A year ago, The New York Times started a project called The Daily 360, where the Times would publish a 360-degree video every day for a year. That year is coming close to an end now, and after gaining help from over 200 Times journalists and shooting in 57 countries, the Times' 360 videos have gathered over 94 million views on Facebook and 2 million on YouTube.
Many of the Times journalists learned how to shoot 360 video over the course of this year. “This enabled us to accelerate our learnings,” says Marcelle Hopkins, the executive director of virtual reality at the Times.
Hopkins and her team learned a lot about 360 video working on The Daily 360, but they have a few key takeaways that every videographer could benefit from learning.
First, Hopkins says that location of 360 videos mattered. She and her team tried to capture video that would put their viewers into pretty extraordinary positions, like being inside a NASA installation that’s designed to mimic a Mars colony. But Hopkins says while a good amount of the locations where full of energy, just being in a place is enough to engage people. “It doesn’t even need to be a dynamic place,” she says.
Interestingly, the team’s real estate videos did very well with views.
Experience one of the Time's 360 videos for yourself:
Next, Hopkins found that using 360 video for profiles on people isn’t as effective as it would be if you shoot in normally. “The storytelling is so different,” Hopkins said. “In the beginning, and even to a certain extent now, we find [profiles] difficult to do.”
Another lesson that Hopkin’s team learned during the project is that context and platform both matter. The Times notice that viewers watched 360 videos for shorter amounts of time on their mobile app and distribution platforms, while views in VR headsets were longer.
“I think we’re in the early stages of figuring out a distribution strategy,” she said. “When people are in our app and they see a 360 video, that’s when people are commuting to work or standing in line at the bank … When they put on a headset, they tend to watch the whole thing.”
Lastly, Hopkins doesn’t see any plans from the Times to create a standalone franchise using 360 video. The Times has admitted that once the Daily 360 project ends, they will most likely be publishing fewer 360 videos, but the format will still continue to be a part of its report.
360-degree video is growing but still has a long way to go. Hopefully there will be more projects in the future that will explore and showcase what the 360 medium has to offer.