|Day's range||136.30 - 136.30|
Google's game-streaming service Stadia is now free for anyone with a Gmail account, the company announced today. Assuming you've got a compatible device and controller — and good internet in one of the 14 supported countries — you can sign up right now and get the "Pro" edition with a handful of built-in games for two months. Until today, Stadia was only available via a $129 "Premiere Edition" that came with a controller, though a free "Base" version has been long promised.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Wednesday approved Alphabet Inc unit Google's request to use part of an U.S.-Asia undersea telecommunications cable after the company warned it would face significantly higher prices to carry traffic by other means. Google agreed to operate a portion of the 8,000-mile Pacific Light Cable Network System between the United States and Taiwan, but not Hong Kong. Google and Facebook Inc helped pay for construction of the now completed telecommunications link but U.S. regulators have blocked its use.
(Bloomberg) -- Zoom Chief Executive Officer Eric Yuan pledged that his company will meet the highest security standards, seeking to put millions of new users at ease after numerous security lapses on the video-meeting application.Zoom Video Communications Inc. is launching a feature called Security that sets all privacy settings to their highest level, including putting passwords on meetings and employing waiting rooms that force meeting hosts to filter conference attendees, Yuan said Wednesday on a webinar. The San Jose, California-based company also is planning to roll out upgraded encryption for its video calls and meeting rooms for large webinars. “Zoom is safe compared to peers,” Yuan said. “We are determined to do better and hold ourselves to the highest standard on security and privacy.”Zoom has never sold user data and never will, he said.The security webinar was part of Yuan’s mea culpa campaign to rebuild trust with the more than 200 million users who’ve turned to Zoom amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Zoom was sued by a shareholder Tuesday who alleged the company fraudulently concealed its lack of end-to-end encryption and its data transmissions to Facebook, just one of several lawsuits that have sprouted during the revelations about the software maker’s privacy problems. The steps to bolster security weren’t enough to allay concerns at Google, which is trying to move employees away from Zoom. The Alphabet Inc. company, which has a rival product called Meet, deactivated the Zoom app on its employees’ work computers.“We have long had a policy of not allowing employees to use unapproved apps for work that are outside of our corporate network,” Google spokesman Jose Castaneda said in an emailed statement. “Recently, our security team informed employees using Zoom Desktop Client that it will no longer run on corporate computers as it does not meet our security standards for apps used by our employees. Employees who have been using Zoom to stay in touch with family and friends can continue to do so through a web browser or via mobile.”Google’s policy was reported earlier by Buzzfeed News.Earlier Wednesday, Zoom announced it had hired Facebook Inc.’s former security chief Alex Stamos as an adviser and formed a security council to help guide its next steps. Before its recent surge in popularity, Zoom had focused primarily on corporate communications.“I am attracted to difficult problems, and this creates some doozies,” Stamos, now director at Stanford University’s Internet Observatory, wrote Wednesday in a blog post. “The adaptation of a successful enterprise collaboration tool into virtual classrooms, virtual doctor’s offices and a myriad of other applications (including at least one virtual Cabinet Room) has created privacy, trust and safety challenges that no company has ever faced.”The company, Stamos added, “has some important work to do in core application security, cryptographic design and infrastructure security, and I’m looking forward to working with Zoom’s engineering teams on those projects.”Zoom’s shares had jumped as much as 11% Wednesday before giving back most of those gains on news of Google’s decision. The stock increased 3.6% to $117.81 at the close in New York and has jumped 73% this year.(Updates with Google’s decision to restrict Zoom use for employees in the sixth paragraph.)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
Users can access Stadia by downloading the app on their iOS or Android phones or by signing up on its website. The paid version, Stadia Pro, otherwise costs $9.99 a month and offers access to games such as "GRID" and "Destiny 2: The Collection" in 4K resolution. Google's Stadia, launched https://www.reuters.com/article/us-alphabet-google-stadia/google-enters-gaming-with-cloud-based-streaming-service-stadia-idUSKBN1XT2L2 in November, is expected to compete with Microsoft Corp's upcoming Project xCloud.
(Bloomberg) -- Alphabet Inc.’s Wing unit is seeing a dramatic increase in the number of customers using its drone delivery service in rural Virginia during the Covid-19 pandemic.Wing, which began routine deliveries under a test program approved by the federal government last October, has added new vendors and expanded the items customers can order to better serve people during the epidemic, the company said in a statement Wednesday.“The technology is particularly useful at a time when people are homebound in many cases and the need to limit human-to-human contact is important,” spokesman Jonathan Bass said in an interview.Deliveries have more than doubled in the Christiansburg, Virginia, area where the U.S. test is being conducted and in a similar project in Australia, Bass said.In addition to partnerships with FedEx Corp. and the Walgreens drug-store chain, Wing recently began deliveries from a bakery and a coffee shop.Mockingbird Cafe sold 50% more pastries through Wing’s drones in its first weekend with the company than it typically sold in its store prior to the virus-related business disruptions.Deliveries from Walgreens have included toilet paper, medicine and toothpaste, the company said. They recently added items such as pasta and baby food to meet demands of people staying home.While the payload of Wing’s autonomous drones is limited, orders are fulfilled within minutes, Bass said.The program is being run in the community around Christianburg. Wing is working with nearby Virginia Tech, which has a drone-test program approved by the Federal Aviation Administration.Amazon.com Inc., United Parcel Service Inc. and many smaller companies are also experimenting with the concept of drone deliveries.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- On March 24, Jeffrey VanWingen, a family physician in Grand Rapids, Michigan, posted his first-ever video to YouTube. VanWingen, decked out in medical scrubs in his kitchen, spent 13 minutes explaining how to disinfect a cereal box, a carton of broth, and some broccoli, while a masked friend filmed him from a safe distance. He gave it a title likely to show up in anxious web searches: “PSA Grocery Shopping Tips in COVID-19.” Within a week, the video had over 20 million views, and VanWingen was fielding calls from across the world to translate it into other languages. By then, it was too late to alter the ninth minute, when VanWingen tossed bags of apples and oranges into a sink of soapy water—something scientists say could cause more harm than good. He tried futilely to contact YouTube to edit that portion out of the video. He settled on inserting a disclaimer: “Correction: Rinse fruits and vegetables with water—no soap.”Millions of people have been frantically scouring the internet in recent weeks for health advice, turning doctors like VanWingen into YouTube’s newest, unexpected stars—and putting significant weight behind their recommendations. “I’m not tech savvy and I am not vain. I just wanted to help people,” he said in a phone interview. “With something like this pandemic, there's no guidebook.”VanWingen didn’t tout an experimental drug or a “silver solution” as cures for Covid-19, and didn’t blame the spread of the virus on 5G networks – all claims that have appeared on YouTube. But his video, coming from a medical professional, did create alarm in a way that some viewed as irresponsible. “He’s treating handling your groceries like doing open heart surgery,” Donald Schaffner, a biologist at Rutgers University. “He’s giving people panic attacks.” There is no evidence that Covid-19 is transmitted through food or grocery packaging, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The World Health Organization has described the overabundance of covid-related communication online as an “infodemic,” making it hard for people to find credible information within the deluge. YouTube is relying on a secretive ranking system to separate legitimate medical advice from quackery. The choices aren’t always straightforward. The site has to decide how to handle videos from experts on contested medical topics or posts, like VanWingen’s, that are popular and useful but also contain seemingly honest mistakes. It’s even harder to know where to set boundaries when official opinion on subjects like whether people wearing masks in public is still in flux.A big part of YouTube’s solution is an authoritativeness score, an algorithm that gleans the credibility of people who post videos about news events and certain topics including health. The company has said it surfaces videos from news outlets, hospitals and “experts” to viewers most often. Videos from creators with lower scores aren’t necessarily taken down, but are punished by YouTube’s automated system for video recommendation. YouTube relies on medical doctors to review videos about medical treatments. Its process often includes multiple layers of review, a company spokeswoman said, but she wouldn’t name the doctors or say how many are involved. Even video creators that YouTube actively promotes during the pandemic, like Mikhail “Doctor Mike” Varshavski, who has some 5.5 million followers, know little about the process. “I don't know what my score is,” he said. “Honestly, it’s really confusing to us as creators.”Roger Seheult, a California pulmonologist, produces MedCram, an eight-year old YouTube page that, before January, posted mostly arcane lectures for medical students. Then Seheult turned to the coronavirus, posting dozens of dispatches on the outbreak. Traffic exploded. One of his most popular videos, with over a million views, is a seventeen-minute clip from March 10 in which he says he is “cautiously optimistic” about hydroxychloroquine, a malaria drug U.S. President Donald Trump has suggested as a coronavirus treatment, with mixed scientific support. In the video, Seheult reads through several medical studies and reports about the experimental drug. He ends the video by saying randomized control trials on hydroxychloroquine are still needed. In an interview, Seheult said he believes the drug’s potential benefits outweigh the risks “for many patients under my care.” Like other social-media platforms, YouTube was criticized in recent years for the way its recommendation engine promoted conspiracy theories about health, particularly those raising suspicions about vaccines. Since then, YouTube has worked to remove false claims from search results and recommendations. It now puts a link to health organizations and Google’s own virus information page below every clip about coronavirus and has instituted a policy to remove videos “promoting medically unsubstantiated” prevention and treatment. YouTube pulled down two clips from Brazil’s president for breaking that rule and has removed “thousands” more, according to the company.But wavs of new footage about the virus is posted to YouTube daily, even as Google’s own shift to remote work has led it to reduce its staff for content moderation.An added moderation challenge is that it isn’t immediately apparent some problematic videos are connected to coronavirus. Searches for chloroquine and other experimental treatments produce videos from YouTubers, some of them claiming to be doctors, who only recently joined the site. YouTube hosts pages and pages of videos filed under the hashtag FilmYourHospital, a viral stunt that encourages people to shoot footage suggesting the virus is a hoax. State officials have warned hospitals about the trend. Sheltered in Michigan, VanWingen spent hours on the phone trying to get in touch with someone at YouTube to cut out the soap washing part. (As a rule, YouTube lets creators change text but not video content after uploading.) YouTube didn’t promote his video on its newly created news section for the virus or widely in its recommendations, according to the company, but the clip still continued to spread on its own. Ultimately, he posted a revised version of his PSA a week later, shorter and more “toned down.” It only received a fraction of the original’s traffic.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- Nuro Inc. has won permission to test driverless, low-speed delivery vehicles in the San Francisco Bay Area, becoming the second company to allowed to operate on public roads without a driver.The startup backed by SoftBank Group Corp. received approval from the California Department of Motor Vehicles on Tuesday, after the agency granted a driverless testing permit to Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo unit. More than 60 other companies hold permits from the state to test autonomous vehicles with a safety driver behind the wheel.“The Covid-19 pandemic has expedited the public need for contactless delivery services,” David Estrada, Nuro’s chief policy officer, said in a blog post. “Our R2 fleet is custom-designed to change the very nature of driving and the movement of goods by allowing people to remain safely at home while their groceries, medicines, and packages are brought to them.”The permit allows Nuro to test two of its purpose-built, driverless delivery vehicles -- dubbed the R2 -- in parts of nine Silicon Valley cities on roads with speed limits of 35 miles per hour or less, according to the agency. The vehicles are designed to go no faster than 25 miles per hour.The testing permit will also allow the company to make deliveries for local businesses, Estrada said.“The safety of the motoring public is the DMV’s top priority, and we do not give out these permits lightly,” California DMV Director Steve Gordon said in a statement. “Nuro has met the DMV’s requirements to receive this permit to test their driverless delivery vehicles on California’s public roads.”For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Teladoc Health, Zoom Video Communications, Microsoft and Alphabet
Facebook (FB) boosts user location data collection initiatives to help researchers understand and derive measures to combat coronavirus outbreak.
(Bloomberg) -- It wasn’t ordered up by Washington, it doesn’t have a catchy name and its members don’t get paid. But the Covid-19 Mobility Data Network could mean the difference between life and death.The network sprang up voluntarily among universities, epidemiologists, public-health departments, database providers, advertising-technology companies and social-media giants like Facebook Inc. Their mission is to fight the pandemic’s spread by testing the effectiveness of stay-at-home and social-distancing policies using a single tool: your cell phone’s physical location.The new data-sharing relationship is just one way companies, academics and public-health officials are teaming up to curb the spread of coronavirus. The network is analyzing the data and sharing insights with governments in states like Massachusetts and California; in cities such as Boston, New York and Miami; and in other countries, including India, Italy and Spain.“A lot of these companies just came out of the woodwork,” said Andrew Schroeder, one of the network’s coordinators. “There’s a lot of location data out there,” he said, which needs to be shaped “into something that’s not just the Wild West, but is passing through an expert filter on what this means for public health.”The data show whether people are complying with stay-at-home and social distancing orders that have spread across the U.S. and countries around the globe.For example, people taking trips outside their neighborhoods in San Francisco decreased 40% to 50%, but dropped only 20% to 30% in other parts of California, Shroeder said.In New York City, residents were more mobile during the week than they were on weekends, and mobility rates were higher on Staten Island than in lower Manhattan, he noted.Facebook on Monday announced that it was expanding the kinds of location data it provides to researchers tracking the pandemic, which has infected more than 1.3 million people and claimed more than 74,000 lives worldwide.The company, which normally uses such data to help sell targeted advertising, has been sharing it with researchers in an anonymized, aggregated form since 2017 to track things like whether people evacuate disaster zones.The data sets are now being used by dozens of organizations studying Covid-19, the disease the virus causes. The expansion of the program means Facebook will also share more nuanced details on whether people are staying at home, or the “probability that people in one area will come in contact with people in another,” the company wrote on its blog.The network is also working with Camber Systems, a Washington-based data-analytics company, and will soon team up with Cuebiq Inc., a New York-based data-collection company, to provide reports to “decision-makers who are implementing social distancing interventions,” according to the network’s website.It’s in talks with Alphabet Inc.’s Google about using data from the search giant. Google is posting “mobility reports” to show how traffic to places such as parks and transportation hubs has declined.The mobility data project, which started in early March, is similar to work that Schroeder, along with others such as Caroline Buckee, an associate professor of epidemiology at Harvard University, had been doing to analyze mobility rates in disaster situations.Schroeder, vice president of research and analysis for public-health nonprofit Direct Relief, had worked with Buckee on travel trends in Mozambique after a cyclone tore through the country in 2019. He’s taken on similar initiatives for Houston after a tropical storm hit last year and for California after wildfires ravaged the state, Schroeder said.Once they realized the need for data would probably be greater than in previous natural disasters, Schroeder, Buckee and Satchit Balsari, another Harvard professor and medical doctor, came up with the network idea. They recruited others who had done similar work and reached out to government contacts to ask how they could help, Schroeder said.“All of these various public-health departments around the country were making these pretty big calls on shutting down big chunks of the economy and society,” said Schroeder. “Nobody had any visibility at all” into the question: “Are people listening to you when you say that everyone should stay home? Do they stay home?”Camber Systems is processing anonymized geo-location data from millions of U.S. cell phones and passing it to the mobility network, Schroeder said. The company receives the data from firms in the advertising-technology industry, and then strips it of any names, addresses or other personal identifying details before handing it to researchers in a digestible format. The data are refreshed every few hours to track how devices are moving throughout a region. Camber Systems declined to comment.The increased ability of mobile-app providers and digital-advertising companies to track cell-phone owners’ positions has made such projects possible -- and elicited criticism from consumer advocates concerned about privacy violations.Some fear that an emphasis on health over privacy could undermine the protection of civil liberties, similar to what happened after 9/11, when the U.S. secretly began collecting mass amounts of data on its own citizens in an effort to track down terrorists.Earlier: Pandemic Data-Sharing Puts New Pressure on Privacy ProtectionsFacebook and the mobility network insist that no one’s privacy is being jeopardized, and that no governments are receiving raw data. “We’re not aware of any active conversations or asks with the U.S. or other governments at this point asking for access to that data directly,” Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg said March 18.Since May 2019, Facebook has offered what it calls “disease prevention maps” to researchers and nonprofits. It hands over anonymous user-movement data that is aggregated into 0.6 kilometer-sized grids and updated every 8 hours, according to Schroeder.The researchers use that information to calculate changes in the number of trips Facebook users in a specific region take outside their homes in a day. Facebook said it only shares data from users who have opted in to the company’s location-tracking settings.In the coronavirus outbreak, the maps have found multiple uses. Direct Relief, the humanitarian aid group that Schroeder works for, has used them to help determine where to distribute medical supplies, he said. Researchers at Taiwan’s National Tsing-Hua University are using the data to model possible outbreaks of the disease on the island, said Hsiao-Han Chang, a professor at the university.Harvard researchers are also using Facebook’s data sets to study the effects of government social-distancing advisories. “We have no idea what they actually do in terms of subsequent epidemiology of the disease,” said Harvard’s Buckee. “Policy makers want to know things like, ‘Which of these policies actually work? And how long are we going to have to do them?’”“We are acting as an intermediary to help make sure that this information is processed together correctly,” Schroeder said. “We can help people make sense of it and not just dump a bunch of raw data on them.”For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
Facebook Inc said on Monday it would start surveying some U.S. users about their health as part of a Carnegie Mellon University research project aimed at generating "heat maps" of self-reported coronavirus infections. Facebook said it may make surveys available to users in other countries too, if the approach is successful. Alphabet Inc's Google, Facebook's rival in mobile advertising, began querying users for the Carnegie Mellon project last month through its Opinion Rewards app, which exchanges responses to surveys from Google and its clients for app store credit.
The pressure is growing across the globe to go green, and one ambitious ride-sharing service has risen up to the challenge in a big way
(Bloomberg) -- Facebook Inc. is expanding the user location data that the company offers to researchers and non-profits trying to study the outbreak of the Covid-19 coronavirus.The world’s largest social network shares anonymized, aggregated location information as part of an effort to study disease outbreaks, and more than 150 organizations partner with the company to use that data for research. Facebook is adding new data points for researchers fighting Covid-19, including information about whether people are staying at home, and other material that details “the probability that people in one area will come in contact with people in another,” the company said Monday.At Harvard University, researchers are using the information to measure whether government recommended “social-distancing” measures are actually helping to decrease spread of the virus, which has already infected a confirmed 1.3 million people worldwide.“We are putting in social distancing policies and currently we have no idea what they actually do in terms of subsequent epidemiology of the disease,” said Caroline Buckee, an associate professor of epidemiology at Harvard. “Policy makers want to know things like, ‘Which of these policies actually work? And how long are we going to have to do them?’”Facebook will also put a post atop users’ feeds in the U.S. directing them to a Carnegie Mellon University survey that will ask users, among other things, to self-report possible Covid-19 symptoms. Facebook says the survey is intended to “help health researchers better monitor and forecast the spread of Covid-19.”“[Researchers] won’t share individual survey responses with Facebook, and Facebook won’t share information about who you are with the researchers,” the company said. Only those 18-years-old or older will see the survey prompt.Alphabet Inc.’s Google said last week it would publicly release mobility reports that show anonymized data about where people are traveling to help researchers better track the disease. The company’s Maps app is used by more than 1 billion people worldwide.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Google has deployed the tracking data it collects from users around the world to assess our movements before and after the World Health Organization declared Covid-19 a global pandemic.Charted below are the location trends for places such as national parks, public beaches, marinas, dog parks, plazas and public gardens. They illustrate which countries reacted most swiftly to the call for social distancing (e.g. Italy) and which lagged behind (e.g. Sweden). This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.Ben Schott is a Bloomberg Opinion visual columnist. He created the Schott’s Original Miscellany and Schott’s Almanac series, and writes for newspapers and magazines around the world. For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
The dark web is full of coronavirus related scams, from compromised Zoom teleconferencing accounts, fake vaccines, phishing kits, and more.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- The desire for status and approval is one of the most powerful human motives. It induces us to work hard, dress well and engage in conspicuous consumption, such as Instagramming our fancy vacations. But with the rapid advent of Covid-19, most of those options have been whisked away from us.The plunge in status-seeking behavior is yet another way in which the lockdown is a remarkable and scary social experiment. One possible consequence is that many people won’t work as much, simply because no one is watching very closely and it is harder to get that pat on the shoulder or kind word for extra effort.Worse yet, for many people social approbation compensates for economic hardships, and that salve is now considerably weaker. Time was, even if you were unemployed, you could still walk down the street and command attention for that one stylish item in your wardrobe, or your cool haircut, or your witty repartee. Now there’s no one on the street to impress.Americans are learning just how much we rely on our looks, our charisma and our eloquence for our social affect. As Sonia Gupta asked on Twitter: “Extremely attractive people, I have a genuine question for you, no snark: What’s it like to not be getting the regular daily social attention you might be accustomed to, now that you have to stay inside and isolate from others?”Of course her question applies to more than just “extremely attractive people.” The social affirmation gained from, say, attending regular church meetings is now also much weaker.The collapse in status relations runs deep. We might spend a lot of time in chats and Zoom meetings, but in that medium status is harder to express. The boss who “dominates the room” just can’t project the same charisma from a small boxed image on your laptop screen. Nor can the others tell that everyone is listening attentively to that person, or that the person is tall or witty or well-dressed. This is another way in which Covid-19 is “the great equalizer.”In the short run, we can draw upon our status perceptions from the immediate pre-Covid-19 past. The boss is still the boss, and no one has forgotten who Taylor Swift is. As the lockdown continues, however, we may become increasingly confused in this new status-shorn universe, taking phone calls and meetings with previously unknown people.Even the still-famous may lose some of their luster. LeBron James remains a top NBA star, but he is not out there proving it every week, and so his renown has diminished somewhat — as has that of the NBA.To some extent this status erosion is liberating. It may cause a lot of people to reexamine perennial questions about “what really matters.” There are other positive effects: fewer peer-related reasons to go out and spend money, for instance (do you really need that new jacket, or to try all the hot new restaurants?). That will help make tighter budgets or even unemployment more bearable. Some socially anxious people may even feel they are better off.Yet overall this is a dangerous state of affairs. One risk is that we will elevate the status of performers who remain on television frequently. The White House’s Covid-19 press briefings have boosted the profile of President Donald Trump in part because he is appearing in a relative status vacuum, making him seem more leader-like.If you really are obsessed with continuing the status-seeking game, your best options are probably online. One of the few concrete consolations of this pandemic may be a new wave of creativity on YouTube and social media.More generally and in the longer run, expect the technology sector and the nerds to rise in status. It is their products and services that are commanding our attention and filling our status vacuums. The “nerdy look” is even less of a social handicap than it used to be. To paraphrase that famous saying: On a Zoom call, nobody knows you’re wearing mismatched socks.This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.Tyler Cowen is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. He is a professor of economics at George Mason University and writes for the blog Marginal Revolution. His books include "Big Business: A Love Letter to an American Anti-Hero."For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- How can we determine the state of the housing market when we lack data? That is the challenge facing those in the real-estate industry today, says this week's guest on Masters in Business, Jonathan Miller, co-founder of Miller Samuel and a master appraiser and consultant to the industry. The contract data we do have reflects transactions entered into a month or so ago, before most of the shelter-in-place orders were adopted.Miller’s expertise on real-estate appraisals and transactions comes from the data he assembles and analyzes. He has created a variety of real-estate data analytics for regional and national markets. He is sought after as the go-to appraiser for the most expensive dwellings in Manhattan. Miller, who also writes at the Matrix Blog, explains how real estate is responding to the lockdown: The industry move to online listing services, such as Street Easy and Zillow, is all but complete. But some online sites are removing crucial data from their listings, including “days since listed” that show how long a property has been on the market. We also discuss the challenges appraisers are having doing interiors inspections, now in New York City but eventually the rest of the country. Appraisals that are “desktop” by computers, or “curbside” drive-bys are becoming more common, he said.Part of the problem the residential market is facing is that the spring selling season most likely is lost; how soon the market returns to normal won't be known until the pandemic passes. Although virtual tours and live videos are an option for some buyers, the human element requires being physically present to see, walk through and even smell a home, which is usually a person’s largest purchase.His favorite books are here; a transcript of our conversation is available here. Our 2014 conversation with Miller can be found here; our 2016 MiB is here.You can stream and download our full conversation, including the podcast extras, on Apple iTunes, Spotify, Overcast, Google, Bloomberg and Stitcher. All of our earlier podcasts on your favorite pod hosts can be found here.Next week, we speak with James Montier, a member of GMO UK Lt.’s asset allocation team. Before joining GMO in 2009, he was co-head of global strategy at Societe Generale. He is the author of several books including “Behavioural Investing: A Practitioner’s Guide to Applying Behavioural Finance”; “Behavioural Finance: Insights into Irrational Minds and Markets” and “The Little Book of Behavioural Investing.”This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.Barry Ritholtz is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. He is chairman and chief investment officer of Ritholtz Wealth Management, and was previously chief market strategist at Maxim Group. He is the author of “Bailout Nation.”For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- After a long stint embedded in his home office, Jeffrey Katzenberg felt almost ready to take a break. He was looking forward, he said on a Zoom call in late March, to watching more of “Tiger King,” the wacko documentary series from Netflix about big-cat trainers behaving badly, which was currently captivating large numbers of homebound viewers. A few years ago, Katzenberg said, he’d come across Joe Exotic, the incarcerated zookeeper at the center of the Florida-noir series, and had considered making a show about him. But it never came to pass, and now he was in the same boat as everybody else, stuck at home, watching the hit program on Netflix. The special powers of exotic animals seemed to be lingering on his mind. The press could hound him all they wanted but he didn’t scare easily, he explained. He leaned forward, took a pinch of his arm, and held it up to his computer’s camera. “This is rhino skin,” said Katzenberg. In the days ahead, he will certainly need all the big rhino energy he can muster. On Monday, Katzenberg and his business partner Meg Whitman, the former chief executive officer of EBay, are overseeing the much-anticipated launch of Quibi, a short-form mobile video service that arrives into a crowded field of fierce competitors who are digging in for a long, bloody battle. Quibi, which will eventually cost $5 a month with ads, or $8 without them, will roll out 175 shows this year. The kaleidoscopic slate of programming is a mix of comedic series, dramas, reality shows, and topical news programs — all of it serialized into brief episodes. The idea is to reach out and grab users’ attention for a few minutes at a time whenever they’re idly staring down at their phones. In one cooking competition, food is blasted out of a cannon onto participants’ faces. In another show, a sex therapist talks about how to date during a pandemic.While Quibi can sometimes sounds like a film school fever dream, it’s one of the more ambitious projects to emerge in recent years from the crossroads of Hollywood and Silicon Valley. To date, the company has collected about $2 billion worth of investment, much of it coming from major media companies. It has written checks to some of the biggest celebrities in the world. Steven Spielberg and Bill Murray are contributors. “The first thing you have to understand is, if you are a storyteller and you work in Hollywood — movies, television, animation, I don’t care, any part of it — you are an entrepreneur,” said Katzenberg. “And that entrepreneurial spirit hasn’t been tapped in a while.”Despite Katzenberg’s impressive track record in the entertainment business, plenty of competitors, critics and industry analysts are betting on Quibi to lose. “Our reaction out of the gate was: ‘I think this is gonna be pretty tough,’” said Stephen Beck, founder and managing partner of management consulting firm CG42. “Free short-form video on your mobile phone already exists, and you can get a lot of it by relatively big-name stars.” See, for example, YouTube. Katzenberg said he has found some of the more pointed criticism of the yet-to-launch service downright amusing. In February, the New York Times published a lengthy essay by writer Dan Brooks entitled “What’s a Quibi? A Way to Amuse Yourself Until You’re Dead,” which argued that the service cynically aimed to exploit consumers’ already unhealthy addictions to smartphones. Katzenberg said that after reading the piece, he reached out to its author and set the guy up with a phone loaded with Quibi content. That’s Rhino Skin, buddy. (Brooks said in an email the shows he saw were “uneven.”) “I asked my kids: ‘Are your friends watching stuff on their phones?’ They said: ‘Absolutely.’ So we wrote the script.”On Feb. 2, Quibi ran a Super Bowl ad in which a bunch of bank robbers wait for their getaway driver, who is distracted mid-heist by a Quibi show on his phone. Tagline: “Episodes in 10 Minutes or Less.” In the weeks that followed, Katzenberg and his colleagues were planning to advertise heavily during other major sports events, including March Madness. The campaign was supposed to culminate with a star-studded premiere party at 3Labs in Culver City, California. All of it was conceived to generate a ton of free press. Getting Quibi’s quirky-sounding name out as much as possible was important. Outside of the entertainment and media industries, few people knew what Quibi was. In a poll commissioned by the Hollywood Reporter and Morning Consult in March, 81% of adults said they’d heard little or nothing at all about Quibi. But before Quibi could promote itself to America’s legions of live-sports viewers, the pandemic hit and the entire sports industry ground to a halt. Quibi would have to turn elsewhere for introductions en masse. In mid-March, with businesses and schools shutting down around the country, Katzenberg, Whitman and the board discussed the possibility of delaying Quibi’s April 6 launch date. "We said, ‘OK, we can launch, but should we launch?’” Whitman told Bloomberg Television. “We’re not health-care professionals, we’re not first responders. But we thought what we do is inform, entertain and inspire. So we thought we could bring a little joy and light and levity to people’s challenges right now. So we decided to go."Rather than postponing, they tweaked the rollout. They decided to give away the service for free for the first 90 days, a way of appealing to cash-strapped viewers suddenly grappling with a dire economic situation. Quibi also shifted the focus of its advertising blitz away from live TV events and onto social media.Katzenberg and his colleagues have since rolled out a campaign in which the company is paying its series’ stars like Chrissy Teigen to hype Quibi on Twitter, Instagram and TikTok. Meanwhile, many contributors in Hollywood are watching the launch with curiosity. Peter and Bobby Farrelly, the fraternal screenwriters known for comedies like “Dumb and Dumber” and “There’s Something About Mary,” have a Quibi show in the works, entitled “The Now,” starring Dave Franco and Bill Murray, which will premier in May. In separate phone interviews, the Farrelly Brothers said it was a little weird to make a film that needed a cliffhanger every 10 minutes, but ultimately that it was “a fun experiment.”“I rarely watch things on my phone, certainly not television,” said Peter Farrelly. “So I asked my kids: ‘Are your friends watching stuff on their phones?’ They said: ‘Absolutely.’ So we wrote the script.”While the new service may feel experimental, Katzenberg is quick to point out that Quibi has plenty of historical precedents. He cites Charles Dickens as a producer of Quibi-like narratives, as well as Dan Brown, the author of “The DaVinci Code.” Both writers, Katzenberg said, were masters of feeding audiences long stories in installments. For readers lacking time or self-discipline, that meant they could consume a sprawling, complex tale in brief increments over weeks or months without losing the plot. Quibi’s kickoff comes not long after the debut of Disney+, the robust streaming service that arrived in the U.S. in November and quickly attracted more than 28 million subscribers. Disney can be a tough act to follow. Katzenberg should know. During the ’80s and early ’90s, he oversaw a major revival of Disney’s animation division. While he may have missed out on “Tiger King,” back in 1994, he found an epic feline hit in “The Lion King,” which went on to gross hundreds of millions of dollars at the box office for Disney and has since spawned an impressive litter of spinoff movies and shows. These days, “The Lion King” franchise is still hard at work, attracting streaming subscribers to Disney+. “They got 100 years, the greatest brands ever known, the most amazing library ever, and ‘The Mandalorian,’” said Katzenberg, referring to a popular Star Wars show.Quibi, by contrast, has got some interesting mobile viewing technology, a large batch of unproven programming and some great expectations. Katzenberg said that of the 50 shows that Quibi will offer people in the first two weeks, he expects eight to 10 to go viral. “Meaning, in the same way we’re laughing about ‘Tiger King,’” he said. “You’re hearing about it through a connection. We’re not allowed to be around one another, but we are all still connected.” For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- An experimental program led by Google parent Alphabet Inc. to wipe out disease-causing mosquitoes succeeded in nearly eliminating them from three test sites in California’s Central Valley.Stamping out illness caused by mosquitoes is one of Alphabet unit Verily’s most ambitious public-health projects. The effort appears to be paying off, according to a paper published in the journal Nature Biotechnology on Monday. Verily is also running coronavirus triage and testing in parts of California. Bradley White, the lead scientist on the Debug initiative, said mosquito-suppression is even more important during the pandemic, so that outbreaks of mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue fever don’t further overwhelm hospitals.Since 2017, the company has released millions of lab-bred Aedes aegypti male mosquitoes into several Fresno County neighborhoods during mosquito season. The insects are bred in Verily labs to be infected with a common bacterium called Wolbachia. When these male mosquitoes mate with females in the wild, the offspring never hatch.In results of the trial published on Monday, Verily revealed that throughout the peak of the 2018 mosquito season, from July to October, Wolbachia-infected males successfully suppressed more than 93% of the female mosquito population at field test sites. Only female mosquitoes bite.Working with the local mosquito abatement district and MosquitoMate, which developed the mosquitoes originally, Verily released as many as 80,000 mosquitoes each day in three neighborhoods from April 2018 through October 2018. In most collections, per night Verily found one or zero female mosquitoes in each trap designed to monitor the population. At other sites without the lab-bred bugs, there were as many as 16 females per trap.“We had a vision of what this should look like and we managed to do that pretty perfectly,” said Jacob Crawford, a senior scientist on the Debug project.In the arid climate of the Central Valley, disease is an unlikely result of a mosquito bite. But in the hot, humid regions of the tropics and subtropics, diseases caused by the Aedes aegypti, such as dengue fever, Zika virus and chikungunya, kill tens of thousands of people every year. Releasing masses of Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes into the wild might wipe out entire populations of deadly mosquitoes and the diseases they carry.Verily is not the only organization pursuing an end to mosquito-borne disease. Microsoft Corp. co-Founder Bill Gates has pledged more than $1 billion to help wipe out malaria, including controversial efforts to genetically modify mosquitoes. Infecting mosquitoes with Wolbachia, which occurs naturally in some mosquito species, is a popular approach rooted in an old insect control strategy called sterile insect technique. What Verily’s efforts offer is not just evidence that Wolbachia can help wipe out disease-causing mosquitoes but potential ways to make such efforts work on a massive scale. Last year, Verily released about 14.4 million mosquitoes in Fresno County.Initial small-scale Fresno trials in 2016, run by an upstart called MosquitoMate, were the first time male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes infected with the bacteria were ever released in the U.S. The following year, Verily stepped in, bringing more advanced technology to the breeding and release process that could make it possible to expand such efforts to entire cities or regions.The new paper details many of those technologies, such as an automated process for separating male and female mosquitoes in the lab, and software that helps to determine exactly where to release altered male mosquitoes for maximum effectiveness.“Once you try to start rearing hundreds of thousands of mosquitoes a week, you run into all sorts of problems,” said White. “Mosquitoes may be everywhere, but they are really finicky and difficult to grow.”Verily has expanded its partnerships to include Singapore’s National Environment Agency. Trials there have entered a fourth phase to cover 121 urban residential blocks and about 45,000 residents. Verily is eyeing partnerships in South America and is in talks to launch in the Caribbean.Within a few years, said Crawford, Verily hopes the program will cover entire regions. Without intervention, he said, the public health toll of mosquito-born illness will only grow.“This is something that’s not going away on its own,” he said.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.