Incumbents rarely disrupt themselves, leaving themselves vulnerable to blank-sheet-of-paper thinkers like Tesla’s Elon Musk who built the car he wanted to drive. Center director Jeffrey Cole explains.

Tesla doesn’t need to change its corporate name. It is not necessary to obfuscate the identity of its signature product, protect its tone-deaf CEO from public and government scrutiny, or suppress the way its products affect the health and well-being of its users.

The more sunshine it lets in, the more impressive the Tesla story becomes. Fifteen years ago, Chris Paine released a little-seen but award-winning documentary, Who Killed the Electric Car. The premise of the film was that the wide acceptance of the electric car would have been the most important development in automobile manufacturing since Henry Ford introduced the Model T, which is when private transportation began to replace public transportation for many Americans.

The electric car meant lower costs for fuel and maintenance, more reliable vehicles, and zero emissions just as demonstrating concern about the environment and climate change became mission critical to all companies—regardless of whether that commitment was genuine.

Instead of lauding the movement to electric, Paine’s film pointed fingers at the manufacturers, oil companies, and local and national governments for conspiratorial efforts to make sure a popular electric car never reached the streets. It was a sad story, and one of the few conspiracy theories that rang true.

Remarkably, within six years of the film, there was a stylish, well-made, and attractive electric car available. Starting at $70,000 and rising to six figures, it was not for the masses. But it demonstrated what could be done. Nine-years later in 2021, that sedan, the Tesla S, is still a state-of-the art vehicle, although it is finally about to meet some serious competition.

Tesla’s identity, like those of all the trillion-dollar tech companies, is tied up with the image of its founder. For the next hundred years, business schools will debate whether this is good or bad for the company.  (more)

October 13, 2021 — Almost half of Americans say wearing face masks in stores and other public places should continue as a mandatory requirement in a post-pandemic world, according to a study released today by the Center for the Digital Future at USC Annenberg.

The Center’s third-quarter findings, based on a survey completed last week, found 46 percent of respondents said wearing face masks in stores and other indoor locations outside the home should continue permanently, even after COVID-19 ends.

“We are still concerned about being near other people as we resume our normal lives while COVID recedes,” said Jeffrey I. Cole, director of the Center for the Digital Future. “Perhaps without even realizing, we will maintain social distance, and a large percentage will want to wear masks.”

The findings about wearing face masks when COVID-19 is over are part of the COVID Reset Project, the Center’s studies on how the nation is changing as it battles and emerges from the pandemic.  (more)

Although in-person school was back this fall (with few hitches), the same is not true of the return to the office. Center director Jeffrey Cole explains that we now have two different kinds of employee, and why that’s the case.

Early last summer, COVID numbers everywhere were headed downward. It looked like things might be returning to normal. After close to eighteen months of working from home, most offices and workplaces announced that employees would head back to the office just after Labor Day.

Many companies implemented mask and social distancing policies. Some went further, mandating full vaccinations to return to work or even just to stay employed at the company.

Then the Delta variant arrived. As we have experienced repeatedly with COVID, our hopes were dashed, and we had to move backwards.

Returning to the office in early September shifted to mid-October and then to November. For many organizations, the return is now planned for the beginning of the new year, a full 22 months after we gathered all our work and headed home.

If it happens.  (more)

In a three-part series, Center director Jeffrey Cole explores what happened to movie theaters during the pandemic, how the movie studios used a natural experiment, and what the future will bring.

September 28, 2021 — The experimenting is over, and after eighteen months the results are in: movie theaters are here to stay!

It may take years to learn whether workers fully return to the office, students to the classroom, and shoppers to stores, but even while COVID is still raging we already know that movie fans will return to the theater.

In the darkest days of lockdown, streaming usage soared when people couldn’t go to the theater. Out of streaming emerged at-home hits like Tiger King, The Queen’s Gambit and Ted Lasso. It looked like it might not matter if theaters ever re-opened. Streaming was both more convenient and less expensive.

Now, the evidence is clear that the theater remains an essential part of the film distribution chain, especially for high-profile and big-budget films.  (more)

In the second of three parts, Center director Jeffrey Cole explores what happened when the movie studios used a natural experiment for their releases

September 29, 2021 — By the middle of June 2021, half the nation had been vaccinated and felt COVID might be entering a more manageable phase. The country began opening up, especially after the CDC allowed vaccinated people to shed their masks in most indoor spaces (although not airplanes).

After 15 months of staying home, we could escape from Zoom and our own four walls. Within a week or so, 15,000 people poured into Madison Square Garden to see the Foo Fighters. Bruce Springsteen was back on Broadway. Sports arenas and theme parks re-opened. There was euphoria as we began to resume our old lives.

And movie theaters were back in business.  (more)

In the final column in his three-part series, Center director Jeffrey Cole explores what the future will bring for movie theaters

Paramount, Sony, and Universal were fully committed to returning to the old model of exclusive releases in the movie theater followed by a shorter window (60 days?) before making the movies available for in-home viewing. Warner’s Tenet experience convinced it that fans were not ready to return to the theater. It made all their films available on HBO Max and the theater the same day. This was a strategy born of frustration: the studio was uncertain what to do with a library of unreleased films and attempted to recover from the mishandled unveiling of its own streaming service.

Disney, the studio that controlled 40% of domestic box office in 2019 and had the most to lose if theaters were greatly diminished or disappeared, was the most motivated to explore how films could be best released in the post-COVID world.

As audience fears about returning to movie theaters waned (even with the Delta Variant), Disney wanted to see if the time was right to release the old way: only in movie theaters. Although testing could have gone on for years with lots of different films, stars, and options to generate data, a return to an exclusive theatrical window would give it enough evidence to make fundamental distribution decisions.  (more)

Five-year survey will track broad societal change during the recovery

September 27, 2021 — As the nation emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Center for the Digital Future at USC Annenberg has begun a five-year, seven-part study of daily life, work, and society to understand change and opportunities in a post-pandemic world.

“The end of the COVID-19 pandemic marks the first time since the end of World War II that we as Americans are reconsidering everything in our lives – how we live, what we buy, how we work, and how we entertain ourselves,” said Jeffrey I Cole, director of the Center for the Digital Future (CDF).

“After a year of confinement by COVID-19, we have an extraordinary opportunity to explore issues that affect everyone as we emerge from the pandemic,” said Cole. “As society begins to rethink work schedules, travel plans, the nature of schools, the changes in entertainment, and the future of cities, we need to understand the temporary effects as well as long-term change.”

Seven major sectors examined quarterly

Along with Bovitz Inc., the Center’s research partner, the COVID Reset Project is conducting studies of views and behavior about seven distinct yet overlapping sectors: health, entertainment, homes, learning, shopping, travel, and work – each analyzed and reported quarterly.  (more)

Why would Amazon, the emperor of e-commerce, decide to open department stores when shopping malls are failing all over the country? Center Senior Research Fellow Brad Berens has the answers.

Amazon never does things for only the obvious reasons, which makes me wonder what the company is up to with its latest retail foray: department stores.

Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported:

The new retail spaces will be around 30,000 square feet, smaller than most department stores, which typically occupy about 100,000 square feet, and will offer items from top consumer brands. The Amazon stores will dwarf many of the company’s other physical retail spaces and will have a footprint similar to scaled-down formats that Bloomingdale’s Inc., Nordstrom Inc., and other department-store chains have begun opening.

These new department stores will extend and complement the company’s other brick and mortar retail endeavors that started with bookstores, 4-star, and the Amazon Go robot bodegas, and then extended into their purchase of Whole Foods and launch first of the short-lived 365 grocery chain and later the new chain, Amazon Fresh.

Having almost annihilated brick-and-mortar bookstores and massively contributed to the perils of ordinary retail and shopping malls, the obvious reason for Amazon to move into department stores is that there’s a vacuum the company can profitably fill.  (more)

The second installment in a five-year study by the Center shows a host of concerns for school leaders and policymakers.

August 9 — As students prepare for a new school year, a new survey of K-12 and higher education shows that their reasons for wanting to go back to in-person schooling are primarily social, and that mental health is a major struggle.

The results of the quarterly survey by the Center for the Digital Future at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism are one sector from the five-year project tracking seven key sectors and aspects of daily life to understand how the world changes as it battles and then emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic. The USC Rossier School of Education’s Center for Engagement-Driven Global Education (EDGE) is partnering on the education sector.

A preview of the second quarter results, presented today at the ASU+GSV Summit in San Diego, shows:

  • Students most miss face-to-face time contact with friends (69%) and interaction with classmates or other students (60%).
  • Only 36% of respondents from Generation Z (18-24 years old) rate their physical health as good or excellent — this compared to 46% of those over 65+ rate their physical health as good or excellent.
  • While 48% of all respondents rate their mental health as good or excellent, only 22% of respondents ages 18-24 do so.

“The data are clear that when COVID—the greatest disruption ever to interfere with education—ends, learning will never be the same,” said Jeffrey Cole, director of USC Annenberg’s Center for the Digital Future. “There are things about remote learning that we liked and expect to see some of them incorporated into school learning as we move into the future.”

More on the study is here.

A summary that compares key issues in the Q1 vs. Q2 findings on learning is here.

Having transformed computing, music, phones, cameras, and now watches, what will the next products from the world’s most valuable company be? Center Director Jeffrey Cole examines Apple’s field of potential innovations.

When talking about Apple, you quickly run out of superlatives. Its performance and story require new words, not yet developed, to describe the company that sits atop the throne of the technological revolution.

Apple was founded in 1976 and is now the grandfather of all the other tech companies. But the journey has been rocky. One of the co-founders, Steve Wozniak, left the company after nine years in 1985 to pursue his own interests. The other co-founder, Steve Jobs, also left in 1985, after losing a board struggle to John Sculley, the Pepsi executive brought in to manage Apple.

At the time, neither founder took out a lot of money by today’s standards. Even with the phenomenal rise of the company, neither accumulated anywhere near the kind of wealth of other tech founders such as Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Larry Page, Sergei Brin, or Mark Zuckerberg.

Apple floundered until the company brought Jobs back in 1997. That led to one of the greatest waves of innovation ever and the most spectacular business success story in history. The newly re-designed iMac was followed by the iPod and iTunes (2003), the iPhone (2007), and the iPad (2010).

Jobs also re-imagined what a product launch could be. On stage at the Moscone Center in San Francisco in his signature jeans and black turtle-neck sweater, Jobs would come near the end of the presentation and coyly add, “One more thing.” That’s when he introduced products that changed the world. Fans would re-arrange their schedules to watch the launches on television. A lucky few would do whatever it took to be there in person. It was like watching Picasso create a painting or Toscanini conduct an orchestra: a genius at his prime in his element.

It all worked beyond anything ever seen before.  (more)

In school, film, and literature we are taught the importance of strong relationships with our neighbors. Not very many Americans seem interested in knowing the people who live next to us. Center Director Jeffrey Cole explores the causes.

Building good relationships with neighbors is one of our fundamental core values. Not only is it the right thing to do, it also builds safer neighborhoods, better community relationships, and raises property values.

Core values teach us to help and love our neighbors. One of the few public figures that everyone admires, Mr. Rogers (Fred Rogers), opened each of his 912 shows by asking his audience, “Won’t you be my neighbor?”

Another hero, George Bailey from It’s a Wonderful Life, gives up his dream of traveling the world to stay in Bedford Falls and help build homes and create neighborhoods. Only at the end does he fully appreciate how important he has been to everyone in his community.

In film and culture, we place immense value on the importance of building deep and lasting relationships with neighbors.

There’s just one small problem: most of us do not know our neighbors very well and have little interest in getting to know them.  (more)

From the Center’s 2021 Digital Future Project

Infographic by Sarah Liu.

See all of the Center’s infographics here.

February 19 — The Center for the Digital Future has released the 2021 Digital Future Project, the longest-running study of Americans and their behavior and views about computers and mobile technology, internet use and trust, and the effects of social media.

The report continues the Center’s work as one of the first research studies to explore the impact of digital technology on internet users in the United States. The Center was the first to develop a longitudinal panel study of these issues, beginning in 2000.

For more on the 2021 Digital Future Project and to download the report, click here.

From the Center’s 2021 Digital Future Project

Infographic by Michael Bronstein.

See all of the Center’s infographics here.

Last month, AT&T threw in the towel on its adventures in the media business when it decided to spin out WarnerMedia. Center Director Jeffrey Cole explains how the telco got to this point, and why getting out is a good thing.

By Jeffrey Cole

Phone companies should stay out of the media business!

Everybody would be better off. No good comes of it. Egos are wounded, shareholder value is lost, great companies are weakened, and it does nothing for consumers.

While we are at it, soft drink bottlers, liquor distillers, waste management companies, electronics manufacturers, and most other companies ought to avoid the media business as well.

The simple rule is that everyone except those with vast experience running media companies should stay out of the entertainment industry. And we have several case studies that prove this point.  (more)

From the Center’s 2021 Digital Future Project

Infographic by Ani Tookoian.

See all of the Center’s infographics here.

It was hard to learn how to behave during a pandemic. Now that the CDC’s mask mandates are coming to an end, we have a new challenge: unlearning. Center Director Jeffrey Cole explains.

This week, in the most positive sign yet (after vaccines) that we can see the light at the end of the COVID tunnel, the CDC lifted almost all outdoor and indoor mask mandates for those who have been vaccinated.

Since March of 2020, the CDC (and the rest of us) have had to deal with those who didn’t believe the Coronavirus was real, those who would not wear a mask, and most recently and dangerous for all, those who will not get a vaccine. To get people vaccinated, Shake Shack is offering free hamburgers and fries, West Virginia a $100 savings bond, and Ohio a weekly lottery with a grand prize of $1 million.

Getting people to re-consider deeply held beliefs and change behavior is a difficult business. Bribes may not be enough.  (more)

As the U.S. pivots into post-COVID re-entry, a group of industries may spring back while others may dwindle towards insignificance. Center director Jeffrey Cole explores who is likely to win and lose.

To almost everyone’s surprise, the Warner Bros. film Godzilla vs. Kong led the re-opening of America’s movies theaters after COVID, and earned close to $100 million in its first month at the domestic box office. International grosses are closing in on $500 million.

While in any year these would be respectable numbers (even though it cost $160 million to make), when you factor in that some movie theaters are still closed and that most of those that are open are operating at limited capacity, a strong case can be made that movie theaters are on their way to returning to their historic place in American’s lives.  (more)

The country’s biggest online retailer is also the master of logistics, a streaming company, and has a series of grocery chains… so what’s next for the house that Bezos built? Center director Jeffrey Cole explores the options.

When I was a kid, I didn’t know anything about monopolies (except the board game), anti-trust laws, barriers to entry, or restraint of trade. Why, I wondered, didn’t a successful, well-run company (GM in the 50s, IBM in the 60s, AT&T in the 70s) take all that management experience and branch out into other related and unrelated businesses: a Swiss Army-knife of companies?

GM could run an airline; IBM could manage department stores, and AT&T could make television sets. They could have gone on to run dozens of disparate businesses.

Only later did I learn about laws preventing any one company from completely controlling an industry, making it impossible for others to enter the field and compete. Consumers needed to be protected from such large companies that could, without fear, raise prices as much and often as they liked.  (more)

From the Center’s 2021 Digital Future Project

Infographic by Paris Asterino-Starcher.

See all of the Center’s infographics here.

After a year of Zooming instead of traveling, building relationships virtually instead of face-to-face, and testing the business impact of not going to events like CES, will business travel rebound as we emerge from COVID? Probably not, argues Center director Jeffrey Cole.

It’s almost the end of the first quarter of 2021. In any other year, I would be taking a short rest after speaking at a number of media or technology conferences. The new year usually began with CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas, followed by NATPE (National Association of Television Program Executives) in Miami, and then the IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau’s) ALM (Annual Leadership Meeting) in either Palm Desert or outside Phoenix.

About now, I would be planning another five or six events over the second quarter, including the Cannes Lions Festival in June. No complaining about jet lag or being away; it was a good life.

Over the last 13 months, of course, none of those events took place anywhere except on the Internet. A lot of money was saved on airfare, hotels and Uber (and earned no frequent flyer or hotel points).

What was not so good for the economy was very good for my mental and physical well-being by not disappearing for a week or two at a time from family, friends and work colleagues.  (more)

The pandemic separated the major streaming players from the minor ones. As movie theaters may return with less hold on viewers, the ground has shifted. The next twelve months should determine the next generation of entertainment. Center Director Jeffrey Cole explains.

And then there was one!

With the March 4th launch of Paramount+, Viacom’s entrant into the streaming wars, there is only one studio, Sony, left without its own streaming channel.

Two years ago, there were six studios (before Fox disappeared into Disney). Only one of them, Warner Bros., had placed a bet on streaming.

Netflix, with an assist from Hulu, owned the streaming field. Warner Bros. had access to HBO as a sister company (now unified into the WarnerMedia brand along with Turner Broadcasting). HBO was barely a streamer in 2019 (the year after AT&T acquired Time Warner). It was a legendary pay TV service available on cable. Although founded in 1975, HBO didn’t even consider getting into streaming until only a few years ago with HBO Go and HBO Now.  (more)

From the Center’s 2021 Digital Future Project

Infographic by Dylan Mahoney.

See all of the Center’s infographics here.

Facebook has just fired the opening shot in its first major fight against a well-matched opponent, and has already made an enormous blunder. Riding on the outcome is the power of the tech companies and the future of journalism. Center director Jeffrey Cole explains.

Facebook and Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. are at war. The battleground is Australia. That location is serving as a proxy for all of the global battles of government vs. technology vs. traditional companies that are sure to erupt over the next few years. A lot rests on who is the ultimate winner (or suffers the least damage) in this ugly dispute.

The issue is: can Facebook and other platforms freely use publishers’ news content, or should they have to pay for the privilege?  (more)

Decision-making about issues involving freedom of speech, says Center director Jeffrey Cole, requires knowing where to draw the line.

I don’t like anyone messing with the First Amendment.

The United States was the first country and still one of the few to spell out in our constitution explicit rights to freedom of speech, the press, religion, peaceful assembly and the ability to petition the government for redress of grievances. If America has ever been (or is now) exceptional, it derives directly from the first 10 amendments to the Constitution: the Bill of Rights. When we fight to preserve and protect the Constitution, this is what we fight for.

There are two concepts around freedom of expression that have always stayed with me: the importance of the marketplace of ideas and the danger of creating a chilling effect.  (more)

From the Center’s 2021 Digital Future Project

Infographic by Nicole Rasmussen.

See all of the Center’s infographics here.

The right-wing news channel’s flirtation with honest reporting was short-lived after ratings and profits declined. Center Director Jeffrey Cole explains.

That didn’t last long!

Starting on Election Day and for the next several weeks after, Fox News began to put some distance between itself and Donald Trump. The marriage that had served both parties so well for years finally unraveled and then broke.

That all was not well in the relationship had been clear for months.

It was a marriage of great convenience. Trump found Fox News to be a readily available and sympathetic channel for his ideas dating back to the unfounded birther theories, through the racist origins of his campaign, and then through the chaos of his four years in office.

With a push of his speed-dial, Trump could get on Fox News within seconds and spin his version of events with himself as the hero taking on leftists, fake news, or the villain of the day (Meryl Streep, Taylor Swift, low-flow showers). Some days he hogged a show for a full hour. Careful viewers could detect the hosts on Fox & Friends looking awkwardly at each other, wondering when he would finally hang up the phone.  (more)

From the Center’s 2021 Digital Future Project

Infographic by Mirabai Venkatesh.

See all of the Center’s infographics here.

In these dark first weeks of 2021, the cycles of history make a case for optimism. Center Director Jeffrey Cole explores what we can learn from the 1920s and the 1820s.

Between the catastrophic storming of the U.S. Capitol and record levels of infection, hospitalization, and death from the coronavirus, 2021 is off to a bad start. Fortunately, with the ramping up of vaccinations and the inauguration of a new President, hopeful resolution of both crises is within sight.

Then what?

The year-old decade of the 2020s is just the third 20s decade in American history. There may well be some important parallels from 100 years ago in the 1920s. If we are lucky and all our stars align, there may also be some parallels from the 1820s.  (more)

Global business leaders gathered online on November 10 for the Paley International Council Summit 2020: “Globally Connected: Media in the 21st Century,” to hear a discussion of “Little Screens, Big Releases,” including Center director Jeffrey Cole (far right) as a featured speaker.

The summit explored how well-attended theatrical releases — long a key part of the strategy for building film franchise value — have been limited by the COVID-19 pandemic. What does the current state of theatricals in the pandemic mean for franchises and movie audiences? How does the pandemic change the economic model for the film and television industries? Will those changes be permanent?  (more)

In a post-election world, Center director Jeffrey Cole sees reasons for hope that truth may become depoliticized.

The year 2020 cannot end soon enough. Putting divisive politics, devastating economic recession, continuing social injustice, and the Coronavirus pandemic in our rear-view mirrors brings hope for a better 2021 and beyond.

It has been a terrible year — one that will join 1918 and 1968 in the unhappy history books. But out of all the chaos and anxiety of the past decade, culminating in 2020, may emerge a hopeful development: the return of the professional media gatekeeper as citizens try to separate truth from disinformation. A lot of money has been made and political ground gained by catering to what former Presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway memorably dubbed “alternative facts.”

Now, finally, there are some glimmers of hope that this may be starting to change.  (more)

The goal of teachers building real, caring relationships with every student has never been more critical — and it has also never been more challenging. But as BARR Center executive director Angela Jerabek describes, we’ve learned much during the pandemic about how teachers can succeed.

Jerabek is the founder and executive director of BARR (Building Assets, Reducing Risks).

There was no shortage of stories about the tenuous state of schooling in this country as school districts began to reopen this fall.

Now that students are back in class — either in class or online —  we continue to hear about the challenges of making sure that each and every student’s needs are met when they are physically dispersed. Every district is tackling important decisions to ensure they are implementing the right plan for their community at any given point in time. Although students are back to school, there are many strategies requiring continuous roll-out to make sure students have what they need for a successful school year.

The hurdles of this past spring linger into the fall. School leaders are constantly reassessing models that work best for their district, knowing that swift changes may need to occur to contain the spread of the coronavirus in communities. Despite smoother transitions to online teaching, educators are still feeling upside down. The summer and first few weeks of school have provided teachers time to reflect on that experience and focus on how they can keep making improvements.  (more)

Forget the partisan diatribes of commentators like Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham. In the hours after election night, the journalists at Fox News did what was needed. Center director Jeffrey Cole explains.

I cannot believe I am saying this, but kudos to Fox News for its role as a responsible news organization during the 2020 election of Joe Biden as President of the United States.

Credit where credit is due: Fox’s reporting was fair (It’s a very different story with its on-air commentators). Fox understood its role as the only major source of information its loyal audience trusted, and that its reporting in the moments and days after the election could inflame or contain its base’s worst impulses. While no one has the right to such power, Fox News had the choice to stand as an impediment to democracy or as a facilitator for the peaceful transition of power. For choosing the latter, Fox deserves our thanks.

Many of my friends and colleagues in the media and at the USC Annenberg School would surely argue that Fox News does not deserve any credit—and especially thanks—for merely doing what all the other professional news outlets do by reflex. Those other news organizations’ reporters and anchors do not require special instructions on how to cover stories that might disappoint or infuriate its viewers.

While all the above is true, any other behavior could have been dangerous to property and lives as well as our faith in democracy and the future.  (more)

August 12 — A majority of Americans say national elections need to change because of the COVID-19 pandemic, including broad support for voting by mail and online political conventions, reports a new study by the USC Center for the Digital Future.

The study also found major differences in views among liberals and conservatives about the American political process.

The findings on proposed changes in the political process were produced in the second study in the Center’s comprehensive project on the social impact of the coronavirus, conducted during the fourth week of June.

Americans want changes in voting methods and political conventions

The study found 16% of Americans say conventions should be held “as usual.” A majority of Americans believe the national political conventions should change: 51 percent say the conventions should either be held completely online (44%) or not at all (7%).

Statistically identical percentages of Americans support voting by mail (65%) and traditional polling places (64%). Forty-four percent want voting online.

“Americans overall make no distinction between voting in person in a polling booth or voting by mail,” said Jeffrey I. Cole, director of the USC Center for the Digital Future. “But based on political affiliation, we found dramatic differences in views about who should vote, and where they should vote.”  (more)

October 8 — More Americans rely on CNN as their primary information source about COVID-19 than other cable outlets, and Anderson Cooper is trusted by more Americans than other cable commentators, a study by the USC Center for the Digital Future (CDF) has found.

The CDF study also reports extreme differences in views about cable news channels and commentators based on political viewpoint of the respondents.

CNN’s popularity declines, but still leads as cable news source

The CDF study, conducted twice since the pandemic began (April and June), found CNN continues to be the primary source for pandemic news for the largest percentage of Americans – 40% in the June study, down from 49% in April. Fox news held steady with 33% reporting the network as the primary source about the pandemic, the same as in April. The popularity of MSNBC grew in the June study – now 24% of Americans, up from 14% in April.  (more)

October 1, 2020 — In spite of the stress from COVID-19 and stay-at-home restrictions, many Americans continue to say the relationships with their spouses and children have improved during the pandemic, a study by the USC Center for the Digital Future (CDF) has found.

The CDF study, conducted twice since the pandemic began, found in its first survey in April that large percentages of Americans say that relationships at home are better since the pandemic began – and those percentages increased during the Center’s second study in June.  (more)

September 24, 2020 — After more than six months of living in a pandemic, large percentages of Americans continue to indulge in unhealthy lifestyle habits, including overeating, and increased use of alcohol and marijuana – all while many are exercising less, according to a study of the cultural impact of COVID-19 conducted by the USC Center for the Digital Future (CDF).

The CDF study, conducted twice since the pandemic began, found in its first project in April that indulging had increased while exercising declined; the behavior persisted into the Center’s second study in June.  (more)

September 16, 2020 — Six months into the most severe global pandemic in more than a century, are Americans complying with basic precautions to avoid infection and spread of the coronavirus? And will they be vaccinated when a proven treatment for COVID-19 is released?

For many Americans, the answers are no.

A study of the social impact of COVID-19 by the Center for the Digital Future found that while large numbers of Americans do indeed use recommended precautions against infection and spread of the disease, alarmingly high percentages do not participate in these safety programs, and one-fifth will refuse to receive a vaccine.

Do you wear a mask and participate in social distancing?

The Center’s study found many people – but not everyone – take precautions to avoid infection with the coronavirus.

Eighty-three percent of Americans said they participate in social distancing. However, only 77% say they wear a mask.  (more)

September 9, 2020 — A growing number of college students like their online instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic, but many want reduced tuition if their education is online and not in person, reported the second study on the social and cultural impact of the coronavirus conducted by the USC Center for the Digital Future.

The Center’s study found an increase in college students who reported satisfaction with their instruction on the internet: 43% of college students say they enjoy remote learning better than in-class instruction — up from 34% in the Center’s first study in April. While a majority of college students in the current study (52%) say they prefer in-person classroom learning, that number was down from 63% in April.

Fewer students say their teachers are good at adapting their courses for online instruction — now 46%, down from 51% in April. A slightly smaller percentage say they learn less online than in person – 52% in the current study, down marginally from 54% in April.

How do students feel about the online learning environment? A majority of college students in the current study (54%) say they have to work harder when learning online, down slightly from 56% in April. Although a large percentage of college students say their online instruction makes them feel more isolated from their learning community (55%), that number was down from 61% reported in April.  (more)

September 2, 2020 — Increased levels of loneliness and anxiety reported early in the COVID-19 pandemic have declined in recent months, but about one-third of Americans say they are more depressed since the pandemic began, according to a study by the USC Center for the Digital Future.

The second study of the social and cultural impact of the coronavirus conducted by the Center also found two-thirds of Americans who reported increased anxiety are concerned about the future of the world – higher percentages than those who reported being anxious about their own health, politics, their jobs, or safety.

Anxiety and loneliness drop

The study reported 32% of Americans say they are feeling more lonely since the beginning of the pandemic, down from 37% reported in April. Forty-nine percent say they are feeling more anxious, down from 62% reported in April.

However, more than one-third say they are more depressed: 35% of Americans say they are somewhat or much more depressed since the beginning of the pandemic.

Nearly twice as many women (11%) compared to men (6%) say they are much more depressed since the pandemic began.  (more)

August 26, 2020 — Almost all Americans want to change their work life when the COVID-19 pandemic ends, with large percentages ready to shift to a permanent home office, according to a study by the USC Center for the Digital Future.

The study found that working from home during the pandemic has created unique opportunities as well as unprecedented challenges for millions of Americans, including reduced visits to an office, increased working from home, or not going to a traditional office at all.

The study found:

Many Americans want to change their careers and work from home – More than 40 percent (42 percent) want work from home to be permanent, while 25% disagree.

More than one-quarter could adapt all of their job to working from home — For many, working from home could be a permanent reality; 26% could adapt all of their job to work from home; 22% most of their work, 17% some, 9% a little, 26% none.

Work after the pandemic — More than one-third of employees anticipate they will work more from home when the pandemic is over (38% would work more from home, 43% the same, 18% less).  (more)

August 19, 2020 — In spite of efforts to re-open the nation’s economy during the COVID-19 pandemic, most Americans are not comfortable resuming daily life outside the home, and one-quarter say they will do nothing in public until a vaccine is available, reports a study by the USC Center for the Digital Future.

Low percentages of Americans are ready for return to public activities

The study found that other than grocery shopping, most people are uncomfortable doing anything outside their homes right now. For example, only 41% are willing to see a doctor for a non-urgent appointment, and 39% would shop in retail store.

Even fewer said they would dine in a restaurant (25%), stay in a hotel (19%), use public transportation (14%), go to a movie or play (11%), travel by plane or train (11%), or go to a live sports event or concert (8%).

One-quarter will wait for a vaccine to do anything in public.  (more)

Study finds reliance on Trump drops; public support of government response to the coronavirus declines

August 5, 2020 — A growing number of Americans say federal, state, and local governments are doing a poor job of responding to COVID-19, and Anthony Fauci continues to be the nation’s most relied-upon source about the coronavirus, reports a new study by the USC Center for the Digital Future.

Fauci still #1 source for pandemic information; Trump slumps

The Center’s second survey of the social impact of the coronavirus, conducted during the fourth week of June as follow-up to an initial study in April, found more Americans (44%) rely on Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, than any other individual for information about the pandemic.

After Fauci, individuals rely on New York governor Andrew Cuomo (19%), CNN medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta or the respondent’s own mayor (16%), and Coronavirus Response Coordinator Deborah Birx (15%).

The June survey found President Donald Trump is relied on by 12% of Americans for pandemic information, down from 20% in the Center’s survey in April. In the June survey, 29% of conservatives and 2% of liberals said they rely on Trump. The largest level of reliance on Trump was 40% of those who identify themselves as very conservative.  (more)

The coronavirus pandemic has produced unprecedented disruption of our generation, but it could have been So. Much. Worse. Jeffrey Cole explores what our pandemic experience would have been if — like George Bailey in “It’s a Wonderful Life” — the internet had never been born.

The internet won!

In the middle of March, with little warning or preparation, we moved our lives online.

What couldn’t be transferred online simply stopped. Movie theaters, concert halls, and theme parks closed. Baseball and basketball suspended their seasons, and it is still not clear if they will resume, or if the football and hockey seasons will ever start.

Almost all dining in restaurants stopped, and many people were hesitant to eat even at outside tables at the small number that stayed opened. Travel came to a standstill with airlines barely operating and hotels facing little occupancy. Cruise ships will not see passengers for a very long time.

If it couldn’t happen on the internet, it didn’t happen. If it could, it did.  (more)

The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated many trends that already existed, teaching us to stream more and forcing us to reconsider how much we need offices or stores. But as Center director Jeffrey Cole describes, one environment that has resisted evolutionary pressure, though, is college.

This column focuses on how the coronavirus pandemic and the move to learning online has affected the lives of traditional college students under the age of 25 who live on or near campus. A later column will look at less traditional students who may be older, attending part-time or working full-time and may not live near campus.

It’s the middle of June: all across America families are celebrating high school and college graduations. This year it’s very different. Graduates of the class of 2020 will be forever remembered as the Covid Grads, finishing school during the pandemic.

In 2020, there were no proms, grad nights or graduation ceremonies. Some graduated on Zoom—celebrating virtually with their classmates—while others stood in the street in front of their homes while friends and families drove by honking from a safe distance.

Most college students living away, whether they were seniors or not, finished the last months of the school year by packing up their belongings and moving back in with Mom and Dad.

As bad as it was for those finishing the school year, it will be even worse for the high school grads starting their first year of college in the fall. Forget summer travel before starting college. Forget freshman orientation as they get introduced to their living arrangements on a new campus.

The only travel in their future will be to their parents’ basement, where they will not need an orientation. All of the experiences of moving to college, making friends and meeting roommates, regulating their own hours and behaviors, and sitting in a classroom soaking up knowledge may have to be deferred for a semester or more.  (more)

How much of our lives can we squeeze through Zoom and other videoconference services? A recent funeral marked out a boundary.

By Brad Berens

When a family member dies, the script is clear: you scramble the jets, cancel your appointments, lean on a friend to watch the dog, and get there. For me, that means getting to Los Angeles from Portland.

My aunt, Marlene Meyer, my mother’s sister, died on May 15th. She was 86, vibrant, still working as an insurance agent days before her death, not ready to die. Our family wasn’t ready either. We do not know if she had contracted Coronavirus — a maddening ambiguity — but we do know that Coronavirus changed her decline, death, and funeral.

I’ve lived in Oregon since 2009, always aware that the biggest challenge of being far from where I grew up and where my first family still lives would be moments like these.

The script is clear, but Coronavirus changed the script.  (more)

May 21, 2020 — While many Americans agree that the coronavirus is changing life at home on an unprecedented scale, men and women report significant differences in their views and behavior, according to the first comprehensive study of the social and cultural impact of the pandemic conducted by the Center for the Digital Future at USC Annenberg and the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB).

“We are seeing many differences between how men and women are experiencing life during the pandemic – especially in their levels of concern about the effects of the coronavirus, what they miss, and what they enjoy,” said Jeffrey Cole, director of the Center for the Digital Future.

The overall findings released April 29 in the Center’s study, “The Coronavirus Disruption Project: Living and Coping During the Pandemic,” revealed many changes in views and behavior – both positive and negative – reported by Americans since the pandemic and safer-at-home restrictions began.  (For an overview of key issues found in the study, go here.)

Looking more closely at the study’s findings about life at home reveals some sharp differences between men and women and how they are experiencing the pandemic.  (more)

(For comprehensive material about the Coronavirus Disruption Project Study — reports, PDFs, and releases — go here.)

Going to work: a commute of ten miles or ten feet?

Data from the Center’s new Coronavirus Disruption Project suggests that many Americans will never go back to daily commutes to work in offices, and as Center director Jeffrey Cole explains, that’s not a bad thing, either.

The phrase “going to work” has taken on an entirely new meaning.

Two months ago, most of us had never heard of Zoom. Now, for those who are working at home during the Coronavirus pandemic, Zoom is a way of life.

Zoom has moved into a rarefied atmosphere of the tiny list of companies whose brands that have become verbs: Google, Xerox, Uber. The invitation is not, “do you want to join me in a Zoom Meeting,” but rather, “let’s Zoom.”

The latest unemployment figures, the highest since the Great Depression, show that about 15% of Americans are unemployed. Other than essential workers (health care, delivery, police, supermarkets), the rest have moved much (if not all) of our jobs online. We made this move in a matter of days without preparation. Many of us did it without any prior experience doing our jobs online.

Data from the Center’s new study with the Interactive Advertising Bureau, “The Coronavirus Disruption Project: Living and Coping During the Pandemic,” shows that moving our work lives online has been a success — particularly compared to other activities we have been compelled to move online, such as school work.  (more)

April 29, 2020 – Americans coping with the coronavirus are reporting changes in their lives occurring in days that previously took months or years, a wide-ranging study of life during the pandemic conducted by the USC Center for the Digital Future and the Interactive Advertising Bureau has found.

The study shows Americans report many concerns about their lives as well as increased loneliness and anxiety since the outset of the coronavirus pandemic, but they also describe strengthened relationships and enjoying the benefits of working at home.

Titled “The Coronavirus Disruption Project: How We are Living and Coping During the Pandemic,” the study also found significant percentages of Americans who had never previously banked online or bought from internet sources have now been pushed into the online experience because of the pandemic.

“We are exploring the biggest disruption of our lives,” said Jeffrey Cole, director of the Center for the Digital Future in the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. “Daily life is far more disrupted by the pandemic than after 9/11 or the beginning of World War II, and anxiety is at levels only seen after Pearl Harbor and the Great Depression.

“Yet in spite of the upheaval,” Cole said, “we also found that Americans have positive views about their relationships and hope for how their lives will proceed after the pandemic ends.”  (more)

From the Center’s Future of  Health Care Study.

Infographic by Kelsey Dempsey.

See all of the Center’s infographics here

How quickly should one reply to a personal message received online? What is the appropriate length of time? And has the perceived appropriate length changed over the years?

We have asked this question in our Digital Future Survey since 2012… (more)

The Center has published the tenth edition of World Internet Project report, the collaboration between the Center for the Digital Future and partner organizations in countries worldwide.

The 47-page study explores views and behavior about internet use and non-use, devices for internet access, years online, user proficiency, reasons for not going online, politics and the internet, freedom of expression online, media reliability, online security and personal privacy, and activities on the internet.

Download the tenth World Internet Project Report here.

Center director Jeffrey Cole explores transformation of the media for the keynote address at the leadership meeting of the Interactive Advertising Bureau.

View the video here.