360 Video to Tell a Business Story? Let Me Count the Ways

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At this stage in my career I’m not about to do a 180 and specialize in 360. But as another potential tool in the proverbial journalistic toolbox, I can envision some ways that 360 video could enhance the coverage of business and finance.

One would be to better represent physical context. For example, a traditional photo or video of a commercial port or a big farm doesn’t do justice to their scale. Sure, the video camera can pan, but even then we’re only seeing a rectangle at a time. Immersing a viewer inside an Amazon warehouse, for example, would tell a much more complex story about Amazon’s innovations than would a traditional video.

In these cases, the viewer can look at whatever s/he wants in the scene. This is both good and bad from a content creator’s perspective, I suspect. On one hand, it’s a powerful new capability that we’re putting in the hands of our audiences. On the other, we can’t express journalistic value judgments as easily. Think about the tools we use in traditional video: editors use B roll to create a mood and direct the viewer’s attention to focal points. Video producers and editors relinquish that power to some degree with 360, it would seem.

I can think of several 360 story types that I’d want to see. We’ve already seen some uses of immersive video to bring greater attention to the effects of global warming. Another would be to show what it’s like inside a Chinese factory while it’s operating. Dangerous work conditions are hard to capture in words or rectangular images. What’s it like to work in a plant in Shenzhen? Just how difficult are the conditions? Even a short 360 video — taken surreptitiously, one presumes — would speak volumes.

Also, health care coverage could use more intimate portraits of people who must cope with chronic illness and uncertain finances. When these stories are told in print, they’re too easily forgotten. But placing viewers into a person’s life encourages empathy, and that’s the kind of information and experience that leads to changes in policy. Knowing about a problem is one thing; being made to feel it is quite another.

Other kinds of business stories for 360 could be classified as luxury porn — a tour of a Scottish mansion, a look around a private mega-yacht, a flyover of Pebble Beach Golf Links, a seat on a South African safari. How about a view from inside the ultra-exclusive World Economic Forum in Davos?

That stuff is not particularly serious, but luxury has long been an essential category of coverage, and advertising, for any business-oriented news organization. Real estate, both for news and for advertising, seems perfect for 360 video as well.

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