The New York Times is not the first media outlet to release its own virtual reality app, but the newspaper is a highly visible force in the news and announced today that it would ship 1.1 million Google Cardboard VR viewers to its print subscribers on the weekend of Nov. 7th and 8th.
The Google – New York Times partnership
“Google Cardboard brings the magic of virtual reality to anyone with a smartphone in an easy to use way,” said Mike Jazayeri, director of project management for VR at Google. “We’re excited to support The New York Times’s use of immersive storytelling at an unprecedented scale to bring awareness to this important issue.”
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That immersive storytelling will come in the form of a number of virtual reality short films to be released over the next year and possibly beyond. The New York times will launch its Android and iOS app, NYT VR, on November 5th.
In addition to delivering a Google Cardboard viewer to all print subscribers, the New York Times has said that “some digital subscribers will get a redeemable code” with priority given to customers that have had their subscriptions the longest.
“The Displaced” and other content
The first of many short films to be released within the VR app is “The Displaced,” which tells the story and follows the plight of three refugee children from Syria, eastern Ukraine and South Sudan.
Dean Baquet, the executive editor of The Times, said the magazine “has created the first critical, serious piece of journalism using virtual reality, to shed light on one of the most dire humanitarian crises of our lifetime.”
The magazine’s editor, Jake Silverstein, said, “The power of VR is that it gives the viewer a unique sense of empathic connection to people and events.” It has huge potential, he said, to help bring viewers news and stories from the most inaccessible places.
The next film will be released in December of this year with additional shorts to continue through 2016 with a focus on issues like Ebola and refugee camps. For those that won’t buy Google Cardboard or are not print subscribers to The New York Times, the app still offers 360 degree touchscreen navigation for iOS and Android devices.
Advertisers content for NYT VR and the irony
Both General Electric and MINI will be allowed to provide VR content through the app for their sponsorship.
“The great irony here is that it takes the print newspaper—a 164-year old business—and its still remarkable distribution system to deliver one of the most advanced digital storytelling technologies to more than a million people,” said Meredith Kopit Levien, executive vice president and chief revenue officer, The New York Times Company. “We are inspired by how The New York Times Magazine team used virtual reality to tell this important story and thrilled that T Brand Studio is able to invest in these new technologies to provide these creative tools to marketers. We know our readers will be thoroughly entertained and engaged by the films produced by MINI and GE.”