Is 360 video hype or here?

Storytelling powered by VR panel at AOL including Robert Hernandez (ULA,ONALA), Joaquin Alvarado (Center for Investigative Reporting), Molly DeWolf Swenson (RYOT), Nonny de la Peña (Emblematic Group), and Ulla Engestrom (ThingLink)

A couple of weeks ago I attended a panel on storytelling powered by VR organized by ONALA and AOL. Before the panel, we were sent a couple of questions about 360 video. Here are some notes I wrote down before and after the discussion.

What is the current state of 360 video?

Both Google and Facebook started supporting 360 video sharing in 2015, but there are still two things that hold back the adoption by masses: cameras and playback.

Cameras: You need to buy a separate device to record a 360 video, maybe a GoPro, a Ricoh Theta, or the new Samsung camera.

Playback: Unless you are watching videos on stationary VR such as Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, you need to download one (or multiple) separate apps to view 360 videos. And it takes time.

Next step: 360 camera is integrated into our phones or tablets, and we are on the 5G network.

What are the current challenges of 360 video and VR?

This may apply more to news and marketing rather than entertainment, but currently with our clients we see three main challenges:

  1. Engagement. If there is nothing to do inside a 360 video, you get bored sooner than you know. (This is the problem ThingLink’s 360 editor is solving )

2. Reach. If your audience has to download an app and/or use a bulky headset for viewing content, reach is going to be limited.

3. Monetization. See earlier points.

To sum up, reach and engagement have to go up at the same time as production cost goes down. As they do, 360 video will be a powerful new platform for online publishing and education.

What is VR in journalism?

Online news consumption today happens across channels and devices. 360/VR content must work that way too. If it does not, we will have visually amazing but expensive one-off productions on isolated apps and platforms with a limited audience.

The promise of 360 media is engagement. To our experience, embedded interactive elements in images or videos at least double time spent. When The Dallas Morning News published a 360 tour of Jerry Jones’ office, an average viewer spent 47 seconds exploring the office, the items on the bookshelf, desk, etc. This is more than average duration of a TV ad.

Is 360 video hype or here?

Generally a tipping point for any kind of new media is when anyone can become a content creator, in which case we would have an abundance of professional and user generated content easily accessible through social media.

360 video is definitely here in everyone’s minds, especially in Los Angeles, but it will be truly here when creating and viewing 360 videos is not more complicated than creating or viewing 2D videos.

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