The Need for High-Quality Data in a Time of Global Crisis

Posted on March 25, 2020 by Shai Schwartz

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Today’s outbreak of the coronavirus is often being compared to the Spanish flu of 1918, which was estimated to have a death total of between 17 million and 100 million people. Both are highly contagious viral diseases without clear medical treatment and prevention. Medical experts of the Spanish flu actually encouraged preventative measures strikingly similar to today’s coronavirus measures – social distancing, hand washing, wearing masks and quarantining of infected citizens. 

Thankfully, there are also major differences between the two epidemics that are in our favor. For one, today’s medical system is far more advanced than in 1918. We have sophisticated global communications and an international community that can come to the aid of countries in crisis. Today we are not fighting a world war.  

Another striking difference between the two time periods is the amount of data we have about this epidemic and are continuing to produce at an astounding rate. 

Here are three reasons businesses and organizations will need to ensure they have access to continuous high-quality, relevant web data during this global crisis. 

1. The Wrong News Can Kill People 

The World Health Organization (WHO) director general said as early as February that not only is the coronavirus a pandemic, it’s also an infodemic. The WHO and other trustworthy sites have taken upon themselves to try to educate the public about these fake news stories.

Public awareness campaign of coronavirus from the WHO

These fake news stories about the virus are rampant on social media, and we know that fake news spreads faster than real news. And when misinformation about health is shared on social media, it can harm people’s health – or even kill them.

Social media companies like Google, Twitter, Facebook Whatsapp and Reddit have also  pledged to do their best to combat the wave of ill-informed posts. But these stories are multiplying at a staggering rate, and identifying them manually is close to impossible. 

One method for automatically identifying these fake news stories at scale is by developing machine-learning or AI algorithms with datasets. Researchers, organizations and businesses have already been using datasets such as the Fake News Corpus, with over 9 million articles from both the New York Times and Webhose’s English article datasets. 

Now they can apply it towards separating fact from fiction about the coronavirus. 

2. Customers’ Needs Have Changed Abruptly 

Consider that now more than 100 million people around the globe are in some sort of quarantine and millions of employees are working from home. They have radically different needs than they did last month – or even last week. 

Your clients need to suddenly be able to answer questions like: 

  • What are the latest buying trends of my customers, now that they have radically different ways to spend their leisure time and lives in general? 

  • Is my brand being mentioned with regards to the COVID-19 virus? How? 

  • Will demand for the products I’m currently offering increase or decrease? Are customers influenced by panic-buying now buying a different product now instead?  

  • In light of travel bans and border closing, is my offering still relevant for the target audience in that geographic region? Or should I focus temporarily on another region instead?

Web data plays a key role in answering these questions. By continually monitoring news, blogs, discussions and reviews on millions of sites in hundreds of languages, Webhose provides the data you need to deliver your customers and stay on top of their changing needs during these global crises. 

3. Gauging Investor Sentiment in the Financial Markets

Alternative web data, with its scale and diversity, can be vital in crisis like this to gauge investor sentiment. 

Webhose’s News API can monitor over 2 million data sources in 120 different languages with over 10 years of history. This is crucial as the virus spreads to different geographic locations and impacts different financial markets. SESAMm, a big data company that helps clients construct forecasts and strategies has leveraged Webhose’s News API to find the peaks in mentions of COVID-19 online from various countries. After a peak period, the number of mentions declined, hinting at an economic recovery. 

Source: SESAMm

Alternative web data can help these financial companies identify signals that the market is on its way to recovery.

Here at Webhose we hope this crisis will be over soon. But in the meantime, we’ll continue to do what we do best – deliver you comprehensive, up-to-date web data in these trying times.

Interested in learning more about how web data can assist you in a time of crisis? Start your 10-day free trial today.