Virtual reality is the new black, apparently. Plenty of brands are experimenting with it this year and now The New York Times—the Old Gray Lady herself—is giving it a whirl with a new app, NYT VR.
The Times is rewarding its print subscribers with free Google Cardboard viewers. According to TheVerge.com, the app, set to launch in early November, will release a series of VR short films in the next year. The first film, The Displaced, produced in partnership with Vrse, follows refugee children from South Sudan, eastern Ukraine and Syria.
“Our readers look to the Times for innovative and powerful storytelling, and this is the Times at its best,” executive editor Dean Baquet said in a press release. “Our Magazine team 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.”
Times readers who are not print subscribers can also get a coupon for a Cardboard mailed to them as well. In all, the Times will be sending out more than a million headsets.
“The power of VR is that it gives the viewer a unique sense of empathic connection to people and events,” said Jake Silverstein, editor in chief, The New York Times Magazine. “Through this immersive video experience, we can put our readers at the center of the most important story of our time.”
Those headsets are the key ingredient to making this whole thing work. American Journalism Review has pointed out that more news organizations have been experimenting with VR, but there is only a niche audience for the stories since VR headsets often cost hundreds of dollars. Google Cardboard will be free for many of these viewers and costs only $30 for consumers buying it on their own.