Game on: Financial Times makes its VR debut for Rio Olympics
Let the games begin: The Financial Times has picked Rio de Janeiro as the subject for its first virtual reality project, to coincide with the Olympics.
Like all Olympics host nations, Brazil’s Rio has been under fierce scrutiny from the press over the last few months, with damning headlines — “Rio 2016: Athletes warned to keep mouths closed when swimming in faeces-infested water” — exposing a shaky economic infrastructure.
The FT’s four-minute VR film will go deep on the social dynamics and physical landscape of Rio’s favelas but in a way that shows the positives along with the negatives to create a balanced view of capital.
The film launches today, the same day as the opening ceremony, on a dedicated site and on YouTube, as part of the FT Weekend’s third “Hidden Cities” weekend supplement in collaboration with Google. The aim of Hidden Cities is to unearth unknowns about specific major cities. So far, the FT has picked London and Brussels. Google provides interactive map experiences on the web and mobile microsite, with locations populated with recommendations from FT journalists and local cultural experts.
The Hidden Cities microsite houses all Hidden Cities editorial content and has never been behind the FT paywall, so the video will be free to view. VR distribution is near impossible for publishers to scale without help from one of the VR headset makers. Other publishers like the New York Times have worked with Google to distribute Cardboard headsets for new VR projects, and the FT has gone a similar route. With Google, an existing Hidden Cities partner, it will supply 35,000 Cardboard headsets for FT readers, 9,000 of which will go to top-tier subscribers in Greater London. The remainder will be given out for free at various retail outlets around the country.
VR is new ground for all publishers, and a costly business, so not many have dedicated teams. The FT is no exception. The publisher has a smaller bureau in Brazil, with two staffers, one of whom, Brazil correspondent Samantha Pearson, narrated the video. Five more people flew out from its VR production partner Visualise to help create the film.
Natalie Whittle, deputy editor of FT Weekend, said the project has been an “amazing eye opener” into how to produce immersive journalism. Although all FT reporters are given basic training on how to film footage on their iPhones, which can be turned around fast, VR requires more rigor. “This is a really new testing ground, and the finish is hard to achieve,” she said. “The attention to detail is so critical, and for it to look professional, it requires a lot of equipment and on-site preparation.”
Still, the FT is already planning a second VR project for November, which will feature a fourth city and complement the Hidden Cities supplements. Determining the metrics of success is difficult, though, given there are no previous VR projects to compare with, said Whittle. But for now, the aim is to drive awareness that the FT is exploring the use of VR, rather than being part of a subscriptions drive plan.
“We’ll be watching the engagement,” said Whittle. “We’re keen for people to watch the film to its completion, so that’s what we’ll be tracking: their retention. Does it then attract people to explore other content on the site? So scroll depth and analytics like that will be of interest.”
‘We’re netting out with higher revenue’: Publishers reaping the benefits of Snapchat’s strong second half
With CPMs up as much as 20% year over year in the fourth quarter, many Discover publishers are bullish on the upstart platform for next year.
How Cosmo is building brand affinity with younger audiences through its focus on commerce
Cosmopolitan's focus on e-commerce through a line of branded wines and its own shopping holiday has led to a 254% increase in product sales.
‘Go to market faster’: The Washington Post’s Arc goes outside the tent for payment and data integrations
Subscriber revenue has become more of a priority to the Washington Post's Arc clients since it launched its subscription tools last year.
SponsoredPublishers will lead the charge as cookie-less advertising becomes the norm
Steve Wing, managing director, EMEA, Magnite As the advertising industry moves closer to a cookieless world — one in which browserless environments including connected TV (CTV) and mobile in-app are an increasingly large part of ad budgets — publishers will have an increasingly important role in developing the future of identity. Segment creation and identity […]
‘Profitability in the back half of next year’: BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti (and Verizon Media CEO Guru Gowrappan) on their big merger
A special Digiday podcast episode features Interviews with BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti and Verizon Media CEO Guru Gowrappan.
‘People have had permission to experiment’: Pandemic expedites rethink on 9-to-5 work structures
Starting out as a short-term fix to weather the coronavirus storm, employers are seeing work hours outside the traditional 9-to-5 week as a new normal.