As a technology PR professional who started her career on the editorial desks of daily newspapers, I’m fascinated with traditional media’s efforts to keep up with the times (pun sort of intended) and the use of emerging tech in communications.
So it caught my interest earlier this week when The New York Times announced a partnership with Google to bring the news home via the Google Cardboard virtual reality headset. An interesting experiment? Opportunistic promotion? My more cynical self first regarded this as a rather pained way for an old-school media property to gain street cred with the technology crowd in a way that was out of sync with its traditional readership. (To quote Eric Johnson at Re/code, “because if anyone loves new technology, it’s newspaper readers, right?”) But then I read that the first film the partnership would produce centered on child refugees of war around the world.
And I thought about the power of pictures – Matthew Brady’s groundbreaking battlefield daguerreotypes from the Civil War or Dorothea Lange’s images of Depression era families or even the photos from Time magazine’s recent Exodus issue, which I admit brought the current situation in the Middle East home to me. How better to literally place an issue on our doorsteps than in an immersive environment in which we are surrounded by it?
Now, I’m not sure that I personally want to be in the middle of armed conflict or swept along in a wave of refugees, even virtually. The ability to use emerging technologies to impact understanding and empathy for people and issues, however, is something worth exploring.
What do you think? Will the NYT’s use of VR produce a compelling way to share news?