It’s time to do more with immersive reality

By Jodie Hopperton


Los Angeles, California, United States


Hi there. This week I am taking a slight detour from our standard product content because there have been two things nagging away at me that Ive been meaning to share with you. So this is the week. 

If you’d like to discuss or debate anything in this newsletter, please get in touch: @jodiehop on most social channels or at

Thanks, Jodie

We need to start taking AR and VR seriously

We’ve been hosting some sessions on immersive storytelling over the last six months, and the more I understand this area, the more I am concerned that we are not doing enough to become familiar with the technologies involved.

They are here now, and we need to start understanding how we can use them so we don’t get left behind. Budgets may not be there. There are a million other things to focus on and this is No. 238 on your to-do list. I get it.  But every CEO will ask “What is our strategy for the metaverse? at some point in the next year, and product should lead that discussion. 

Now, if you want to be a smart ass, the first thing to do is correct your CEO and tell them that technically we should say metaverses, plural, as there will be more than one. Also terminology can vary so let’s stick with immersive, which includes AR (Augmented Reality), VR (Virtual Reality), MR (Mixed Reality), and the catch all  XR (Extended Reality).  

Much of that is here now and being used by our readers.

Have you made a photo 3D on Facebook? Have you used a filter on Instagram? If so, then you’ve used immersive technology. These kinds of immersive add ons are commonplace.

If you've used a social media filter, you've dabbled in immersive reality.
If you've used a social media filter, you've dabbled in immersive reality.

The New York Times is distributing its AR experiences through a dedicated section on its Instagram account — an account which has 15.5 million followers.

The New York Times shares AR experiences on its Instagram account.
The New York Times shares AR experiences on its Instagram account.

Do you need to start producing expensive AR content? No, you don’t. But you do need to be aware of how consumers are using these technologies in their everyday lives and think about how that can be used in news.

For example, Owain Rich coded an app called FieldAR for NBC that allows journalists to record motion tracked graphics in the field (more here). It’s an incredible way to add additional context to a video story. It’s a feature that readers may even start expecting. These are the steps we can take now. 

And if you are producing video, consider experimenting with 360. It’s a natural progression from what you are doing now. Buy a camera for under US$500 (such as this or this, which come highly recommended by people I trust).

At the other end of the spectrum, and if you really want to geek out and blow your CEOs mind, check out Unreal Engine’s metahumans. These are computer generated humans that are insanely good, indistinguishable from the real thing. If you go down this route, this is where you also need to start thinking seriously about ethics and the use of CGI (computer generated images) for news.

So when you have the opportunity to input to the early stages of your metaverse strategy, here is my advice:

  • DO look at how consumers are using immersive technologies on other platforms because that’s how we’re really going to spot the right opportunities. 

  • DON’T do AR and VR projects now for the sake of it. The story needs to be right. If you are going to invest in this area, do less, but do it well. 

  • DO start paying attention. When Apple finally releases its much-discussed headset, that’s the time to start putting it in your mid-term strategic plans.

If you want to go deeper, download our report on the The Opportunities and Blueprint of XR for Media. Or watch our six-part series that we ran earlier this year. And if you want to talk about what a metaverse strategy should look like, get in touch:

Date for the diary: Tomorrow!

Well look at three examples of automation and personalisation, including questions such as: Where to start: home page or article page? How do you work through this complex issue internally? What does a minimum loveable product look like? What actual results do we see?

Join me and colleagues from NZZ in Switzerland, Gannett (publisher of USA Today) in the United States, and Mediahuis in the Netherlands to hear about their different approaches and what they have learned. Find out more and sign up here

Lessons from Barry’s Bootcamp

I have been subscribing to a brand that I have fallen in love with. It’s a workout brand that I pay a decent amount of money for every month and am continually impressed with their approach to loyalty.

Why would I be comparing a news organisation with an exercise class? Please bear with me on this as we have some lessons to learn from Barrys Bootcamp

For the uninitiated (99.5% of you), Barry’s Bootcamp is a workout studio in more than 70 locations. It is a 50-minute workout in a dark room where you are shouted at — albeit in a motivating way — while doing high-intensity exercise. Not your thing? I totally get that. But luckily you don’t have to deal with this to learn some lessons from their approach.

When you walk into Barry’s and give your name to register, there are a couple of pots on the side with useful items. Things that you may forget. Like I forgot a hairband this morning as I was running into a class that had already started. Rather than working out with my hair all over the place, uncomfortable and not my best look, there was an easy solution that I didn't have to think about. Small, yet effective. 

The lesson: They are one step ahead of their customers needs. 

Once class has started, someone from the front desk brings a printed page bearing everyone’s name and the location in the room. This sheet also highlights any milestones, such as first class or if a class is sold out (which is often the case). This rewards the instructor by showing them that people love their class, and — even in a class of 50 people that moves every 30 seconds — they are able to make it personal by encouraging people by name or publicly recognising if this is a milestone class for anyone. It’s low key and seamlessly fits into the class, but it makes a difference. 

The lesson: Make it personal, with no friction.

This photo shown is a handwritten card I received when I checked in at the front desk for my 25th class. I had a similar one waiting for me on my treadmill after my 10th class. Handwritten makes it feel personal, even if they do it for everyone. They started with small milestones and work up. Every now and then I get an e-mail telling me that I have a reward such as a free drink or a free guest pass (there are probably others but hey, I’m only 25 classes in). 

The lesson: Barry’s rewards milestones make you want to reach the next one. 

Making things feel personal goes a long way with customers.
Making things feel personal goes a long way with customers.

In an exceptionally crowded marketplace, Barry’s has managed to create a unique experience.  And yes I deliberately use the word experience here. Their end-to-end journey is exceptional. They’ve managed to make it about a lot more than the class, even though its the class you are paying for. 

What can we do to augment the journey before and after the product our customers pay for? What can we do to surprise and delight? And create a unique, valuable experience? I fundamentally believe we can learn lessons from other industries, and I hope this sparks an idea or two for you. 

Tweet of the week

In my anecdotal research, the top required skill of a PM is communication. We live in a world of storytelling, yet we are not always great at it internally. This is a great thread reminding us of an instrumental tool we all have at our disposal.

Recommended reading

 A few from INMA stood out this week:

  • Firstly, Product Initiative Advisory Council member Kalr Oskar Teien talks about the science and art of building a better front page in this blog. He’s worth listing to, especially since they just won an INMA Global Media Award for this.
  • You can check out the other INMA Global Media Awards winners, here. I hope they give you some inspiration. 
  • I also enjoyed: Research: Quizzes added to media content engage digital audiences. This is a topic I want to dive into later this year.

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

By continuing to browse or by clicking “ACCEPT,” you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance your site experience. To learn more about how we use cookies, please see our privacy policy.