NewFronts 2016: New York Times delves deeper into VR

The stalwart paper ventured into space with a new VR short exploring Pluto and unveiled six new originals at this year's NewFronts.
May 3, 2016

NEW YORK – The New York Times opened this year’s Digital Content NewFronts by asking a single question: What is the future of media? 

The Grey Lady’s answer? Digital video, with an emphasis on interactive storytelling.

“The trend towards a visual future is obvious and it is accelerating,” said Meredith Kopit Levien, the newspaper’s chief revenue officer. 

To that end, the NYT underscored its recognition of that shift, and its commitment to secure a younger generation of news and entertainment consumers, by unveiling a slate of new series. Much of the new programming was shot in virual reality.

“We think about this as technolody applied not just for its own sake, but to make people pay attention, to even care about something that they didn’t know they could care about,” said Kopit Levien.

Among the projects planned, the paper will debut its first-ever NYT VR episodic series this fall in the Voyages issue of the NYT Magazine. Over its first season, Voyages will send viewers out on assignment with the magazine’s photographers as they travel to remote destinations and create works of visual art.

The NewFronts audience also got to travel through space with Out There: News From the Other Side, an interactive voyage of space exploration told in collaboration with The Times‘s science expert Dennis Overbye.

Accompanying Out There, the paper is also releasing another VR film from its NYT VR studio: Seeking Pluto’s Frigid Heart will use a 360-experience to bring audiences to the surface of Pluto (aka, still a planet). The film will be published through the NYT app, in conjunction with the distribution 300,000 Google Cardboard viewers to long-ternured digital subscribers.

Other planned projects include:

  •  The Fine Line – Olympics: Rio de Janeiro 2016, which will venture into the upcoming summer games, released leading up to the big event this summer;
  • The Inside Track will follow how hit songs are made;
  • The Art of Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business, will explore how science can make us more productive;
  • Two Tales of a City will feature two travel writers venturing to destinations on different budgets; and
  • Chartland will use charts to help viewers rethink the way they make routine life decisions. There were no details as to exact release dates or series formats at press time.

This continue’s the paper’s venture into VR, which began last February as a germ of an idea to see if the burgeoning medium could be worthwhile from a journalistic vantage point. The paper bowed Walking New York, its first VR short shot by Vrse’s Chris Milk, at the NewFronts last year. In the fall, the NYT partnered with Google and GE to distribute 600,000 Cardboard headsets to readers in an effort to increase access to the medium.

Like many organizations, the paper of record also highlighted its ability to work with advertisers through its T Brand Studio, which allows brands to create custom marketing videos to accompany the new series. In addition, The Times unveiled Story[X], an R&D lab that combines the paper’s reporters, creators and technology teams with the aim of finding new ways to tell and distribute stories. 

T Magazine revealed plans to debut its first VR films this fall. Notables in the fields of art, design, fashion and entertainment will take audiences behind closed doors into creative, historic and rarely-seen spaces.

With files from Megan Haynes, StreamDaily 

Darah Hansen is in New York attending the NewFronts. If you’d like to arrange a meeting, contact her at dhansen@brunico.com

Image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons, samchills


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