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Media (R)evolutions: Virtual Reality – a future business model for newsrooms?

Darejani Markozashvili's picture
New developments and curiosities from a changing global media landscape: People, Spaces, Deliberation brings trends and events to your attention that illustrate that tomorrow's media environment will look very different from today's, and will have little resemblance to yesterday's.
 
Virtual reality (VR) in journalism is still in its early years of development. However, it has enormous potential to transform the way news content is made and consumed. Offering a new narrative form, VR has become increasingly popular in newsrooms. Is this the way of the future? Is virtual reality a feasible way to present news? Is this a lucrative stream of revenue for newsrooms?

VR is “an immersive media experience that replicates either a real or imagined environment and allows users to interact with this world in ways that feel as if they are there.” Immersive storytelling may come in a few forms such as “virtual reality,” “augmented reality” and “spherical/360-degree video.”  While early experimentation of VR in media focused on documentaries, by 2017 there is a larger variety of VR news content expanding to short features, foreign correspondence, political news coverage and others.

According to the recent report from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, further success of VR in journalism is highly dependent not only on good/diverse content, but also on the adaptation of VR headsets by consumers to fully immerse themselves in the virtual reality experience. While the experimentation of virtual reality storytelling has been on the rise, the adaptation of VR headsets by consumers is still low. It is estimated that total high-end headset sales are around 2 million worldwide. Others predict that by 2020 up to 34 million headsets will be sold, with virtual reality market reaching $150 billion in sales

VR adoption in newsrooms also varies. While some newsrooms choose to do high-end VR (360 video or CGI based) content, others are resorting to low-end 360-degree videos that allow the viewer to see the entire scene, look up, down and around. The New York Times, one of the pioneers of VR experimentation in the newsroom, is producing both high-end and The Daily 360 content distributed via their NYTVR app and via their website. Some other media outlets such as Euronews, CNN, Blick, USA Today Network, ARTE, the Guardian, Die Welt, Dagens Nyheter, Sky, are also experimenting with the new tool and driving digital innovation in newsrooms.  

Are you interested in virtual reality storytelling in journalism? You may find these resources useful:

  1. VR for News: The New Reality?” by Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. 
  2. Viewing the Future? Virtual Reality in Journalism” by Knight Foundation;
  3. Virtual Reality Journalism” by Tow Center;
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