The New York Times and Samsung come together for landmark VR partnership
By Rakin Azfar
November 2, 2016
The partnership provides unprecedented VR access
Americas newspaper of record has staked a spot at the vanguard of the changing media landscape, partnering with Samsung to produce a daily 360-degree video series.
The series, called The Daily 360
, will plunge viewers into an array of immersive scenes as diverse as the newspapers editorial palate. Equally diverse are the platforms that the series will be available on, which include The Timess mobile-optimized Web site and mobile application, among others.
Speaking on behalf of The Times, we believe the future of news consumption is mobile and highly visual, said Sam Dolnick, senior editor at The New York Times. Immersive journalism clearly has a big role.
No punches pulled
The Daily 360, facilitated through Samsungs material cooperation in the form of Gear 360 cameras and equipment for Times journalists, began on November 1. Its inaugural entry constitutes a thesis statement on empathy in the digital age: users are thrust into the locus of what remains of a reception hall in Sana, Yemen after a Saudi-led airstrike, enveloped and confronted by the detritus of war.
The effect is difficult to summarize, and the written content that adorns the scene, relaying The Timess signature narrative heft, only amplifies the pathos.
The video provides a troubling vantage point
The New York Times tries to connect its readers with news happening across the globe, Mr. Dolnick said. The conflict in Yemen seems very remote to many people.
A 360-degree view of the aftermath of airstrikes that killed more than 100 people attending a funeral reception in Sana offers an added dimension for readers beyond what a traditional text or photo story can do.
The remarkable footage was shot by Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Tyler Hicks and Times reporter Ben Hubbard.
The newspaper plans to make full use of the platform
The quotidian initiative is the first attempt of its kind by a major national publication, and while the maiden entry seemed deliberately grave in its subject matter, The Times feels no obligation to commit every future iteration to such exigencies.
Though VR/360-degree reporting is new, The New York Times has strong standards that apply to all Times journalism, Mr. Dolnick said. Anything deemed sensitive would come with clear warnings.
The goal is to inform viewers and, at times, delight them. Not all Daily 360 videos will be weighty topics; many will be enjoyable snapshots into other worlds.
While The Times has an established history of pioneering visual digital journalism last November it collaborated with Google to organize a massive giveaway of the latters Cardboard headsets to promote the NYT VR app The Daily 360 marks a sea change in the newspapers dedication to immersive storytelling. And as the advertising market for the industry atrophies, the Samsung partnership proves that a survivors fight for publishing relevance does not have to take the tooth-and-nail route, but can come in the form of a catalyst for a new era.
Since we launched NYT VR last year, weve been focused on figuring out which stories are best told in VR/360, Mr. Dolnick said. The average time spent in the NYT VR app is 6.5 minutes, which means when that balance is struck, the attention of the consumer follows.