If you want to know why magazine brands are investing in virtual reality, just look at the numbers. NYTVR, the virtual reality app launched by The New York Times Magazine last November, has an average of 6.5 minutes of audience engagement per session.
“That’s 6.5 minutes of people putting cardboard up to their heads,” Andy Wright, SVP, advertising and publisher of The New York Times Magazine, tells Folio:. “In digital media terms, that’s mind-blowing.”
On Nov. 7 and 8, in conjunction with Google Cardboard, 1 million home subscribers received VR headsets with their daily newspaper. With an invitation to download the app, and The New York Times Magazine cover story to match, readers were engulfed in a multimedia journalistic experience called “The Displaced,” which follows three child refugees from around the world.
“I really believe that weekend was a moment. Socially it trended all weekend long… There was a ton of press. So it really was a watershed moment that made it a much broader focal point for a lot of publishers,” Wright tells Folio:. “The Displaced” launched on the app along with films for two sponsors, GE and Mini. GE worked with the in-house branded content workshop T Brand Studio to create a custom 360 animated film. Mini joined the project with two existing films that were looking for distribution.
The New York Times now develops VR content across the magazine, newspaper, and T Brand Studio. An additional 300,000 Google Cardboard headsets were sent to select digital subscribers in spring. The app now has over 850,000 downloads and over 10 million views. New content is uploaded a few times a month, but Wright says that will increase exponentially into next year.