CNN Digital has announced CNNVR, a dedicated virtual reality unit that will deliver the news in a 360-degree format. Apps will be available for Android and iOS and through the CNNVR website, with support available for Google Daydream, Samsung GearVR and Oculus Rift.
Technology might be a secondary consideration to the need to counteract the effects of erosion of interest in traditional journalism in order to maintain audiences or to build audience out of upcoming generations that are not interested in the “24 hour onscreen hosted news cycle” pioneered by CNN. With The New York Times (and other print-legacy platforms) already using highly engaging interactivity and video as a supporting tool, CNN’s announcement doesn’t seem surprising. It’s not a far leap for them to go into 360 reporting, but it needs to be more than the shift from SD to HD broadcasting.
The landing page that indicates how to watch VR starts with viewing the content on a laptop or desktop computer, followed by a similar “how-to” for phone/tablet viewing and finally in a headset (“…hands down the best way to watch VR stories”, as they say). This clearly indicates CNN’s awareness of their primary viewing audience, and probably where their content is primarily viewed.
From CNNVR Landing page: How to watch VR
The stories I looked through seemed to be primarily “you are there” videos, with little to no deeper content or commentary added. It feels like B-roll footage shot in 360, with some added titles in places.
The best is exemplified by the piece, “Hidden from War“: a story about a Syrian teen finding refuge in his war-torn town in a hidden library. The on-site journalist gives us a drive through the town ravaged by warfare, and then introduces us to the teen.
It will be important to see if the apps add more information, content or linked material, as well as if they hold open commentary sections for the video articles.