Are there opportunities for publishers in the Metaverse?

20 January 2022
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Today, we dig into a topic that has been discussed a lot over the last few months yet still feels somewhat superficial: the Metaverse. We spoke with our own metaverse expert Manuel Bolognesi, who has been on an entrepreneurial journey commercialising goods and services in the metaverse for many years.

Originally inspired by fiction through movies like “Snow Crash” (1992) and “Ready Player One” (2018), the “metaverse” is an older term than most people think. Its meaning has developed significantly.

Despite just 8% of publishers telling Reuters that they will put more resources into applications for the metaverse, the idea of the metaverse is igniting a renewed fascination across business and media. Facebook made the recent decision to change its name to “Meta” (subsequent to the acquisition of the “Oculus VR team”). Meanwhile, Disney have had a patent approval of a metaverse technology described as a “virtual-world simulator in a real-world venue”.

Progression of the Metaverse

In the past, “Metaverse” referred to the connection of virtual and interactive lands (achieved in virtual worlds like “Second Life”). But, its modern understanding follows advancements in Virtual Reality headsets, “Non-Fungible Tokens”, “Mixed Reality” and “Augmented Reality” technologies. These advancements portray the “Metaverse” as the future (and not yet existent) convergence of all sectors of virtual and human interaction. They aim to make use of real-world objects through “Augmented Virtuality” technologies. 

Amongst these sectors of human interaction, news sharing will most likely have a significant role in the metaverse. The tough question for publishers is “will future metaverse readers wish to learn about real-life events, or would they prefer sticking to metaverse-related news? And most importantly, how will they access this news?”  

What is news like in the Metaverse?

Metaverse users have seen the rise of a multitude of small-sized magazines and newspapers. With about 900,000 active users, Second Life, created in 2003 by Linden Labs, is the longest running and most complete virtual world to date. Inside Second Life, we have seen the rise of the “Second Life Enquirer”.

Source: Google

This is an online newspaper which allows virtual business owners and creators to advertise their services or products to virtual world consumers. This is done through the purchasing of advertising spots that can be turned into articles and press releases. These spots that can be acquired through payments made to “advertisement boards” located in the company’s virtual land, with virtual-world currency (linden dollars).

The Maliqusition” is another news source focused on virtual aviation news. This paper displays a more opinionated and interest-focused approach to news. The attention is placed on the promotion of personal stories and opinions, as opposed to virtual services and products. These 2 titles inside Second Life have a clear likeness to real world newspapers, acting almost as direct replicas.  

It is not just newspapers that have found a home in Second Life. “Kultivate Magazine” highlights the cultural aspects of Second Life, promoting art, culture, photography, music, and fashion. Kultivate also incorporates four different art galleries. What’s even more fascinating, Kultivate is the media partner and primary sponsor of “Team Diabetes of Second Life”, an official and authorised team for The American Diabetes Association!

Much like the rise of influencers, there is a growing trend amongst virtual world users to publish personal blogs linked to their avatar’s social media. These blogs review or promote virtual products through sponsorships with virtual creators. A noteworthy example is “Strawberry Singh”. Her Second Life blog and posts received so much attention, she earned the title of “Marketing Content Specialist & Social Media Manager” at Linden Labs. Although her work mostly continues through official channels like the “Second Life community forums”, her articles have been an important source of advertising for virtual businesses.

Is there potential for publishers in the current Metaverse?

The Wall Street Journal encourages investors “to look into the metaverse even if they do not understand what it is yet”. This is true for publishers as well who can explore opportunities for reader engagement, advertising, community building or organisation efficiencies.

Media and entertainment in the metaverse are likely to diverge from “standalone experiences” into a multitude of interoperable spaces of entertainment, particularly prone to being experienced together. Some have started doing this in the real world through virtual events and Reuters foresee an increasing number of interviews held on the metaverse in 2022. We have already seen examples of this from the Financial Times, where they interviewed Meta’s Nick Clegg in the Metaverse, and in South Korea, where top economic daily Maiel Business Newspaper held its newsroom meeting in the metaverse.

Advertising in Second Life is also an avenue for publishers. Interestingly, this is not only limited to virtual products. It is normal to hear real-life products and services being advertised in popular Second Life music clubs and destinations. This is an easy place for publishers wanting to embrace the metaverse to begin.

Talking of music clubs and destinations, real life artists have even held concerts in the Metaverse. In April 2020, Travis Scott, a famous American rapper, held a concert in Fortnite, performing to an audience of 12.3 million players. You can experience the full concert here.

It is estimated that through ticket and merchandise sales, Scott earnt $20 million for his 9 minute concert. This was not even the first such concert in the Metaverse. Back in November 2018 before the Metaverse had started to become mainstream, Marshmello performed the first in-game concert ever to take place on Fortnite.

The future of news in the Metaverse

Although specific examples are still close to non-existent, some Virtual Reality headset users have started reading e-books on their headsets (like Facebook’s Oculus Quest 2 and Oculus GO). These devices use technology like “immersionVRreader 2.0”, a media reader designed specifically for Virtual Reality. Users can physically turn the pages of their book as they go. Publishers could leverage this same technology for their products. Who is to say that the traditional newspaper will not acquire a new life in the metaverse? Whilst current focus is on mobile for publishers, perhaps the age of traditional page turning is not yet dead!

Source: YouTube

This sensation of shared experiences could also apply to news reading. Under this light, the metaverse could favour an immersive, live, and interactive experience of accessing the news. Avatars could direct online friends to real-life news sources and debate together. Alternatively, as we learnt with the case of Second Life, metaverse avatars could also direct their virtual online friends to virtual news sources, sharing the latest virtual products, games, apparel, land investments or ideas.

Proof of ownership in the metaverse can only be granted through blockchain technology. Therefore, cryptocurrency and crypto tokens are the core of a future metaverse economy. News related to investments and fluctuations of specific cryptocurrencies is likely to shape the future of news in the metaverse. This is even more so given the fact that some of the latest metaverse platforms, like Decentraland, have created their own crypto tokens, namely “MANA”.

Real world cryptocurrency analytics companies like Messari and Coincheckup are starting to display “news” sections. These amalgamate different articles which address a specific metaverse platform and its associated crypto token. In a similar vein, websites like NFT Plazas also display an individual “news” page, showcasing all the latest stories occurring in specific metaverse platforms like Decentraland. Perhaps mainstream publishers can expand their offerings and embrace the world of cryptocurrency.

How to stay up to date with the Metaverse

  • Journalists like Cathy Hackl, an American tech futurist and metaverse expert, are starting to specialise in Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality topics. Cathy publishes a newsletter and hosts a podcast on metaverse marketing, helping brands to prepare for the future and “master the metaverse”.
  • TIME Magazine is launching a Newsletter entirely catered to the metaverse and its developments.  These developments focus on a specific range of companies.
  • Sources like “XR Today” are also committed to writing articles that provide compelling industry news and insights in the “extended reality” industry, with specific sections for “Virtual Reality”, “Augmented Reality” and “Mixed Reality”. 

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