As part of the launch for its upcoming NYT VR app, The New York Times plans to send out 1 million Google Cardboards – an affordable virtual reality headset that works with both iOS and Android devices – to its print subscribers. The publisher has teamed up with VR content company VRSE to create a brand new VR documentary titled “The Displaced,” which lets viewers experience the lives of three homeless refugee children, to accompany the debut of its branded VR content app next month.
What Brands Need To Do
Just last week, InStyle magazine debuted their first VR-enhanced issue. While The New York Times isn’t the first publisher to create original VR content, it will be the first publisher to deliver VR experiences to its audience at a large scale. With the $99 Samsung Gear VR coming this Christmas and Facebook’s Oculus shipping its first consumer-facing headset in Q1 2016, next year is poised to be a monumental year for virtual reality. But as a nascent medium, VR development still suffers from a lack of quality content. Now with a media institution as influential as The New York Times officially entering the VR content market, it is time for brands to team up with media owners and content creators to explore the possibility of engaging their audience with VR content.
At SXSW, The New York Times announced a new app called NYT Now that looks set to compete with short-form, curated news apps like Yahoo’s Digest, Flipboard, and others. It’s an app that will, much like Yahoo, have a dedicated staff responsible for picking stories and editing them down for mobile consumption. The Times suggests that the stories will be more visual than their web content, featuring short paragraphs and bullet points to get the the meat of the story in fewer words. As well, the app will have an “Our Picks” tab that highlights other, editor-chosen content from around the web. There is also a Pocket-like “Save for Later” section that’s fairly self explanatory. The ultimate goal of the app is to get to a younger, mobile crowd that might not otherwise consider NYT as a news source. That said, the app is subscription based, with all this content available for $8/month, which includes access to full versions of stories featured on the app. Whether the price is too steep remains to be seen, but what’s clear is that publishers are responding to consumer demand for elegant mobile solutions to getting news – and, at its core, content – on the go.
While visual brands have gained traction on Instagram, newspapers have been more reluctant on the platform that boasts over 150 million users. A lack of embedded links and no form of monetization are likely the detractors so see if Instagram will begin to support these on the brink of their advertising debut. For the time being, a host of publishers like the NY and LA Times are beginning to use it for their lifestyle stories supplementing with short form video.
The New York Times is experimenting with a new form of Twitter integration which lets users share selected text from within an article on Twitter opposed to simply tweeting the article’s titles. Users who click through the tweet are directed to the selected text within the page. The new functionality will enable readers to share the material which resonates most with them. NYT has been aggressive on Twitter, even selling ad packages based on the most shared stories on the social network (called Spark) so it only makes sense to encourage more flexible integrations.
Stringwire, a web service that enables live video streaming by broadcasters, was purchased by NBC News to try to compete with real-time, Internet-based news that’s often breaking faster than traditional networks can handle. Stringwire works by trawling Twitter for messages about breaking events, and sends an automatic tweet to that poster asking them to click a link and point their phone (or camera, as the case may be) at what they’re seeing. That video can then start streaming to NBC without any additional feedback. NBC says that the video submissions will be vetted like any other NBC material, but ultimately the goal is relying on crowd-sourced, live video streamed right into its control rooms to build out its coverage in a world increasingly used to interactive, quick-fire news.
Uber, the popular on demand ride service app, announced that the hackathon-founded feature of split ride payments is coming to life in the app. The feature is now live in the iOS store, and will be coming to Google Play in the near future. Uber says that you can now split fares by inviting friends from the contact list, or by entering their phone numbers during your trip. Once confirmed, Uber automatically divides the cost by however many riders are added.
The Times has announced a new startup incubator called TimeSpace and is seeking three to five companies in its first round.
To see an example of a newspaper innovating their digital offering, check out the New York Times’ special Snow Fall project. Using interactive graphics, media and a well written narrative, snow fall details a freak avalanche in Washington State but more importantly demonstrates a new way of storytelling in the digital age. The piece has received 2.9 million visits and 3.5 page views to date.
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