By: Marina De Rosa
COVID-19 has taken the world by storm, leaving everyone affected. Whether it be contracting the virus, suffering the loss of a loved one, completing school online, working from home, or struggling in business, COVID-19 does not discriminate and as reached its arms long and wide. According to the World Health Organization the COVID-19 pandemic has put millions of people at risk to falling to poverty. Additionally, the increase in the number of “undernourished” families in the United States is expected to increase by up to 132 million due to the food and natural resource shortages the pandemic will, and has already, affected. One are that has taken a major hit in the pandemic is the economy. “Nearly half of the worlds 3.3 billion global workforce are at risk of losing their livelihood.” Without a steady paying job, billions of families in the United States will add to the poverty and underprivileged numbers, to a point that may not be repairable in the near future.
While it’s hard to say anything is “flourishing” during the time of COVID-19, it’s not a stretch to make such a statement about the internet, considering the internet seems to be the only thing able to safely connect people again while quarantines are still in effect. A recent Pew Research Center survey found that 53% of Americans consider the internet and technology essential during the pandemic, and 34% find it “important.” The difference being those who find it essential need the internet for daily life (such as work, and school) and those finding it important do not rely on these tools as much for work but more for entertainment and connecting with others. One form of internet users that are doing particularly well during the global pandemic are digital media companies. Digital media companies are companies that, “develop and delivers both content and functionality… text, video, graphics, code and applications to customers across all electronic media, from online to mobile.” Essentially, they are online publishers. These online publishers can take any form, such as a website or an app, or both. This is not to say that digital media companies have not had their fair share of hardships during the pandemic, research shows that these companies have been struggling to keep business as well. But these companies are more equipped to survive.
Another thing these digital media companies are more equipped to do is help. With their platform being online, and the mass majority of people using the internet now, these companies have a unique opportunity to stand with the community during this time of uncertainty and need. One company who stands out amongst the rest is Barstool Sports (Barstool).
Barstool is a digital media company started in 2003 by Dave Portnoy. What was once a print publication on sports gambling has now turned into a multi-million-dollar enterprise. Part of Barstools success is their appearance on more than just one platform. Barstool has podcasts, vlogs, Instagram, Twitter, a webpage, an app, anything considered the internet there’s a good chance Barstool is on it. With this success Portnoy used his platform to raise money and donate to small businesses across the country. Portnoy announced the fund on December 17 on all of his platforms, and within 10 days the find had already raised 6 million dollars for small businesses. Through their multi-media platform marketing Barstool Fund has not only gained support from their typical middle aged middle class followers, but they have reached new heights in support from celebrities to professional athletes. Popular musician Kid Rock has donated $100,000 to the fund, while professional athlete Aaron Rodgers donated $500,000 and is “fully on onboard” making this a “call to action” for his teammates, fans, and sponsors. With the mass amounts of support from all different places the Barstool Fund has currently raised over $34,000,000 for over 200 small businesses. The link to donated to the Barstool Sports Fundraiser can be found here: https://www.barstoolsports.com/the-barstool-fund.
The simplicity of Barstool’s small business application and the reach the company has over the internet has made this digital media company one of the leading companies in the times of the pandemic. Barstool is not the only company donating to small businesses, but they are the perfect example that digital media companies can do more than just produce content, and that digital media companies may be the only ones who can create change at a pace that will help the economy withstand the hardships of the global pandemic. Companies like GoFundMe, created specifically to produce funds, have been helping other businesses create digital platforms to help fundraise for COVID-19 relief.
Digital Media Companies are not the only form of technology helping small businesses during this pandemic. Small businesses themselves have become savvy in the way they conduct their business, as most of them have everything to lose if their business fails. So, these businesses took technology into their own hands. In addition to using social medial platforms like Instagram and Facebook to create a “digital store front,” businesses have also created ways to keep their brick and mortar stores alive using technology. Touchless sales have become important, and the company making that possible for small businesses? PayPal. PayPal has set up a new program, called PayPal QR Codes. If you’ve been to a restaurant that’s open during the pandemic you’ve most likely seen what these QR Codes are. Customers can scan a QR Codes that the business usually has either printed and taped to the table or posted on their door or near the cash register. Once the QR Code is scanned a menu will pop up on the customer’s phone listing that restaurant’s menu, so that customer’s don’t have to touch a menu and their dining experience is as contactless as a dining experience can be. PayPal QR codes have also made it easier for small businesses other than restaurants to stay alive during the pandemic. All you have to do is download the PayPal app, the business owner has a PayPal QR Code, and the customer can scan the code to complete a transaction without ever touching a product, credit card system, or cash. This PayPal QR Code system has made it easier for small business owners to show customers the products they have, without walking around a store together touching and picking products up, and then having a contactless transaction at the end as well. One or two QR Codes on one app has saved multiple business owners from going under due to the public’s widespread and well founded fear of contracting COVID-19.
While COVID-19 has affected our society in more ways than one it is clear that we have to keep moving forward. Technology and digital media have made surviving in a global pandemic bearable, but they have also helped make it sustainable. The improvements in the online world prompted by COVID-19 not only help the digital companies in making changes to fit the market, but it also helps the market to survive. While you probably can’t say anything great came out of this ongoing pandemic, it is safe to say it pushed for improvements in the digital world, and in humanity towards others.
 Kimberly Chriscaden, Impact of COVID-19 on People’s Livelihoods, Their Health, and Our Food System, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION (Oct. 13, 2020), https://www.who.int/news/item/13-10-2020-impact-of-covid-19-on-people’s-livelihoods-their-health-and-our-food-systems#:~:text=The%20economic%20and%20social%20disruption,the%20end%20of%20the%20year.
 Emily A. Vogels, ET AL., 53% of Americans Say the Internet Has Been Essential During the COVID-19 Outbreak, PEW RESEARCH CENTER (Apr. 30, 2020), https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2020/04/30/53-of-americans-say-the-internet-has-been-essential-during-the-covid-19-outbreak/
Alex Ford, Now Trending: The Digital Media Company, FORD LOGIC (Sept. 2, 2013), https://fordlogic.com/2013/09/02/now-trending-the-digital-media-company/#:~:text=However%2C%20it%20is%20important%20to,media%2C%20from%20online%20to%20mobile.
 An Inside Look at the Impact of COVID-19 on Digital Agencies, MARKETING WEEK (Jun. 10, 2020), https://www.marketingweek.com/impact-covid-19-digital-agencies/
 Sean Speer, How Barstool is Taking Pandemic Aid into its Own Hands, POST MEDIA BREAKING NEWS (Jan. 15 2021), LEXIS. It is important to note that while Dave Portnoy did start Barstool Sports he has hired a new CEO, Erika Nardini, who has been the CEO for 5 years.
 WTOL Newsroom, Barstool Sports Raises Millions of Dollars to Help Struggling Small Businesses, KENS5, (Dec. 26, 2020), https://www.kens5.com/article/news/health/coronavirus/barstool-sports-raises-millions-of-dollars-to-help-struggling-small-businesses/512-e413da81-1b09-4140-abf0-862507aa4e36
 Spear, supra note 13.
 Lucas Manfredi, Kid Rock Commits 6 Figures to Barstool Sports Fund for Small Businesses, FOX BUSINESS (Jan. 4, 2021), https://www.foxbusiness.com/small-business/kid-rock-commits-six-figures-to-barstool-small-biz-fund; Liz Gonzales, Aaron Rodgers Says the Barstool Fund has a Message of Hope and Love That Nobody Else is Offering and is Officially Onboard, BARSTOOL SPORTS (Jan. 8, 2021), https://www.barstoolsports.com/blog/3234959/aaron-rodgers-says-the-barstool-fund-has-a-message-of-hope-and-love-that-nobody-else-is-offering-and-is-officially-onboard
 The Barstool Fund, supra note 15.
 Spear, supra note 13.
 Rosa Hernandez, Fundraising for Coronavirus Relief: How You Can Help the Fight, GO FUND ME, (Oct. 13, 2020), https://www.gofundme.com/c/blog/fundraising-for-coronavirus
 Allison Hatfield, 7 Ways Technology is Helping Small Businesses During COVID-19, THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS (Nov. 20, 2020), https://www.dallasnews.com/business/2020/11/20/7-ways-technology-is-helping-small-businesses-during-covid-19/