The New York Times has launched a new virtual reality platform in the form of an app called NYT VR. To promote the new app, the NYT will be distributing over a million, free, branded Google Cardboard headsets to it’s print and digital subscribers. The first of the headsets were distributed to all Sunday print subscribers along with the regular Sunday paper over the weekend of Nov 8, 2015.
There are currently 4 videos in the app with a new one expected in December:
Follows the lives of three refugee children from South Sudan, eastern Ukraine, and Syria. The video was made in cooperation with Vrse, a major producer in VR storytelling. It features an interesting camera perspective, with some of the shots actually being shot by the children as they run through the streets.
Walking New York
Explores the making of the NYT’s Walking New York cover with artist JR. The video lets you stand inside JR’s studio as he talks about his art and how he created the street art for the cover.
A promotional video from MINI USA, featuring an immersive adventure of a diamond heist with an unexpected turn. This video was launched in early September, so I assume it is maybe a paid placement in the app?
How Nature is Inspiring our Industrial Future
A promotional video by GE featuring a visually exciting exploration of how nature is inspiring an industrial future. I couldn’t find a YouTube video of this, but I will update when and if it appears. In the meantime, you can view it on the NYT AR website here. This video was one of my favorites because of all the 3D graphics, snakes and flying. The entire experience makes you forget you are watching branded content.
Bold Moves and a Big Experiment
As we have previously discussed, one of the first and greatest challenges of VR is getting devices into people’s hands. The NYT is taking a very bold move by both, exploring this new medium of VR journalism, as well as investing in such a huge device distribution strategy. It will be interesting to see how the platform evolves and how subscribers adapt to the new medium.
We are also looking forward to seeing what types of upcoming content the NYT has planned. The current lineup at launch features two pieces of original content and two branded promotional pieces. As a platform for new immersive journalism, the NYT seems to be making it clear up front that there is room for both content and advertising. The real test will be once the devices are widely distributed, if subscribers will take the time to download the branded content in addition the the original content.
#nytvr on Twitter
You can follow the reactions to the new platform on Twitter by following the hashtag #nytvr
A few of my favorites:
— David W. Chen (@davidwchen) November 7, 2015
— Anna Maltby (@amalt) November 12, 2015
— Meredith Post (@meredithwhitney) November 11, 2015
After the release of the app, there were mixed reviews. Wired called the release a big mainstream moment (We agree!) while Fortune complained about how it made some people feel sick. While it is true, VR can make people feel ill, this is also to be expected, especially from an older demographic of users who strap a phone to their face and experience VR for the first time.
Admittedly, VR is not for everyone. Most people think it is amazing while some people just get dizzy. But its the same with roller coasters and hang gliding, and there were probably people who complained when the Wright Brothers flew the first airplane… so…??
Only time will tell, but we are in exciting times. The bottom line is, The New York Times just handed out free virtual reality to their subscribers and we think that is pretty amazing, so we have to give them major props for jumping in with this experiment in a big way.
Welcome to the future of media!
Sean Earley is the podcast host and Executive Editor of AR/VR Magazine, Modern Musician Magazine & co-founder of RobotSpaceship Podcast Network. He is the Director of New Biz Development, PR and Publishing at KEMWEB, a musician, producer & consultant. He loves guitars, VR and coffee.