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Are you prepared for a world of changing reality?

By Jodie Hopperton


Los Angeles, California, United States


Hi there. We’re not quite at the end of this year, but I am starting to look more towards things that are happening now and how they may project into the future. Like it or not, the world is changing. With this in mind, I’m going to cover in brief two seemingly unrelated things: Facebooks change in name to Meta, and, a little closer to home (at least time-wise), the move towards ad free products.  

As always please e-mail me with any questions, comments, or with something you’d like to share. I’m at

Thanks, Jodie.

The metaverse

Unless you have been hiding under a rock, you will have noticed that Facebook is changing its name to Meta. The sceptics have passed this off as a PR move, but I don’t believe it is (actually I think the timing was the opposite of good PR, but that’s a different discussion). What Zuck covered didn’t actually say that much new. Look at the tweet below. This is the Fortnite creative director in 2019. 

Meta isn't such a new idea.
Meta isn't such a new idea.

Many of the products Zuckerberg talked about already exist. For example, I was working out in VR mid-last year (and highly recommend it; it’s a lot of fun) and I put this short video together in 2017

What Zuckerberg did brilliantly was stitch everything together into a strong narrative. He told the story. He showed us what life could be like, will be like, in the not too distant future. Since then, Microsoft has also made announcements about the work it is doing. And rumours of the notoriously secretive Apple have been around for a while with a general feeling that the company is likely to launch some form of hardware in 2022. Usually when Apple launches a product, we’re reaching the tipping point of something coming into the mainstream. 

The metaverse is the next generation of the Internet. It will use Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) and other immersive technologies to bring the digital and the physical together. The term used is “Extended Reality” (XR), which encompasses immersive in general.  XR will allow us to experience life in a different way. And we don’t yet know what that means for news, but here are a couple of scenarios.  

Imagine a war zone. Unless you’ve experienced it firsthand, it’s hard to imagine. But decent 360 cameras already cost less than an iPhone. And if headsets become more manageable, perhaps we find ourselves sitting in the middle of this war zone. Suddenly, news is literally brought to life. This could be the same for protests.

Speaking of protests, The New York Times did an incredible job stitching together all the social media material to take us through what happened at the U.S. Capitol in January 2021. If we already had 360 footage and widespread use of headsets, we may have been able to literally walk through. 

There are many, many scenarios that are similar. Moon landings. All the travel to space that we see by the billionaires right now — we could virtually go there, too. Come to that, travel in general using XR. That would make quite a supplement. The same goes for cooking lessons in your home. Or being at a sports event. Or shopping for fashion and design.   

Or perhaps our news anchors are holograms that sit at the breakfast table and give us the morning headlines. It’s not as crazy as it sounds. 

Why am I writing this? Because we need to start preparing. These are the things we should have on our horizon so we can create products for this new world. You don’t need to set up a volumetric studio, but experimenting with 360 may be worth the small investment. Many of you reading this wouldn’t have thought you’d be designing products for a watch 10 years ago, yet here we are. In my opinion, the tipping point for XR isn’t that far off. 

With this in mind, we’ve partnered with Meta Journalism Project to bring you a free six-part series on VR Virtual Reality (VR) to help us truly understand what it is, how we get started, and where the business opportunities lie. More on that here

Dates for the diary: 

1. November 24: Last date to register for the product Master Class early bird rate

I’m so excited about this line up, which will go through each step of the product process with experts in each field. Whether you are looking to fine tune your skills and get tips from some of the best experts in the industry or you need to understand what product thinking is and how it’s applied within a news organisation, this is the Master Class for you.    

Register now for our December Master Class.
Register now for our December Master Class.

Here’s glimpse on some of the expertise you’ll find:

Hilde Maartmann-Moe Sommerstad at Schibsted/Aftenpostenon on product solving for user needs; Jason Jedlinski on designing road maps to delight customers and respect stakeholders; Jeff Moriarty at Nexstar Digital on practical — and cheap — examples to demonstrate the value of early prototyping to get customer feedback; Katie Bloor at Dow Jones on running experiments within a busy product roadmap; Ilana Westerman at Yahoo Inc on geting inside users’ heads to understand what they really think; and  C.J. Jacobsat of MediaNews Group on how to select a market for launch, test scale, and add features to drive further value.

More information and registration can be found here

2. December 13: How newsrooms can creatively use, and report on, XR

Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) have been touted as the next big thing for media. As headsets and equipment are getting cheaper — 360-degree cameras are less than the price of an iPhone — and tech companies are investing more, what is the opportunity for journalism and for media companies? 

Master Class on XR coming in January.
Master Class on XR coming in January.

This is a free Webinar series, kicking off on December 13 and continuing in January, where we speak with experts in XR to help us truly understand what it is, how we get started, and where the business opportunities lie. Find out more and sign up here.

Listening to user needs: the case for going ad free

There is another trend that has been growing for some time in the world, but the news industry has been slow to adapt to: the desire of consumers to go ad free. 

Hootsuite states that a whopping 42.7% of Internet users use ad blockers globally. This is particularly prevalent with younger users (these and many more stats around ad blocking can be found here). Clearly, users are demonstrating their need in this space. 

AudienceProject gives a variety of reasons for this from Web pages, including, “Web sites are more manageable without banners” and “Web sites load faster without ads.” 

Research from AudienceProject shows why readers use ad blockers.
Research from AudienceProject shows why readers use ad blockers.

Of course, many news organisations make a substantial part of their income from ads. It’s a widely accepted norm that content is free, or cheap, in exchange for seeing advertising. In fact, selling audience attention in this way was created by the publishing industry. It doesnt mean that it’s bad or that ads are bad. But these consumer trends clearly show the desire for at least the choice of an alternative. And we’re seeing this in other mediums, too.  

Some prominent streaming companies now build ad-free versions into their pricing. Hulu, now owned by Disney, at US$6.99 for their standard service is almost double the cost without ads at US$12.99.

Hulu and other streaming companies now offer ad-free versions of their service.
Hulu and other streaming companies now offer ad-free versions of their service.

Twitter recently launched Twitter Blue, a subscriber product that gives access to “premium features,” such as undo tweet. This doesn’t mean Twitter can be ad free, but it does “offer subscribers a fast-loading, ad-free reading experience on the Web sites of publishers within the Twitter Blue Publisher Network” (which is why Twitter purchased Scroll). Publishers who have opted into this network then receive a share of revenue, as demonstrated in the tweet below by Scroll founder Tony Haile. 

Twitter also offers an ad-free option.
Twitter also offers an ad-free option.

Yahoo has also experiments with more of an “ad lite” option for US$5 per month, promising users will find “fewer ads everywhere on Yahoo.”

Yahoo offers an "ad lite" option.
Yahoo offers an "ad lite" option.

Over the next month, I’ll be speaking with media organisations that have built ad-free products, looking at their decision-making process and practically what this new product takes to develop and maintain. If you have an ad-free product that you can talk me through or questions you want answered, please get in touch:

Tweet of the week

Shaan Puri drafted some smart comments, starting with: “Everyone is wrong about the Metaverse.” This one struck a chord as to why we should be paying attention.    

Recommended reading

If you’re interested in seeing the Meta announcement but don’t have 1 hour and 20 minutes to spare, there are plenty of good explainers such as this 10-minute version from CNET

Or if you need a comedy moment, you can see Iceland’s ironic response to the announcement here 

And a couple of articles from the INMA archive on how publishers are using AR now:

About this newsletter 

Today’s newsletter is written by Jodie Hopperton, based in Los Angeles and lead for the INMA Product Initiative. Jodie will share research, case studies, and thought leadership on the topic of global news media product.

This newsletter is a public face of the Product Initiative by INMA, outlined here. E-mail Jodie at with thoughts, suggestions, and questions. Sign up to our Slack channel.

About Jodie Hopperton

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