, and ad-supported free movies from YouTube. These new features are among a larger set of announcements made by the company this week. Continue reading Google Aims to Make Life Easier While We’re Stuck at Home

Pandemic Tests Big Tech Firms, Slows VC Money for Startups

This week, big tech companies such as IBM and Intel will report quarterly earnings, followed by Apple, Facebook, Alphabet, Amazon and Microsoft next week. Some companies — such as Amazon, Intel, Micron Technology and Microsoft — are doing well, even growing, whereas Facebook and Alphabet deal with a dramatic plunge in advertising. Even Apple issued a “rare profit warning.” The pandemic is hitting startups particularly hard, as venture capital money dries up and they are forced to lay off staff. Continue reading Pandemic Tests Big Tech Firms, Slows VC Money for Startups

NBCU’s Fandango Purchases Streaming Video Service Vudu

Following the soft launch of its Peacock streaming service to Comcast Xfinity X1 and Flex customers, NBCUniversal is bringing another streamer into the fold, this time to expand its Fandango offerings. Movie ticket seller Fandango has acquired digital movie and TV streaming platform Vudu from retail giant Walmart, with plans to merge it with digital marketplace FandangoNOW. According to Walmart, Vudu is available on more than 100 million devices, while its mobile app has more than 14 million downloads.  Continue reading NBCU’s Fandango Purchases Streaming Video Service Vudu

Big Tech Offers Financial Aid, More to Help During Pandemic

Tech companies are stepping up to offer much-needed resources and financial support during the global coronavirus pandemic. TikTok recently announced three funds with plans to provide $250 million for COVID-19 relief efforts in addition to $125 million in advertising credits for health organizations and small businesses. Apple and Google have joined forces to introduce contact-tracing apps for COVID-19, while both tech giants are using a number of their apps and services to help share valuable information with the public and assist with relief efforts. Other tech companies are also offering financial help, donating medical supplies and leveraging their popularity and services to provide support. Continue reading Big Tech Offers Financial Aid, More to Help During Pandemic

Houseparty Chat Expands Beyond Teens to Wider Audience

Zoom has gotten a lot of attention as the popular video chat platform that’s soared in usage since the COVID-19 shutdown. But Houseparty is another video chat platform with free mobile and desktop apps that’s gaining traction. Originally targeting teens, Houseparty offers features designed to encourage interaction, such as jumping into a conversation or playing trivia games remotely. In the last month, Houseparty has had 50 million signups, about 70 times its typical number in some markets, said cofounder and chief executive Sima Sistani. Continue reading Houseparty Chat Expands Beyond Teens to Wider Audience

NBCUniversal Launches Peacock Service for Comcast Subs

NBCUniversal debuted its streaming platform Peacock to more than 10 million subscribers of parent company Comcast’s cable service using Xfinity X1 and Flex devices. Peacock is slated for a wider rollout this summer. With the coronavirus pandemic forcing many in the U.S. to stay at home, TV and streaming services have seen skyrocketing usage, according to Nielsen. Streaming via Comcast Xfinity was up 50 percent in March from February. NBC had planned to promote Peacock during the Tokyo Summer Games, which have since been postponed. Continue reading NBCUniversal Launches Peacock Service for Comcast Subs

In Grim Ad Market, Even Facebook and Google See Declines

Facebook and Google’s ad businesses appeared to be unstoppable, tripling over the last five years and accounting for more than half of online advertising expenditure. That long run appears to be over with the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the global economy. Wall Street is now projecting that annual revenues for the two companies will decline for the first time in their histories, due in part to record low prices for advertising. Even so, prospects are even more dire for the overall digital advertising industry. Continue reading In Grim Ad Market, Even Facebook and Google See Declines

YouTube Sees Leap in Viewership, Yet Decline in Advertising

Millions of people are watching YouTube for news on the coronavirus. Chief product officer Neal Mohan reported viewership rose 75 percent compared to a year earlier. YouTube reaches more than two billion global viewers every month. But, even as viewership ticks upward, digital advertising has dramatically slowed and advertising rates are plummeting, leaving anyone who makes their living on YouTube in a financially vulnerable position. “Everyone is pausing their campaigns on YouTube,” said YouTube advisor Carlos Pacheco. Continue reading YouTube Sees Leap in Viewership, Yet Decline in Advertising

Rivals Apple and Google Collaborate on Contact-Tracing Tool

Long-time rivals Apple and Google joined forces to build software into smartphones that would alert people who have recently been in contact with someone infected with the coronavirus. Users will have to opt-in to use the tool, which will be ready to release in “several months” and enable smartphones to “constantly log other devices they come near,” to accomplish what is called contact tracing. It also relies on a user’s voluntary report of having become infected. The two companies said they teamed-up in the last two weeks. Continue reading Rivals Apple and Google Collaborate on Contact-Tracing Tool

Streamer Quibi Is the Most Downloaded App on Its First Day

Short-form streaming video service Quibi (“quick-bites”) launched on Monday and, according to App Annie, had 700,000+ iPhone and Android downloads, making it the most downloaded app that day in the nation. App Annie also revealed that Quibi was No. 2 in entertainment apps for the iPhone on Monday from 3:00 am to 2:00 pm (the No. 1 app during that period was TikTok). App Annie director of market insights Amir Ghodrati stated that this was “a strong start for a brand-new app without an established brand or content.” Continue reading Streamer Quibi Is the Most Downloaded App on Its First Day

Advertisers Reduce, Stop Campaigns in Face of Coronavirus

Coca-Cola, Kohl’s, Marriott and Zillow Group are among those companies that have reduced or stopped marketing efforts during the coronavirus pandemic. Facebook said its advertising business is “weakening,” and Amazon has cut back on its Google Shopping ads. Advertising giants Interpublic Group and Publicis delayed their financial forecasts, citing an uncertain future. During the Great Recession, said the WARC research group, $60.5 billion in global advertising vanished and it took eight years to “fully recover.” Some observers believe this crisis will be worse. Continue reading Advertisers Reduce, Stop Campaigns in Face of Coronavirus

Zoom Use Skyrockets, Revealing Privacy and Security Issues

Remote conferencing services company Zoom Video Communications has become an overnight success as more Americans stay home during the coronavirus pandemic. Zoom, once mainly used by businesses, is now being used for everything from yoga courses to happy hours, but is also stretching the tool’s limits to serve both those who pay for the premium service and consumers who gravitate to the free version. There’s also a dark side to Zoom’s uptick: online trolls who “Zoombomb” meetings, and concerns about the San Jose-based company’s privacy policies. Continue reading Zoom Use Skyrockets, Revealing Privacy and Security Issues

Facebook Gives $100 Million in Local News Grants, Marketing

Although news media have seen a rise in digital subscriptions during the coronavirus, advertising has plummeted. Facebook has stepped in with the announcement it will provide $25 million in grants to local news outlets, as well as spend $75 million in marketing. Examples of outlets hard hit include BuzzFeed and American Media, which are cutting employees’ salaries, and alt-weeklies that have laid off as much as 75 percent of their employees. Facebook fact-checkers, meanwhile, are fighting coronavirus misinformation. Continue reading Facebook Gives $100 Million in Local News Grants, Marketing

Government, MIT Analyze Location Data For Spread of Virus

During the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. federal government, via the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, state and local governments, is receiving analyses of people’s movements — based on location data from millions of mobile phones — in “certain areas of geographic interest.” The data, provided by the mobile advertising industry, is being used to understand how such movements may be impacting the spread of coronavirus. MIT researchers are also debuting a project to track COVID-19 patients via a phone app. Continue reading Government, MIT Analyze Location Data For Spread of Virus

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