Facebook is developing a voice-powered virtual assistant similar to Apple’s Siri, Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. Read more…

Further Reading

Tech companies also are experimenting with monetization strategies that extend beyond the initial purchase of a smart speaker. Amazon likely sells its smart speakers at a loss, according to product teardowns by ABI Research, which estimated the second-generation Echo Dot that sells for $29 has about $31 in parts. But those devices give the e-commerce giant a foothold in the connected-home market and help to support Amazon Prime, the subscription service that costs $119 a year for streaming video, a limited package of streaming music and no-fee two-day shipping on most products. People who have an Echo in their home spend about $1,700 a year on Amazon, or 66% more than the average Amazon customer, per Consumer Intelligence Research Partners.

Health insurance company Cigna released results from a national survey exploring the effect of loneliness in the United States. The survey, conducted in partnership with market research firm, Ipsos, revealed that most American adults are considered lonely.

  • Nearly half of Americans report sometimes or always feeling alone (46 percent) or left out (47 percent).
  • One in four Americans (27 percent) rarely or never feel as though there are people who really understand them.
  • Two in five Americans sometimes or always feel that their relationships are not meaningful (43 percent) and that they are isolated from others (43 percent).
  • One in five people report they rarely or never feel close to people (20 percent) or feel like there are people they can talk to (18 percent).
  • Americans who live with others are less likely to be lonely (average loneliness score of 43.5) compared to those who live alone (46.4). However, this does not apply to single parents/guardians (average loneliness score of 48.2) – even though they live with children, they are more likely to be lonely.
  • Only around half of Americans (53 percent) have meaningful in-person social interactions, such as having an extended conversation with a friend or spending quality time with family, on a daily basis.
  • Generation Z (adults ages 18-22) is the loneliest generation and claims to be in worse health than older generations.
  • Social media use alone is not a predictor of loneliness; respondents defined as very heavy users of social media have a loneliness score (43.5) that is not markedly different from the score of those who never use social media (41.7).

Snap’s first partner summit revealed lots of ambitious plans for its image-messaging app Snapchat, such as a mobile ad network, gaming platform, camera features and original shows. The planned Snap Audience Network will let marketers reach users of third-party apps with ad inserts resembling the full-screen, vertical videos in Snapchat. Read more…

Additional Reading

Facebook and Google, which bought ad-serving network Doubleclick in 2008, have similar platforms that give marketers broader campaign reach among apps and mobile websites, even among digital audiences who don’t use their services. That extensive reach is the major reason why Facebook and Google are called the “duopoly.” The two companies have a combined market share of about 60% of the $129.3 billion U.S. digital ad market, researcher eMarketer estimated. So far, the biggest threat to the duopoly is Amazon, whose rapidly growing ad business is denting Google’s dominance, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Snap doesn’t share personal data about the people who use Snapchat, in stark contrast to Facebook’s looser policies that let app developers collect data about millions of users and all their social connections. Such promiscuous data sharing let political campaigns recreate Facebook’s social graph for ad targeting, and directly led to last year’s Cambridge Analytica scandal. Facebook has changed its data-sharing policies in the past year, and this week called for governments to regulate the internet more closely to protect privacy and prevent the sharing of harmful content.

Tech companies are pushing into videogames as multiplayer gaming becomes a focal point for social networking. “Fortnite,” the hit battle royale game from Epic Games, exemplifies the trend as an online gathering place. Not only does “Fortnite” host multiplayer games among its 250 million users, but it also is adding live events like the concert from Marshmello. The popular DJ’s February 2 concert had a virtual attendance of a stunning 10.7 million people, the equivalent of about 150 outdoor stadium concerts (10.7 million attendees divided by stadium size of 70,000 equals about 150). “Fortnite” players showed up for the 10-minute show by using their player avatars to dance, jump around and rush the virtual stage.

Apple this year will release Apple Arcade, a game-subscription service with more than 100 exclusive video games. Google is planning a videogame platform called Stadia that will let players stream games from the cloud without the need for an expensive console like a Microsoft Xbox or Sony Playstation. Facebook last month added a dedicated gaming tab to its mobile app and has games on its Messenger app. More than 700 million people play games, watch gaming videos or participate in gaming groups on Facebook every month, the company said. Viewership of live videogaming content on Amazon’s Twitch streaming service surged 41% to 8.9 billion hours last year from 6.3 billion hours in 2017, per researcher Newzoo.

Snapchat’s remaining announcements focused on the user experience, including camera features and original programming. The company added Photomath and Giphy as partners for Scan, Snapchat’s camera search feature. The new services add to features that let users press and hold on the camera screen to unlock experiences, such as scanning Snapcodes to unlock filters and lenses; scanning physical products or barcodes to see Amazon search results; and identifying music tracks with Shazam.

Snap’s upcoming slate of Snap Originals, its exclusive shows for Snapchat, next month will be available on Snapchat’s Discover page. The shows include a range of genres such as serialized scripted dramas and comedies, character-driven docuseries, unscripted social commentary, among others. Production partners include Bunim/Murray Productions, Dakota Pictures, New Form, Bazelevs and other film and television writers and producers, per an announcement. Snap’s original programming is another way for the app to keep users engaged on its platform, and to sell video ad inserts.

Dating app OkCupid added a profile badge that lets “Game of Thrones” fans show their enthusiasm for the HBO hit series. Read more….

OkCupid is the most popular dating app in West Virginia, according to a survey of U.S. consumers by PC Mag. Tinder is the top dating app overall — used by 17% of people — and is most popular in 27 states, followed by Match with 17 states. Bumble, the only app that requires women to send a first message after finding a match, was the leader in Missouri and Oregon, while Plenty of Fish was most popular in Maine and Utah.