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Pioneering 360°/VR/AR content while waiting for more mature technology standards to build a media value chain and go mainstream
By Anika Giese, Head of Business Development Virtual Reality, Axel Springer SE
In our business models that are funded by the paying reader and by advertising, in News Media we use 360 degree for stories in which the place is important to the story and being there can create a visceral experience that is rare in other mediums. In addition, the sense of empathy with the character is much higher than in 2D video. For our advertisers 360 degree/ VR / AR means innovation, higher brand engagement and higher length of time spent in an experience.
If we look beyond our narrative pieces and entertainment, we discover that VR is intensively tested by brands and for commercial approaches. This not only opens doors for production collaborations but advertising revenues and new partnerships with advertising costumers.
We do face another current problem that there are neither established and single standards for development nor a narrow aspect for headsets in the market.
AR means huge potential for news media and classifieds media as well. One is creating three-dimensional objects and putting them in the user’s environment.
The ecosystem at Axel Springer distinguishes between 360 degree content, VR and AR content. The creative application with a strong narrative focus and storytelling know how is very strong due to the journalistic soul and spirit of the company. At this stage VR/AR content relies on third party distribution within our brands from news media. Looking at our classifieds media, we emphasize real estate solutions and retail prototypes for shopping decisions. Although AR is not the new kid on the block anymore, we are seeing more and more brands adding it to their marketing mix to create unique experiences. AR can result customer and audience growth because it can position a brand as cutting-edge and memorable that drives tangible business outcomes at scale.
More patience is needed as we discover that VR/MR is still in its infancy and we must embrace all realities as a new medium that requires a new way to think about the problem-solution fit and create an own value chain
In September 2015 Axel Springer SE has acquired a minority shareholding in Jaunt, an US American start-up that specializes in the creation and distribution of virtual reality content. At early-stage we invested in a market, which can change media use and business models over the next few years: because creative pioneers are always key to new content audiences.
In early 2018 Axel Springer Digital Ventures has also participated in a round of financing for Magic Leap. The Florida-based company has developed a patented technology that integrates digital assets into the real world. At the heart of the company's offering is a mixed reality goggle and a lightweight portable personal computer. The combination of the two makes it possible to insert digital content seamlessly into real environments using light field technology. Mixed Reality has great potential for presenting journalistic content and classifieds in new forms of presentation and environments.
The important aspect is that VR still implies technology issues, which need to be mastered, thus dominate development and production processes more than the creation and storytelling of compelling immersive narratives. On one hand, one drawback is the fast pace in which the technology is evolving. On the other hand, however, a more mature set of core software, SDKs and standards for distribution is needed to keep skills for storytelling, production, and distribution and commercialization up-to date. Currently the market shows distribution issues with a variety of unattractive and not standardized headsets or 360° apps not being widely used or mature and attractive enough. Facing the perspectives along the value chain of a new medium distribution is key to us.
While knowing that the worldwide VR penetration is being tiny today, we use our owned and operated sites as well as online apps, YouTube or Facebook add to the spectrum of distribution channels and platforms, offering access to existing and large audiences. A large part of the landscape is covered with 360 ° production and the smartphone seems to be the silent enabler to enhance accessibility. This is the consequence why immersive content is currently employed like and other audio-visual tools and pieces. It is not enough utilized as medium itself with an own destination and business model. The more mature and cheaper VR equipment like the standalone headset Oculus Go get, the higher the customer experience and further market growth. More patience is needed as we discover that VR/MR is still in its infancy and we must embrace all realities as a new medium that requires a new way to think about the problem-solution fit and create an own value chain.
What’s next? We estimate mobile use cases as a straight forward monetization model. We’re ready for a pair of glasses that uses light field technology to integrate interactive digital information in the real world around us. We want real estate platforms to project floor plans and interior options from virtual search engines for a new apartment on the living room wall. We want job portals to present job offers via working space projections. We want News Media to present the actual weather, the latest election results on ones countertop. Never stop asking: “What’s the experience you want to capture?”
After the peak of inflated expectations, we will foster the plateau of productivity and user and brand habituation. Instead of treating AR and VR as separate mediums, bringing them together with other technologies provides potential to build solutions with bigger impact and value creation. Combining the power of AI with AR or blockchain with VR will help the medium to ignite further growth and independence of the medium and its value chain.