Last year, The Washington Post took its audience to Mars.

Jarrod Dickers, head of product and technology at The Washington Post, shared how VR, AR, and 360-video are changing how audiences and the news media industry are thinking about content. 

AR, VR, and 360-video content must be platform-specific, Dickers said at the 2017 INMA World Congress in New York City.  

“Not to say that it’s a niche field, but you really want to make sure that you’re providing an experience that’s meant for those platforms,” he said. “For example, we tested 360-video during the [2016 U.S.] elections, and we started to realise that when you’re watching two people on a stage, you don’t really care what’s happening behind them because you’re looking directly at them.” 

Experimenting with different platforms is important to learning how and when to use them, Dickers said. The end goal is to build content tailored for each specific platform. 

“What I think The Washington Post does extremely well … is we really figured out how to build content that could go into all those different pillars. So if we’re building for 360, how do we translate that to video or how do we translate … that to VR or AR? Because we want to make a seamless approach to be able to build content that reaches people everywhere — no matter what device or technology they’re using.” 

The Post’s Mars Rover content did just that, building a VR experience that allowed users to go onto Mars and drive the Rover. 

“VR’s biggest value is to be transformative and to be able to take people and transport them where they otherwise couldn’t be. What we did learn was … how to leverage that in other mediums as well. There are many people that would like to drive around in the Mars Rover … that don’t have Oculus or Gear VR headsets.

“Same with 360. What’s a situation that we want to put someone in — maybe they’re in a freight train and they want to look around in every direction. Fully immersive experiences are great categories for us to be leveraging and thinking about these platforms.”