The Reality of Virtual Reality? It’s Getting Real

May 20, 2015

Matt Allinson Bio Pic By Matt Allinson – Media Relations Manager, International Markets

Before a session on using immersive 3D devices for experiential storytelling began at the International Symposium On Online Journalism (ISOJ) in Austin a few weeks ago, symposium organizer Rosental Alves proclaimed that this would be the session most remembered in ten years. After the session ended, I was pretty certain his prediction will be right.

Virtual reality (VR), long promised but never totally delivered, seems to be on the cusp of completely taking over our lives. Want to look around a home before you rent/buy without ever setting foot in it? Go ahead:

Want to stand next to Paul McCartney’s piano during a concert and look upon him or out at the crowd? There’s an app for that. Want to walk around the edge of the Space Needle without making your stomach jump through your throat? You will be able to do that soon as well.

The session on virtual reality featured a panel of three academic/industry professionals and was moderated by Robert Hernadez (aka @webjournalist), a “hackademic” at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Hernandez explained that the main reason the VR adoption rate is at an all time high is because the technology to use it is finally widely available. “There are more mobile devices in the world than toothbrushes,” Hernandez quipped.  Because VR technology can now be used via tablets and phones, and because of Oculus Rift’s meteoric rise, the audience is finally ready, he said. And it seems the journalist community is also ready.

In April, The New York Times Magazine commissioned an artist to create a 150-foot-tall black and white image of a 20-year-old Azerbaijani immigrant onto the sidewalk in front of Manhattan’s Flatiron Building and filmed the enterprise for a VR experience called “Walking New York.”

Walking New York

Walking New York

The Des Moines Register recently created a virtual experience that allowed viewers to explore a sixth-generation Iowa farm in the midst of substantial change. And Nonny de la Peña, a fellow at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and the founder of the VR company Emblematic Group (and a speaker at the ISOJ session), shared some immersive journalism projects she has been working on including “Project Syria” and “One Dark Night.” The former puts the viewer in the Aleppo district of Syria where they bear witness to a rocket strike and the aftermath. The latter puts the viewer on the scene of the killing of Trayvon Martin. Both are VR-powered reenactments designed to give the audience a sense of actually “being there” and allowing them to experience the moments that alter lives and make headlines.

While the journalism industry continues to experiment with and embrace VR technology, it’s safe to say the video game and real estate industries are already deeply in love with it. It’s also safe to say that many other industries will be following suit in the not-too-distant future. The possibilities for the PR and advertising industries seem limitless. VR technology is probably a natural fit for the tourism industry. And what if you were able to virtually wander around an old antique store in the middle of nowhere and find that unique and perfect gift? Retailers of all shapes and sizes should be looking closely at what is on the horizon.

Whatever the future holds, now is the time for leaders of companies and industry to begin considering the possibilities. The opportunity to innovate has never been better … and that’s the simple reality.

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The State of News Media in 2015: Say Hello to the Mobile Generation

May 7, 2015

By Vilan Trub, Business Wire

Millennials have been riding the wave of digital revolution for close to a decade, leaving behind a wake of influence over every industry. Well, for news media, the crest just broke and as we all bob up and down in an ocean of technology, we need to brace for the oncoming information tidal wave known as the mobile generation.

The Pew Research Center has released a series of data detailing the current state of news media for 2015 and the numbers are as era defining as when the final issues of LIFE magazine saw their way to the printers. Of the top 50 digital news websites, 39 saw more traffic to their sites and associated applications come from a mobile source than from a desktop computer.

Pew Research Digital News Viewss

Trying to understand this trend is pointless. It doesn’t matter if people are choosing to use mobile devices because of their convenience while on the go or out of actual preference. What does matter is the growing dominance of mobile technology and communication professionals must adapt, just as they did nearly a decade ago when Millennials first opened the doors on modern news consumption.

In January of 2015, Yahoo-ABC News saw 93,160 unique visitors to their sites and associated applications coming from mobile devices while only 59,099 visited from a desktop computer. Other news outlets that saw similar disparity include CNN Network, NBC News Digital, Huffington Post, USA Today sites, BuzzFeed, and The New York Times Brand. For the communications industry, this pattern dictates that both editorial news, and company issued news, must be compatible with mobile platforms in order to reach the desired audience.

Besides shedding light on how people consume their news, the Pew analysis also revealed a startling trend. Although individuals more often consume their news using a mobile device, they spend less time doing so per visit. For 40 of the 50 top news sites, visitors using desktop computers spent the same if not more time per visit. For 25 of those sites, the time spent per visit from desktop users was at least 10% higher when compared to those using a mobile device.

It is clear to news outlets that it is becoming harder to keep an individual’s attention on a single piece of news. This is a challenge communication professionals have been facing for years.  And the answer is the same for both types of content creation; in each case, article or news release, the addition of multimedia is statistically shown to be more effective in MasterCard Pricelesskeeping a viewer engaged and scientifically shown to convey a message in a much shorter amount of time than a text-only message, 60,000 times faster to be exact. Consider multimedia as a passport, allowing editorial coverage and news releases to travel safely and efficiently into mobile territory. Interactive multimedia, the gamification of the news release, has shown an average engagement of 6:12 minutes. Compare that to the average engagement with text-only news releases of only 20 and 30 seconds.

The facts are in and the best practice would be to analyze them and, as with every wave, go with the flow. The mobile generation wants their news when they want it, and when they get it, they don’t want it for long. That’s not to say that the public has lost interest; on the contrary, news consumption is at an all-time high. It’s just a different type of news consumption, one that engages more senses, and communication pros need to take notice and make changes to the process today. Remember, you can fight that wave and lose, drowning in a constant evolution of technology serving up a constant stream of content, or you can ride it out and bask in the sunshine above.

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Seek and Ye Shall Find: The News Release

March 25, 2015

By Neil Hershberg, Senior Vice President, Global Media

The primacy of the news release in the editorial ecosystem has once again been reaffirmed.Google adjusted its algorithms last September to include news releases among the authorized news sources used in gathering its “in the news” search results. Google’s decision had escaped notice until Reuters recently spotlighted the silent shift in search strategy: http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/03/11/us-google-news-idUSKBN0M729A20150311

Simply put, news releases may catapult other sources to earn top ranking in searches focusing on specific companies. The impact on corporate issuers, news consumers, and media organizations promises to be profound in many ways.

Sonic Earnings in Google News

Corporate issuers stand to be the major beneficiaries; companies are now able to convey their message in their own words, unfiltered and without interpretation by others. Their official statements will play a larger role in shaping subsequent conversations, based on heightened visibility.

The biggest challenge for the PR industry is to not abuse the privilege. Following rampant efforts to game the system and artificially elevate search standings, Google introduced various initiatives, i.e. “Hummingbird,” to clamp down on the outsized presence of news releases in its search results.

Google’s release rehabilitation decision provides PR and IR professionals with the opportunity for redemption.

News consumers also stand to benefit on multiple levels. Company statements are an authoritative source of information; they remain extremely popular with many audiences, including investors, product enthusiasts, and peer group professionals.

The renewed prominence of the news release provides users with a direct and simple pathway to this invaluable information resource.

“The goal of search is to get users the right answer at any one time as quickly as possible — that may mean returning an article from an established publisher or from a smaller niche publisher or indeed it might be the press release,” a Google spokeswoman told Reuters.

An unintended consequence of Google’s action is the potential diversion of traffic away from sites operated by news organizations. Industry analysts have noted that Google’s “in the news” modules are a major driver of traffic to news sites, which may see some user slippage.

The reality, however, is that most readers are anxious to get a kaleidoscope of opinions and perspectives; they will likely seek out editorial coverage from trusted third-party sources to supplement the core release.

Bottom line: the news release is more vital than ever, at the very center of the discovery process.

Business Wire NX Distribution Technology

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Listen up! Everything PR and Social Media Pros Need To Know About Meerkat

March 9, 2015

By Serena Ehrlich, Director of Social & Evolving Media, Business Wire

Welcome to Meerkat!

Welcome to Meerkat!

As Business Wire’s director of social and evolving media, I get asked a lot about the future of social tech and which emerging apps are going to impact the social news distribution/consumption flow.  Right now, that tool is most definitely Meerkat.

Meerkat is a very easy to use, point and shoot iOS application that allows users to share live video from their mobile devices.  For today’s marketers, the opportunities provided by Meerkat for program amplification, and real-time news sharing are huge.  Expect to see marketers use it to livestream media and consumer focused events and interviews, showcase product use, create meet and greets with executives, interviews and even provide real-time behind the scene sneak peeks.

Using Meerkat is easy! First you download the app and log in using your Twitter account.  Meerkat will automatically find and link you with Twitter followers who are also using Meerkat, so right from the start you have fans and followers.  Meerkat videos are not available for replay, although you can choose to save your broadcasts for additional content marketing use.basketball meerkat

Meerkat offers two ways to livestream –in real-time or later, at a scheduled time.

To begin a livestream, aim your camera to feature whatever you want to show and start streaming.  The app will then send out a Tweet to your Twitter followers, as well as a mobile alert to Meerkat connections, that you are livestreaming, inviting them to view your video.  Meerkat users can then come and watch either via the Meerkat app or their web browser, with in-app notifications alerting you every time someone new joins in.

How to schedule on meerkatTo schedule a livestream, click the schedule button, type in the time and date of your upcoming livestream and Meerkat will help you promote it by sharing this information via a Tweet sent from your Twitter account.

During your livestreams, you can engage with viewers via comments that are also pushed out on Twitter as a way to increase the visibility and potential engagement of and with your Meerkat livestream

The results of Meerkat livestream announcements on Twitter remind me of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.  First, it coincides with Twitter’s recent move to allow users to embed Twitter-hosted videos on any website.  As Twitter focuses on video sharing, don’t be surprised if you see more videos within your Twitter stream. While we cannot confirm it at this time, it would make sense for Twitter to change their news feed algorithms slightly to highlight this new feature.

In addition to Twitter’s own emphasis on video, Meerkat also taps into innate human behavior in two ways.  First, when one sees an announcement of a livestream from a friend or connection, it creates a desire to click to see what is being shared. Secondly, with today’s consumers adopting visual communications, this is a perfect marriage between social media and video production, allowing them to watch the video live, as it is being made.  Meerkat itself built in a point system to reward users for watching other videos, showcasing top viewers via a leaderboard.  The gamified, viral nature of the tool, combined with the ease-of use, makes this a marketers dream – and just in time for SXSW.

With no costs associated with the service, and its ability to alert your followers of current and upcoming broadcasts, there is no reason marketing and communication pros should not be testing this tool to support a wide range of event, business, product and consumer-focused marketing program. Are using Meerkat yet?

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[RECAP] LeWeb 2014: Silicon Valley in Paris

January 23, 2015

By Simona Colletta, Media Relations Specialist – Paris

Launched in 2004 to deepen the connection between big companies, startups, visionaries, and leaders in technology, LeWeb is Europe’s greatest internet conference and, in just ten years, has become a must-attend event worldwide. Business Wire was proud to be the official news distributor of LeWeb 2014 which had 3500 visitors, 300 journalists and 70 bloggers all from 80 different countries attend this year’s conference.

LeWeb 2014

The conference is seen as a passport for corporate success. Every year LeWeb organizes a startup competition, with winners of the past editions having earned between 500.000 and 1 million euros during the year following the event.  This year there was something new about the startup competition: a pre-competition was organized in four European cities (Paris, Barcelona, Berlin and Stockholm) with the winner in each city chosen to participate in the Paris final competition. This year’s winner was Jukedeck, which automatically creates cheap, free-access, unlimited music. Its CEO Ed Rex astonished the audience by rapping his pitch in front of the judging panel.

An apple a day… does it keep the e-doctor away?

This edition of LeWeb was dedicated to the theme of Digital Health. Fred Wilson, a famous American investor (Twitter, Soundcloud, Foursquare, etc.), predicted that in 2015, successful and innovating companies will appear in the health sector. The potential impact of digital help could revolutionize the industry for medical staff and patients alike; therefore investments in this sector keep growing exponentially. As LeWeb conference called it – Digital Health would be “the reinvention of Healthcare.”

Doctor Daniel Kraft, a Harvard-trained physician-scientist, inventor, entrepreneur and innovator (with over 20 years of experience in clinical practice, biomedical research and healthcare innovation), delivered one of the most significant speeches of this year’s conference.  Doctor Kraft gave an interesting perspective of tomorrow’s patient, who he says will be equipped with sensors in order to follow and measure his/her health day by day. He said, “With connected health, you will become your own health’s boss”.  Kraft believes the individual will be more responsible and autonomous, and he/she will share information with his/her doctor, just as he/she now shares pictures or music on social networks. Business actors such as Apple, outside of this sector until now, will start to conquer the territory with, for example, the Healthkit, now available on iPhones.

Nicolas Huchet

Nicolas Huchet and BionicoHand

While there were many attention-grabbing speeches and products and projects, one stood out in particular. Bionicohand is a French project that aims to make accessible “the construction of a prosthetic upper limb at a low cost, due to standardized parts and open sources, easy to repair and therefore accessible to people with limited financial resources. This project wants to open new opportunities for emerging countries that do not have access to such equipment.”

Bionico’s CEO, Nicolas Huchet, presented the project. Nicolas’s arm was amputated when he was 18 and he was equipped with a myoelectric prosthesis, which allowed him to open and close a pincer. This was a good first step toward autonomy, but today there are many high-tech solutions that allow for the opportunity to better simulate human hands in motion. The problem is that high-tech prostheses can cost up to €65.000 and they are not covered by French social security. So Nicolas decided to build his own prosthesis using 3D printing technology (with the help of a local Fablab). That is how Bionicohand was born in 2013. Its mission is to give the same opportunity to others, who can download the plans for free.

Stay connected

LeWeb is a great occasion for co-working and networking. It gives companies the opportunity to be known in this “cruel” technology world and, at the same time, gives the private individual the opportunity to learn about technology and tech trends, even if they are a new to the techspace.

With all of this amazing information being shared at LeWeb, Isn’t it a good reason for visiting Paris next winter?

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How do Millennials Consume News (and Why You Need to Care)

January 13, 2015

By Molly Pappas, Media Relations, Business Wire

Millennials-Heart-UGC-InfographicMillennials (ages 18 – 34) comprise the largest demographic in the United States. So, it comes as no surprise that this generation also spends most of their days (18 hours each day!) consuming media and provides the loudest voices to be heard within social media platforms, according to recent research by social-influence marketing platform, Crowdtap.

A whopping seventy-one percent of Crowdtap survey participants listed social media as a top priority in their lives, engaging in it daily.

What’s more, 60 percent of these same Millennials depend on social media to keep up-to-date on current global and local news.  But what publications do they read?  This  audience prefers to consume news and world affairs content created by those they perceive to be their peers – flocking to platforms such as BuzzFeed and Huffington Post instead of traditional news outlets such as The New York Times.

The information gathered from user-generated content sites and sources is trusted 40 percent more than information gathered from other types of sources.

The remaining 33 percent of Millennials still cite more traditional media sources – print, radio and television – as a way they consume media. However, studies show that user-generated content shape this generation’s lives much more than any other form of media, and they remain the only generation where digital media exceeds traditional.

Millennials spend the majority of their weekly media time using digital devices (especially smartphones), and 43 percent access the internet via their phones more than through their computer. Three out of four Millennials own a smart phone and use social media as a source for current affairs, apart from networking. They tend to rely heavily on HuffPost, Yahoo-ABC, CNN and BuzzFeed (all media that Business Wire reaches on a daily basis!)

So why should you care? Well, according to research by InkHouse and GMI, while the press release is the most trusted source of company-driven news, nearly half of Americans simply don’t trust any source of company-produced news. So while releases are still a very important PR tool, it appears that you can expect better bang for your buck by getting media to directly cover the story.

inkhouse_ig_press_release_sectionAccording to the same survey, TV and online news should be your top targets for earned media placement. Traditional media placement still carries the most weight in terms of reach and influence, but studies suggest an integrated media program (online news, broadcast and social media) is the best way to go.

And yes, Millennials are social-media obsessed, but they are realistically aware how much information can be modified and edited, and are thus returning to trusted newspapers and sources of news for information.

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