It’s easy for many smaller media companies to look to the past and see where they fell behind with technology, innovation, and evolution of the world as it pertained to their business. Sponsored by Meta, INMA’s four-part Extended Reality (XR) Master Class series in Taiwan was designed to keep media groups from falling behind again.
Laura Hertzfeld, a storytelling and innovation expert, Robert Hernandez a journalism professor at USC, as well as Professor Chao-Chen Lin, a professor at National Taiwan University, spoke about how publishers can adopt new technologies into their storytelling strategies with little investment.
Hertzfeld detailed some incredible benefits of using XR in newsrooms. She says none of it, though, will work if companies aren’t ready to act on new technology.
One of the most compelling benefits Hertzfeld has seen in the XR projects she’s worked on is that it leads to greater time spent, which leads to more content consumed and an increase in revenue. It also creates opportunities for sponsored content and advertising integration.
“So if you keep up with this for storytelling, it also offers opportunities to add sponsored content and add new experiences for advertisers,” Hertzfeld said.
XR also helps producers stay on top of new technology and prepare for the future.
“I do think news organisations sometimes feel like they get burned when they do a heavy investment up front and then they’re scared to reinvest again,” Hertzfeld said. “It’s trial and error. There are some low-impact and low-investment ways to see what might work for your newsroom.”
Professor Chao-Chen Lin sees a big benefit of XR as its ability to truly immerse a consumer into a company’s content.
“Once you enter the VR world, you are immersed into the story,” Lin said. “So it’s a new way of reporting and this way can make your story more closely relatable and experienceable.”
The key to leveraging new technology is collaboration with everyone laser focused on the consumer.
“As journalists, our goal is to produce news content, so what kind of information, graphics, and dynamic content can we use to make content more attractive,” Lin said. “All this technology we can use to build our brands so our audiences know we can use technology like this.”
Tools to get started
Resources — especially hardware, software, and money — are a big consideration when embarking on a journey that embraces new technology.
Robert Hernandez is always looking at ways technology can help journalists do their jobs, especially from smaller, community driven media companies.
He wants to see companies start experimenting now so they can learn and fail before XR becomes mainstream. Hernandez’s journalism project at USC is called Jovernalism. They produce immersive non-fiction stories.
“It isn’t just limited to the classroom,” Hernandez said. “But it’s meant to inspire our industry on what can be done whether you have resources or not.”
There are many free apps companies can use to familiarise themselves, with XR whether through 360 video or images. Google Maps street view gives people a sense of 360 not meant for things in action but can capture immersive scenes. 360 video is not technically VR, but Hernandez says if this is how a company gets its start, it doesn’t matter.
“I don’t get to use my senses outside of sense of sight and sense of sound,” Hernandez said. “That said, I don’t care and neither does the consumer of this information.”
The cameras used to capture 360 video are also evolving in terms of quality and affordability. Hernandez’s students use the GoPro Max to shoot video documentaries. He also recommends Veer VR Editor to edit for 360 video.
Another great tool for the newsroom is “Thing Link” where journalists can add hotspots to 3D video and photos.
“You can embed this onto your Web site, like you can embed a video,” Hernandez said. “You can publish this on Facebook and it looks phenomenal on a tablet, on a mobile device, or a desktop.”
Hernandez reflected on a quote from futurist Brian Solis: “Disruption is either going to happen to you or because of you.”
“One of those has better job security,” Hernandez said. “One of those makes you a leader in this field, while the other is going to have you be reactive and catching up. We need to be proactive in these spaces so we can define these new technologies and how they can serve our communities.”
Lin also wants to see media companies just get going.
“We learn by doing so you need to get some hands-on experience,” Lin said. “You need to open up your eyes to use these softwares.”
Just like in the United States,, Taiwan is most comfortable experimenting with 360 video and AR right now.
“When we talk about this we’re not talking about giving up traditional media, but how we use technologies to apply to news stories,” Lin said. “We should have certain criteria to decide when we use 360, when we use CGI, when we use AR, and we need to understand their pros and cons.”
One of the most compelling examples of AR that Lin used was from The Weather Channel where they used Augmented Reality to show how a hurricane’s flood waters could completely decimate a neighbourhood.
Lin sees this as a tool to use when media companies don’t have enough staff to send out in the field to cover a big event. Or, better yet, it’s a differentiator for media companies who can bring something new to natural disaster coverage.
“We can use AR or VR to give our audience, the viewers, a more in-depth understanding of what’s happening around the world,” Lin said. “We must understand this emerging technology is just something that is a supplement. It can help us to present the core content better and let our audience understand better.”