Previewing The New York Times’ Foray Into Virtual Reality
A report from the Gray Lady's NewFront presentation.
It’s not every day that you get to peer at the icy surface of Pluto. But yesterday afternoon, guests at The New York Times NewFront presentation got an eyeful of the dwarf planet, thanks to Google Cardboard viewers and borrowed iPhones (which helpful interns were careful to reclaim). The audience previewed “Seeking Pluto’s Frigid Heart,” a stereoscopic experience that did not disappoint. The film will be available in the NYT app later this month when 300,000 digital subscribers receive Google Cardboard viewers.
It’s clear with or without the viewers that the Times is pouring its resources into video. “The trend toward a visual future is both obvious and accelerating,” said Meredith Kopit Levien, executive vice president and chief revenue officer, The New York Times Company.
Levien seemed almost giddy when announcing the launch of Story X, “a space, lab and team of journalists, creators, and technologists experimenting with how stories are made and shared” this summer. The Story X team will create products for the newsroom and T Brand Studio, the Times’ brand marketing unit.
The Times also announced six new signature video series, including “The Fine Line – Olympics: Rio de Janeiro 2016,” which will break down how each athlete competes, illuminating the techniques they use to gain an advantage in their sport, and “The Art of Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business,” for which Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Charles Duhigg will explore the science of productivity and, in his words, “how we can be happier and improve our lives every day.”
Duhigg involved spectators in a low-tech, interactive gag by challenging everyone in the room to create a paper airplane and send it soaring into a red bucket he had on stage. He promised anyone whose plane landed in the bucket $100. (One actually made it, and I’m guessing Duhigg wrote a check from his personal account.)
After sharing video clips and some personal reflections by Times journalists on their beats or how particular stories came about, Levien closed the presentation by saying that “the future of media is nothing more than great content.” In the Times’ case, however, that content more and more is meant to be viewed, not read.