- The Guardian newspaper is launching a virtual reality (VR) application for smartphones and giving away 97,000 free Google Cardboard headsets at retailers and its website. The publisher previously had a VR app, but the new one was created specifically for mobile viewing, MediaPost reported.
- As part of the rollout, the British newspaper debuted a project to give readers "the opportunity to see the world from a different perspective and enable them to become fully immersed in the experience," per the release. "The Party" shows the perspective of an autistic 15-year-old girl attending her mother's surprise birthday party and lets viewers experience the coping mechanisms the girl has devised to deal with stressful situations.
- The Guardian in April debuted VR projects for Daydream View, Google's platform for mobile VR. The experiences showed how a baby sees the world in the first six months of life and a virtual tour of London's sewer system.
The Guardian is among the list of newspapers with declining print circulation that are developing digital content to engage readers as they transition their media consumption to match consumers' changing preferences for mobile devices, while at the same time trying to innovate amid budget cutbacks and a shift in ad revenue away from print.
The VR technology that the Guardian is testing may be another way for newspapers to provide more engaging storytelling for their growing roster of mobile users. Some publishers are even looking to boost their social media presence to reach a large audience base, as a recent Pew Research Center study found that two-thirds of Americans say they get at least some of their news from social media. That number is up from 62% in 2016.
In the U.S., most major newspapers provide some form of free access to content with "leaky" paywalls with unlimited "side doors" for non-subscribers, according to a study by the Columbia Journalism Review.
Forty percent of the top 25 U.S. newspaper websites focused on ad revenue exclusively and didn't use paywalls as an additional form of revenue, CJR found. The most common paywall strategy among daily newspaper publishers was metered access for non-subscribers with one or two unlimited “side door” exceptions. That model was first deployed by The New York Times in 2011, and has been adopted by newspapers like The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal.