As the market ramps up for mainstream acceptance of virtual reality (VR) technology, journalism has begun experimenting with the medium to see how it can fit in the context of reporting. Joining the ranks of BBC and ESPN, The New York Times launched their own new VR reporting segment on November 1, 2016.
Called “The Daily 360,” the Times has released 360-degree videos on different subjects around the world every day, and their goal is to stick to that schedule in order to promote this technology within journalism. This scheduling regularity is important because it will encourage consumers to view the channel as more than a gimmick: 360 video is just another technological tool used in their reporting, nothing more.
According to the introductory post on the New York Times website, these “immersive videos put you at the center of the scene, allowing you to look left, right, up, down and behind you,” describing “The Daily 360” as a “new way to experience the journalism of The New York Times.”
To be clear, the VR moniker is a bit misleading here. “The Daily 360” initiative is based on 360-degree video and does not require a VR headset. Instead, consumers can watch these videos on computers, phones, or tablets and click or tap their way around the video. These videos can be found on both the New York Times website and on the NYTimes app.
This is not The New York Times’ first foray into 360 video technology either. Last year, the company launched a VR app, and users could experience things such as the Paris vigils after the attacks last November. In fact, the New York Times gave away 1 million Google Cardboards for free in order to boost its early forays into VR videos, and they have already created an award-winning VR movie with The Displaced, which follows three families displaced due to war and persecution.
However, there is a notable drop in video quality with “The Daily 360.” This is to be expected, as you cannot create videos of the same quality as The Displaced on a daily basis. As a result of the need to produce regular content, “The Daily 360” segments are generally shorter and use more modest 360 cameras. The videos themselves offer a broad range of content. The first clip revealed a destroyed building in war-torn Yemen. Others include election coverage, surfing an arctic beach, Standing Rock, and yoga with goats.
To foster this regular content creation, The New York Times has partnered with Samsung and uses their gear, including the Gear 360 camera, to make the 360 videos. While the Gear 360 camera does not have the highest image resolution, it does offer a simple and easy to use editing tool, which is sure to be beneficial to the reporters and cameramen who must adapt and learn this medium quickly. As part of The New York Times partnership with Samsung, “The Daily 360” will also be available on Samsung VR, its premium VR service, as well as in an exhibit within Samsung 837, a building/digital playground in New York City.
So why is “The Daily 360” important? The New York Times is one of the most respected names in journalism, and their entry into 360 video reporting could lend some much-needed respect and attention to the growing medium. An interesting connection here can be made between The New York Times and digital design. Digital design is one of the most rapidly growing fields right now on the very cutting edge of the technology industry, and the best designers focus on one thing: connecting the latest technology to consumers and focusing on usability and the consumer experience.
With “The Daily 360,” The New York Times is focusing on this concept of usability regarding 360 video and is hard at work figuring out what consumers want from the 360 video experience, which is clear from the broad range of content they already offer. As The New York Times forges ahead with this new technology, we may see a breakthrough in 360 reporting as journalists gather more data on what the consumer desires in such an immersive experience in the same way that designers can break through markets to bring technology to the right shape and form right to consumers’ fingertips.
Experimentation is the first step to success in a new market, and that is exactly the approach The New York Times is taking with “The Daily 360.” Journalists would do well to take note of this new channel in the coming months as it may well show where the future of 360 reporting is heading.
Written by Susy McNeil
(Edited by Cherese Jackson)
Susy McNeil has been working in the retail industry and entertainment industry for over four years. She eventually transitioned to publishing to pursue her passion for storytelling. You may connect with her on Twitter.
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Top Image Courtesy of othree – Flickr License
Featured Image Courtesy of NYC Media Lab – Flickr License
Inline Image Courtesy of Susy McNeil