Foursquare Tracks TV-Correlated Offline Behavior

Data Scout is Localogy’s series that curates and draws meaning from third-party data. Running semi-weekly, it adds an analytical layer to the industry data that we encounter in daily knowledge building. For Localogy original data, see the separate Modern Commerce Monitor™️ series.


Over the past eight months, SMB SaaS players have put their platforms to work to define shifting consumer behavior. As examined in our Covid Location Index, this includes location data players whose foot-traffic measurement engines have been repurposed to track Covid-era local shopping trends.

One of the companies leading the charge in those localized marketing efforts was Foursquare. And now it’s back with a similar foot-traffic study, but with a slightly different spin. It has examined how TV news viewership influences real-world behavior. Does your choice of network impact your local shopping?

To do this, Foursquare looked at U.S. foot-traffic patterns since March, and delineated behavior based on MSNBC viewers versus Fox News viewers. In our view, loyalty to either of these networks indicates political leaning, which in turn correlates to some degree to real-world behavior.

“Over the past few years we’ve spent a lot of time thinking about and measuring the impact of TV ads on store visits, but we wanted to expand that scope to start thinking about the impact of actual TV programming & content on real-world behaviors,” Foursquare director of data & insights, Ariel Segal Eck told Localogy Insider. “One way to do this that we thought it would be interesting was to look into where people get their news in order to understand what impact that has on real-world behavior.”

Divergence of Opinion

And the results? As shown above, Fox News loyalists have been active in the physical world significantly more than MSNBC viewers since April 2020. Throughout March, both groups demonstrated similar behavior with low foot traffic outside of their homes, but then the groups diverged significantly.

Wrapping some numbers around that divergence, MSNBC loyalists reduced out-of-home foot traffic by as much as 30 percent. Fox loyalist foot-traffic conversely dropped by 22 percent in the same period. MSNBC viewers’ foot-traffic didn’t reach pre-pandemic levels until mid-June, while Fox viewers did so in mid-May

The above speaks to viewers’ overall local offline activity, but there are also differences in behavior when segmenting the types of businesses visited.  Specifically, Fox loyalists have shown greater patronage to non-essential businesses including bars, salons clothing stores and gyms, according to the study.

As for methodology, Foursquare profiled users’ TV habits based on TV viewership data from Inscape. It then cross-referenced that data with its own foot-traffic data from millions of users in its opted-in first-party panel. It used the top 20 percent of viewers for each channel to remove occasional viewers.

Breaking it Down

As for other behavioral differences between these groups:

— MSNBC viewers are more likely than the average American to visit law schools +(39%), medical schools (+60%), and universities overall (+13%).

— MSNBC viewers are more likely than the average U.S. consumer to visit private schools (+19%) and playgrounds (+18%).

— MSNBC viewers are more likely to visit yoga studios (+27%), cycle studios (+25%), gym pools (+19%), and fitness centers (+11%).

— Fox News viewers are more likely than the average American to visit clubhouses (+29%) and social clubs (+18%), leisure sports like tennis courts (+54%) and golf courses (+46%).

— Fox News viewers are more likely than the average American to visit airport lounges (+26%), baggage claims (+39%), airport gates (+24%), vacation rentals (+39%), resorts (+33%), and hotels (+13%).

Fox News viewers are more likely than the average American to visit upscale dining and nightlife categories like steakhouses (+29%) and seafood restaurants (+23%).

Target Personas

So what’s the takeaway? It’s clear that TV watching can correlate to political leaning, which in turn correlates to local offline shopping behavior. Though this is all interesting from a general interest standpoint — especially in a politically charged election cycle — there are strategic implications too.

Specifically, this exercise further validates audience targeting as an effective form of localized marketing. Specifically, location intelligence can be used to profile audience segments, which can then inform targeted and behaviorally-relevant brand messaging. This is about targeting people rather than places.

Put another way, there are lots of flavors of location-based advertising. Targeting ads based on where someone is standing is rather one-dimensional because location is the only relevance trigger. However, audience targeting that’s informed by last location-behavior can be powerful in reaching target personas.

We’ll continue tracking all data sources that bring these proof points to light.

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