Extended Reality offers media companies new revenue streams
Conference Blog | 07 February 2022
Immersing yourself in new technology can be a mix of excitement, encouragement, frustration, and confusion. Integrating new technology into a business can be downright terrifying, but nothing eases the terror quite like making money. That’s what Stephen Shaw hopes newsrooms will start looking forward to when they begin dabbling in Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and Mixed Reality.
Shaw is the global business development director for Iconic Engine and an Immersive Extended Reality consultant. He spoke on Monday about using AR for new revenue streams during INMA’s final master class of a six-part programme How Newsrooms Can Creatively Use And Report On XR.
“I would argue from a commercial perspective that you have the ability to educate your own consumers to continue to deliver compelling editorial augmented reality news stories,” Shaw said. “But then use this captive audience to build and sell into particular Augmented Reality verticals.”
Shaw reminded media companies they are already reporting on people’s passions like fashion, sports, food, music, travel, real estate, gaming, and kids. He calls these key verticals low-hanging fruit for using mobile Augmented Reality. Shaw believes mobile AR acts as a bridge between the physical and digital world, and companies need to develop an XR strategy to leverage this value to their advertisers.
“My advice would be to continue to build your editorial experiences, consider whether you want them to be mobile, native applications or Web Augmented Reality applications to make them social,” Shaw said.
Companies build case studies from really great editorials, he said. They should share them with their commercial division and come up with ways to sell XR experiences to customers: “Who knows your audience and your readership better than any digital marketing agency?” Shaw asked. “Of course you know it better.”
He recommended seeking sponsorship from a media company’s current advertisers, selling them XR and AR experiences just like they would any more traditional advertising. For key advertisers, Shaw suggested building custom AR experiences to showcase what the media company is offering and what the advertiser is offering. Media companies can look at this as either adding value to content they already are creating or charging for a premium experience.
Shaw stressed the importance of immersing media teams into new technology like VR. He shared two tipping points for VR’s advancement:
Meta and its acquisition of Oculus, which was a huge boost for the XR industry. Shaw says over the holidays, there was a rise in Oculus sales, which has has helped Meta engage with a younger audience. The company has struggled with capturing younger audiences with Facebook and even Instagram.
The imminent release of Apple’s VR headset. The buzz and hype surrounding what it will look like and be like is already signaling a game changer in the industry.
The promising news is global VR revenue continues to rise significantly on the consumer and enterprise sides, Shaw said: “It’s showing no sign of diminishing. Whilst the hardware may become more complex for us as publishers and newsrooms to understand, it’s giving us more potential brand touchpoints both for storytelling but also for commercial revenue generation.”
Shaw also discussed third-party platforms like AdMix that deliver creator controlled in-app advertising, allowing advertisers to get in front of their customers with 3D product placement.
“They’re not like typical intrusive banner ads that jump over your screen,” Shaw said. “It’s more of an integrated experience.”
However media companies decide to do it, it’s most important that they jump in.
“I’m amazed at the people who take an interest in this industry or have an opinion on Virtual Reality,” Shaw said. “Please do try and understand the tools because how can we continue to sell and promote these tools if we haven’t experienced them?”
Shaw explained a bit about the Metaverse. While many people are hesitant over the newness of the concept, Shaw traced the name back to 1982 when science-fiction author Neal Stephenson used the term Metaverse in his book Snow Crash.
“The Internet is being reshaped as we speak,” Shaw said. “We’ve seen massive changes over decades and decades and decades. And even in the last two years, everything about the way we work, how we interact and discover with each other is evolving and changing.”
Companies must know where their customers are spending their time and, as importantly, where are the news consumers of tomorrow, he said: “200 million Snapchatters a day are engaging with Augmented Reality. We’re going to have to continue to understand these platforms, work with them, fight with them for a share of voice.”
Media companies may want to consider building virtual newsrooms, immerse themselves in the technology, get to know the platforms, build purposeful apps, experiment, and learn.
“Have your newsroom meetings in Virtual Reality headsets from the comfort of your own home,” Shaw said. “It’s something to consider and explore, but it’s a way of learning these technologies. You are content creators. You’re the storytellers.”
Shaw encouraged media companies to use their skill sets to build commercial applications, interactive VR tours and make XR experiences social: “If you have any doubt on how seriously brands are taking this, Miller Lite beer in the USA is hosting a virtual bar in the Decentraland metaverse during the Super Bowl,” Shaw said.
Remember, Shaw said, newsrooms have been adapting to change for decades and are always reinventing themselves. This is just another time for them to prepare for change.