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What lies ahead for VR in the newsroom?

Virtual Reality (VR) has evolved from its early experimental phase to become a strategically key, more integrated part of many newsrooms globally.

But how are news organisations addressing the challenges of content and user experience? And will VR ever become mainstream?

A new Reuters Institute report VR for News: The New Reality? by Zillah Watson, who has led the editorial development of VR experimentation at the BBC, examines ongoing developments in VR, the major challenges – both in terms of content and application, and technology – and what the future of VR might look like for news organisations around the world.

Watson interviewed more than 20 leading figures in news organisations in the US and Europe for the report. She examines current developments in VR, the major challenges in terms of content, application and technology – and what the future of VR might look like for news organisations around the world.

“The speed of development of VR in news has been incredible but to achieve VR’s true potential we now need to make VR work for audiences.” says Watson.

“We can shape the future, with a genuinely creative technology, with the potential to transform the way news output is made and consumed. Both the news and tech industries are aware of the challenges that need to be overcome. To bring audiences the many benefits of VR, they need to continue to work together to solve these problems.”

The report finds several key areas that news organisations must address as VR continues to develop:

Strategy and investment – larger organisations should be investing now to stay ahead and gain critical advantage, taking their lessons from the rapid development of the web, which left many news organisations struggling to adapt to profound technology changes. Smaller organisations could focus on low-cost 360 investments or partnerships on bigger projects to develop capacity.

Content – While technology developments will largely be in the hands of tech companies, the area news organisations can really impact is content. The focus should remain on making great experiences suited to the technology. With costs for high-quality VR still prohibitively expensive for consumers, 360 could be a good short-term solution to increasing the availability of content. 

Hardware – Platforms and device manufacturers need to focus on improving hardware and common platforms to provide a frictionless user experience and affordable headsets and bandwidth. The news industry needs to work together on this to create common goals and a united front with which to lobby tech platform.

Audiences and monetisation – Audience participation in VR is the only sustainable way to monetise the technology, and for this, audiences need to be at the heart of future plans. Consumer literacy will be key to engagement, and news organisations need to show their audiences why VR is a new technology worth engaging with.

Download the report as a PDF here

Explore the report on our Digital News Project Website here