The news is VR
Journalists and news organisations are working hard on virtual reality and news VR is expanding beyond its documentary focus. However, most news organisations will admit that there’s still not enough good content to drive audience engagement, while most is technically just 360 video rather than fully immersive VR, according to the VR for News: The New Reality report from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.
The study finds that while many news organisations have leant on partnerships with tech companies such as Google and Samsung to expand their VR activities, monetisation remains a central challenge. No-one has yet cracked either advertising- or subscription-based models for making virtual reality technology pay, which is no small issue in a revenue-poor industry.
News organisations were disastrously slow in understanding the impact of the Internet and many believe VR gives them another shot at the digital prize.
“This is an opportunity for the news industry to stay current and ahead of the curve,” says Paul Cheung, formerly head of interactive news production at AP and currently director of visual Journalism at NBC News Digital. “I feel like the news industry is having a role in shaping the outcome of [VR and 360], which is vital because that means in the early stages we are thinking not only about how to tell the story but what will the business model look like.”
There’s certainly optimism around VR news.
“We think that VR could be an active revenue stream in the future,” Varun Shetty, business and operations lead for VR at the New York Times. “And that’s something that we’re exploring now, whether it’s through advertisers, or through relationships with platforms. We’re trying to suss out whether there is a full business case for VR.”
However, the UK-based Digital Production Partnership remains cautious, advising broadcasters and television production companies that they should feel little pressure to act just yet on VR. “If ever there was an area where it is appropriate to be a follower rather than an early adopter, this is it,” the DPP says.
Not everyone in the UK is tending towards a head-on-the-sand approach. The Guardian is busy developing a high-end CGI-based experience delivered by apps for Cardboard, Gear VR, and Daydream and has been promoting its content prominently on its website and by commissioning VR content. The makes Guardian readers and the wider industry are made aware that the company is embracing the future with VR.
One example of The Guardian’s high-profile approach is its recent virtual reality project, First Impressions, which enables audiences explore how a baby sees the world during the first six months of life.
Image: The Guardian