11 November 2016

INNOVATE - New York Times Partners with Samsung for VR Journalism

The New York Times is expanding its Virtual Reality (VR) journalism with a new feature – The Daily 360.

Each video offers an immersive VR experience, following stories as diverse as election coverage to fiddling in the Canadian wilds.

The New York Times first stepped into VR with their NYT VR app, and mailing out Google Cardboards to each of their Sunday print subscribers. Although the app, and Google Cardboard, are not actually VR, they did represent a move towards more immersive editorial delivery.

The Daily 360 is a step closer to actual VR journalism, since the New York Times has partnered with Samsung and their Samsung Gear 360 equipment for shooting the immersive videos.

Although still a ways away from the level of responsiveness that marks true VR, such as what users are engaging with in the HTC Vive or the Oculus Rift, these immersive videos do create a particularly interactive and engaging new form of journalism.

And the Times signature focus on politics and current events isn’t the only area that might benefit from the new focus.

Times editor, Sam Dolnick, who is overseeing the VR initiatives, told Neiman Lab that “We’re also experimenting with formats. We’re looking at an experience that we jokingly call ‘meditative VR.’ These are single-shot, no-cuts videos of some beautiful place.”

This could allow users to engage with the digital magazine in a new way, opening up the potential to keep users engaged for longer periods of time, more regularly.

The current average user time within the Daily 360 videos is 6.5 minutes.

Another opportunity for the New York Times and other digital media outlets is in reaching a broader audience by ensuring their VR journalism is accessible.

Samsung has already worked with accessibility-focused designers like Katie Goode. Although the current focus of accessibility-in-VR work is in game development, as media outlets push forward into VR journalism, it will become more of an issue.

Accessibility in existing social media is already an area of significant research and development, and VR journalism will push that issue even further.

VR journalism is at the leading edge of incorporating new technology into media creation and consumption.

Although it does have the potential to open up new partnership and revenue streams for media outlets, it’s also risky. But these forward-thinking risks will become more common as the industry continues to struggle with plunging ad revenue and changing consumer demands.

By Tiffany Sostar
Tiffany is a writer, editor, academic, and animal lover who came late to her appreciation of pets. At 18, a rescue pup named Tasha saved her from a depression and she hasn't looked back. She has worked as the canine behaviour program coordinator for the Calgary Humane Society, and was a dog trainer specializing in working with fearful and reactive dogs for many years. She doesn't have any pets right now, but makes up for it by giving her petsitting clients (and any dogs she comes across on her frequent coffee shop adventures) extra snuggles.

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