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USA Today Plans First Regularly Scheduled News Show in VR

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‘VRtually There’ will cover everything from local and national politics, sports, technology and finance.

USA TODAY Network, whose parent company Gannett oversees media property USA TODAY and 92 other outlets, announced Thursday that this spring it plans to launch a site dedicated to news delivered in VR.

We have seen quite a few media outlets publish special VR news segments like ABC News exploring war-torn Syria, CNN covering the democratic debates, or PBS creating an Ebola documentary. But Gannett is going beyond the one-off reports and launching a “regularly scheduled” VR news show called VRtually There.

The length and frequency of the VRtually There show has yet to be announced, but considering the network is made up of close to 100 local media brands in addition to USA Today, we can hope for a range of regular VR content on the local and national level. Gannett has been experimenting with VR as early as 2014 when their Des Moines Register published its first VR news report on the struggles of a sixth-generation Iowa farming family.

Recreating a farm in Unity for the Des Moines Register VR story.

Recreating a farm in Unity for the Des Moines Register VR story.

Initial VR content will be distributed for viewing on a more low-cost viewer like Google Cardboard, but the company is planning to make their content available on premium headsets like the Oculus Rift as well. Viewers who don’t have a VR headset will also be able to watch some content in 2D on the company’s websites, mobile apps and Facebook.

The USA Today Network is currently training “dozens of existing staff” on how to develop, produce and edit content for VR with some staff working specifically in VR fulltime.

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Creating VR or 360° video content for readers to get a more immersive look at news stories is obviously not the only reason the media property is ramping up efforts. USA Today Network has their eye on monetizing the content and is in discussions with more than a dozen brands about advertising opportunities.

The New York Times has thus far set the bar among news media publishers in amassing a VR hungry readership, they even went as far as to distribute a million Cardboard VR viewers with a Sunday newspaper delivery. As 360° video capture technology becomes more accessible for reporters who no longer have to be burdened with days of stitching footage, when cameras like the Gear 360 or Nikon KeyMission cameras come to market, we can expect to see a lot more VR news coverage from around the world – making daily news in VR actually possible and within reach.

If you are looking to explore how VR is being used in the newsroom, Gannett put together a “State of VR Report(PDF) in 2015 that is worth a look.

About the Scout

Jonathan Nafarrete

Jonathan Nafarrete is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of VRScout.

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