Today's take highlights data that mirrors global culture shifts as a result of the pandemic. You'll also see we've continued to adjust our usual categories to reflect this unusual time. Let us know what you think.
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Quantifying Life 2.0

Last week, economist Tyler Cowen published a transitional summary on his Marginal Revolution blog he called 
World 2.0. It's a real-time illustration of Lenin's remark that's been making its way around social media: “There are decades where nothing happens, and weeks where decades happen."

COVID-19 accelerated a transition into a new way of life almost overnight. To put into context how unprecedented this moment is, consider that for the first time in over a century, we as a species are facing the same challenge at the same time in all corners of the world. And we're coming to terms with it in real-time. Downstream from the severity of the health crisis itself, we're experiencing shifts in work, learning, emotional coping and even status-seeking. These new practices represent a small sample of the ripple effects caused by the pandemic, and the isolation required to mitigate its damage.

Consider the following behavioral shifts over the past couple of weeks: 

Remote work by the numbers - As commuting has come to a sudden halt, podcast listening is down, (audiences
decreased 8% the last week of March) along with music streaming (down 16% in the US). Meanwhile, Walmart reports that sales of shirts are up while sales of bottoms are down, reflecting the new normal of waist-up teleworking. Not surprisingly, videoconferencing services like Zoom (535% rise in daily traffic) and Skype (up 220%) are surging in the markets as people use video calls to connect both professionally and socially. 

Entertainment by the numbers - People are searching for new forms of entertainment, as reflected by gaming traffic during US business hours increasing by 
400%, and 1.2 billion downloads of mobile games during the last week of March, the largest ever recorded in a week. Social media app downloads are also up 20%, with TikTok leading the pack at an 18% increase. Nielsen also reported a 36% jump in streaming content and a resurgence of popular sitcoms like The Office. Internet-fueled entertainment is up in general, with online traffic up by 32% overall since March 1. Others are turning away from screens after a day of being plugged in for work, as evident in the rise of craft items like popsicle sticks (over 30 million sold at Walmart) and boardgames and jigsaw puzzles (sales up 240% in the UK).

Coping by the numbers - Beyond the illness itself, millions are suffering from anxiety and uncertainty surrounding the pandemic and life in quarantine. The numbers reflect how many people are coping, including an increase in downloads of fitness apps like Peloton (downloads up five times relative to February) and mental health apps like Calm (reached #2 in the health and fitness category). Other methods of managing coronavirus anxieties, for better or worse, include booze (sales up 55%) and gun purchases (US handgun sales up 91% in March). 

Essential services by the numbers - People are still seeking essential services like groceries and non-COVID related doctor's visits. But we're seeing alternative forms of access emerge, like the use of food delivery services (up
over 150%), virtual health consultations (up 312% in New York), and home prescription delivery (now free from pharmacies like Walgreens and CVS). People are also getting crafty with the new CDC recommendation to wear masks during all essential outings, with the increase of homemade mask sales on Etsy (over 10,000 sellers made at least one mask sale during the last week).

What "real life" will look like moving forward is anyone's guess. There will certainly be many experiments and adjustments to come. The stats that tell the story behind this monumental time are a good place to start. 

Chris Perry

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What We're Reading
Media Forensics
Flight of the Influencers
By Taylor Lorenz, The New York Times

As the coronavirus outbreak continues to spread nationwide, many influencers are using their platforms to educate followers about symptoms and testing, and encouraging them to stay inside. But other posts – like those showing influencers leaving metro areas for smaller towns – display behavior in violation of non-essential travel bans. And doctors warn that such social-sharing might encourage disregard for essential public health guidelines.

Data Visualization
See How Your Community is Moving Around Differently Due to COVID-19
By Google 

Global public health officials told Google that the same aggregated, anonymized insights used in the company’s Maps could help inform communities’ critical decisions to combat COVID-19. The resulting Community Mobility Reports chart movement trends over time by geography and across categories. For example, leaders can see the change in visits to places like grocery stores and pharmacies, or parks and transit stations, which helps them evaluate the effectiveness of social distancing and other public health measures.

Media Forensics
How False Claims about 5G Health Risks Spread into the Mainstream
By Jim Waterson and Alex Hern, The Guardian

In recent weeks, baseless claims about risks associated with next-generation mobile technology have gone mainstream. Claims linking 5G to the coronavirus pandemic have led to several attacks on cell towers in the UK, and rebuttal from the government. Industry insiders and fact-checking experts point to a perfect storm of conditions that have helped the bogus theory, described as “dangerous nonsense," to take hold.

Culture Shift
‘Zoombombing’ Becomes a Dangerous Organized Effort
By Taylor Lorenz and Davey Alba, The New York Times

In recent weeks, as schools, businesses, support groups and millions of individuals have adopted Zoom as a meeting platform in an increasingly remote world, reports of "Zoombombing" or "Zoom raiding" by uninvited participants have become frequent. While the incidents may have initially been regarded as pranks or trolling, they have since risen to the level of hate speech and harassment, and even commanded the attention of the F.B.I.

Culture Shift
Millions of Dads are Stuck at Home — Which Could be a Game Changer for Working Moms
By Annalyn Kurtz, CNN Business

Four economists hypothesize two big outcomes for gender equality as a result of coronavirus. Over the short run, they predict, working moms will shoulder a higher burden than dads when it comes to providing childcare in the pandemic. But millions of dads have suddenly been forced to stay home with their kids, and this historic moment could forever shift dynamics in both firms and families, leading to greater gender equality down the road.

Media Forensics
Campus is Closed, So College Students are Rebuilding Their Schools in Minecraft
By Pearse Anderson, The Verge

Minecraft has become a salve for many students, and college servers have started to become a place where students can log in to process the sudden loss of an on-campus community — or maybe even rebuild it. For Gen Z, Zoom isn’t nearly enough — it doesn’t carry the 10 years of memories they've acquired on Minecraft. So they’re crafting incredibly detailed in-game graduations, new campuses and dorms, even hosting virtual versions of historic sporting events. (Speedrunning, anyone?)

Media Forensics
Why Does it Suddenly Feel Like 1999 on the Internet?
By Tanya Basu and Karen Hao
, MIT Technology Review

There’s a feeling of déjà vu about the internet these days: the democracy of it, the gathering of one giant community. It’s the same feeling that nags you as you trade baking tips with strangers or re-create Chatroulette on Google Hangouts. Now that everyone is apart and together in their apartness, it feels as if the barriers between us online are coming down.

Emerging Technology
Quibi: Here's What You Need to Know About the New Streaming Service
By Frank Pallotta, CNN Business
Quibi will face significant competition and it's launching in the middle of a pandemic, which may or may not help its growth. But it has a lot of buzz — and money — backing it up, not to mention two of the most famed executives in Hollywood and Silicon Valley running the company.
Deep Take
Google Search Data Reveals How Brands Can Help During the Coronavirus Pandemic
By Tara Walpert Levy, Think with Google
Google analyzes search trends to advise how brands can help consumers as their needs evolve. For example, search interest related to retail has spiked globally over the past few months as people try to find things they need. And as people limit their trips to grocery stores, there’s growing search interest in things like “can you freeze” in the UK and “home delivery” (“livraison à domicile”) in France. Google has also seen rising search interest for “short term work employee” (“kurzarbeit arbeitnehmer”) in Germany and “mortgage rate suspension” (“sospensione rate mutuo”) in Italy.
Copyright © 2020 Weber Shandwick

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