Top 8 Media Using 360° Videos for Immersive News Stories
Immersive media is a collective term that incorporates 360-degree video, virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and volumetric capture (includes both CGI and 3-D scanning).
By being able to situate their audience directly in the middle of the story using media mentioned above, journalists are seeing new possibilities for storytelling and news reporting. The 360 medium is nevertheless double-edged: while being able to rake in views, increase audience engagement, it also comes with a more steep learning curve for journalists in terms of equipment and production skills. We’re presenting you with 8 case analyses to bring more light on the benefits and challenges of 360-degree content that mainstream media face.
New York Times partnered with Samsung to establish a “Daily 360” series hosted on YouTube, which rolls out a video every day in 2017, and already houses over 300 videos up to December 8, 2017; you can also check out their video library on NYT’s website.
Marcelle Hopkins, the executive director of virtual reality at NYT, shared some of his team’s insight in an interview with Digiday. From their observation, real estate videos tend to perform really well, whereas profile stories of specific individuals are less effective when made into a 360-degree video. The Times also found that the views its 360-degree videos gathered inside its mobile app or on distributed platforms were shorter than the ones it received when its users wore a VR headset.
The Times’ arrangement with Samsung will wrap up at the end of 2017, and the Times will continue to produce 360-degree videos on a smaller scale after.
For a little over a year, the Associated Press has produced 20 virtual reality and 360 videos across a broad range of topics. From breaking news like the terrorist attacks in Nice, France, to the Rio Olympics, to lifestyle-feature stories on luxurious hotels and apartments, and science and technology stories on Oman’s algae problem and Alzheimer’s disease. Its videos are hosted on AP’s own VR page, Facebook and YouTube.
Paul Cheung, director of interactive and digital news, said in an interview also with Digiday that AP has moved on from its “initial experimentation stage” to a pilot program aiming at understanding how VR and 360 work, optimize workflow and explore monetization opportunities. Other AP offices in Latin America, Asia and the Middle East are also beginning to experiment with the medium.
To circumvent the expensive equipment and technology required for VR/360 productions, AP has used low-cost equipment such as Ricoh cameras and Samsung Gear, as well as establishing new partnerships such as the ones with AMD and RYOT.
AP said one of the big lessons it’s learned is understanding when VR and 360 video won’t work. Most events, unlike what people would imagine, are not cut out for VR, such as fashion shows and award shows: unless your viewer looks straight ahead, they would see cameras and journalists surrounding them if they turn around.
When AP first started creating VR and 360 videos following a documentary production approach, they were up to six minutes in length; it then shifted to shorter videos as they worked better on social media platforms. Short storytelling is also better for breaking news, as AP concluded from one of its most popular 360 videos on the New York City bombings. For feature stories, however, longer form storytelling persists.
RYOT is an immersive media company founded in 2012 in Los Angeles, which was later acquired by The Huffington Post / AOL in April 2016.Taking its name from the Martin Luther King quote “A riot is the language of the unheard”, RYOT prides itself in its social consciousness and activism. It has worked on a number of non-VR films, but gradually become known for 360-degree videos.
Bashir’s Dream centers around Qusai Bashir Masaama, a 14-year-old Syrian refugee in Jordan who was shot in the back by a sniper while on a candy run. As a result, Qusai is confined to a wheelchair, with dreams of playing basketball and traveling abroad for better care and education.
In its own words, RYOT symbolizes the evolution of journalism and shattering of the traditional news model. Using “News+Action”, RYOT is addressing the defects, excessive sensationalism and lack of empathy using immersive experiences. “At the end of all our videos, you will learn how to become a part of the story.”
Contrast VR is Al Jazeera’s immersive media arm officially launched in April 2017, specializing in the production of compelling 360° video, Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) content.
I Am Rohingya gives a glimpse into the life of a Rohingya Muslim, Jamalida Begum, and her two children in a Bangladesh refugee encampment, where more than 500,000 Rohingya refugees had fled to. Having escaped atrocities in Myanmar and refugees like Jamalida are now in a conundrum, unable to be resettled or return home.
Condé Nast released a six-episode VR series called “Invisible” in September 2017 with further plans for investment in virtual reality, officially joining the ranks of publishers that are spending on VR and its more accessible alternative, 360-degree video. It’s also occasionally producing 360 videos for its Traveler branch.
While Condé Nast’s is still focused on the premium quality of its video content, it’s increasingly acknowledging that it needs to distribute those videos on social media to boost views. Currently you can stream its videos on Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter. To prevent social platforms from hurting its advertising revenues, Condé Nast is still hosting on The Scene, its own video repository, which has seen a significant drop in visits over the last year.
Since Euronews published its first 360 video in February 2016, more than 45 different journalists have produced more than 95 videos in 360. Without a specialized team covering immersive media, Euronews has developed a systematic approach for training new journalists on how to product 360-degree videos on their own, spearheaded by Thomas Seymat, Euronews’ Immersive journalism and VR editor.
For journalists, interviews are a staple, which means in addition to recording with a Samsung Gear 360, they also need to rely on an audio recorder such as the iRig Mic Lav or the Zoom H2n to capture sounds.
Learning from their “mixed” result of sharing 360 content on Facebook, Euronews is seeing their efforts getting paid off: Facebook recently promoted one of our videos on their own Facebook 360° page. Stats on other sites also look promising: Data from Euronews’ English YouTube channel shows the watch time of 360 content is generally higher than the average watch time for regular videos. On Facebook, starting August 2017, views longer than 10 seconds for its top 5 360° videos have also outperformed regular videos from the same period by almost 10%.
RT (formerly Russia Today) is a Russian international television network funded by the Russian government. It operates cable and satellite television channels directed to audiences outside of Russia, as well as providing Internet content in various languages, including English, Spanish and Russian.
In March 2016, RT rolled out its own 360 channel, RT360.
Originally established on April 17, 1989, CNBC is an American business news television channel that primarily carries financial and business-themed documentaries and reality shows. Its 360 video channel features finance/economics-related videos such as the World Economic Forum.
AP’s report on virtual reality’s impact on journalism says: “Fundamentally, dynamic storytelling is the same as storytelling in its past and current forms — journalists answer questions posed by their readers and viewers. It’s just how those questions are being answered that’s changing.”
Immersive media also requires new skills such as graphic design, motion design, video editing, animation and game development, which poses challenges to journalists who still need time to adapt.