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2016 make-or-break for Virtual Reality

Must-read for VR-innovators: a new report released by the Knight Foundation and USA Today Network on Sunday says that 2016 will be a decisive year for VR storytelling. Once the novelty wears off, will the hype take off or die down?

by Nick Tjaardstra nick.tjaardstra@wan-ifra.org | March 15, 2016

“While the future of virtual reality in journalism is still uncertain, this report helps us to see where the growth is trending, and emphasizes the questions that still need to be answered to better predict the potential impact immersive storytelling may have on the field,” said Sam Gill, Vice President for learning and impact at the Knight Foundation.

The report, “Viewing the Future? Virtual Reality in Journalism”, highlights the following challenges and opportunities:

1) Early tests have shown that VR storytelling has great potential to be highly engaging. The “oh-wow”-effect of quality VR storytelling seems unquestionable.

2) The adoption process is slowed down considerably by users’ very limited access to affordable headsets -that don’t lead to motion sickness-, despite efforts by news organisations and major brands to give away cardboard viewers.

3) Although some branded and sponsored content emerged last year, the current reach for advertising is limited. Questions remain whether news organisations will find a way to track ad metrics, and monetize on VR.

4) Journalists are learning the language of producing 360° video, but it comes with new ethical challenges around privacy, potentially damaging content and authenticity of stories. There is a need for sharing best practices and codes of ethics.

5) The VR production process is still time-consuming, laborious and expensive, which limits the use of the technology to create quality content – especially for smaller news organisations.

Regardless of these challenges, the VR industry is in full development. “Analysts are predicting that up to 34 million headsets will be sold in 2020. By 2020, Digi-Capital predicts that the augmented and virtual reality market may reach $150 billion in sales,” according to the report.

The full report can be downloaded here.