What’s next for the Metaverse and publishing?

26 January 2023
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12 months on from our first article looking at the opportunities for publishers in the Metaverse, we touch base with our own Metaverse Expert Manuel Bolognesi. Manuel reflects on 2022’s developments between publishers and the Metaverse and looks ahead to the future of Metaverse and Publishing in 2023.

Quick Metaverse Recap

By 2030, the Metaverse industry is estimated to be worth $5 trillion. This figure is counting for more than 50% of events potentially held in it. Clearly, the desire for a seamless and virtually immersive 3D version of the internet where users can experience human interaction remains. For Manuel, achieving this requires a mindset shift from “Meta”, namely the hype surrounding the rebranding of Facebook and speculation and fascination associated with record-breaking NFTs collections, to “Verse”, the plethora of problem-focused reflections around people, existing Web3 and virtual-world communities, their activities and interests.

Publisher experiments of note from 2022

The Sandbox has been at the heart of publisher’s experiments in virtual worlds in 2023. The innovative decentralised virtual platform has allowed publishers to create voxel-based gaming and cultural experiences. South China Morning Post used their experiment space to display a collection of its exclusive historical NFTs, visual illustrations, data visualisations, and infographics. Additionally, users had the opportunity to acquire lands next to the newspaper’s to demonstrate close relationships.

Source: South China Morning Post

Forbes used The Sandbox to host educational events which started on 14th December 2022. These events showcased the history of the magazine and a Forbes NFT gallery focused on the magazine’s successes. From a gamification perspective, players who completed every quest in the experience could enter a 50,000 SAND prize pool.

The Sandbox is also giving away a Forbes VIP Balloon NFT to 400 select winners. The plan includes selling Forbes wearables and a chance to win the Balloon NFT for players who post a social media picture of their avatar, in the Forbes Hub, with a season’s greeting message. Although Forbes has some developers working on the project, they hired a creative agency with metaverse-specific experience to build virtual objects and buildings on its land.

Source: Forbes

Away from The Sandbox, experiments have taken place in alternative virtual worlds. In March 2022, UK business magazine Management Today built a 12-metre high front cover in Decentraland. They became the first English language magazine to do so. Companies like Walmart, Lego, McDonald’s, Gap, American Eagle, Forever 21, Nike, and Nickelodeon have all joined Roblox, creating engaging experiences and mini-games that keep their brands vivid in the minds of the younger generation. News publishers have been traditional pioneers with puzzles and games, could this be a way for them to take a step into virtual worlds?

Source: GamingwithKev

Beyond gaming and virtual worlds, with a much-anticipated Apple Augmented Reality Headset, 2023 should be a year in which newspaper publishers would do better not to shy away from starting or pursuing Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality experimentation.

4 practical tips from publishers in 2023

1. Get to know existing Web3 communities and virtual world users

Existing Web3 communities and virtual world users are starting to resent initiatives that are done solely to get “one’s feet wet” in Web3 or the Metaverse. Publishers need to be serious with their commitment to these communities.

Newspaper companies should start by thoroughly observing the communities of virtual world users that they might be targeting and the Web3 communities they may be advertising historical NFTs to. This will lead to a deeper understanding of their culture, enhancing business choices in areas where “Metaverse-native” teams have already been active for years.

“Most 3D content creators and centralised virtual-world native teams that I work with react to the word “Blockchain”. These reactions are linked with individual experiences or opinions of crypto and can be either positive or negative. Many share concerns about the prospect of centralised virtual-world platforms shutting down or their accounts being terminated, resulting in the loss of years of work, assets, and purchases stored in their virtual inventories. This is why decentralisation and virtual worlds pair well together: they would be a perfect match in a world where “crypto” was not as scary a word!”  

Manuel Bolognesi

2. Don’t be concerned about technological challenges

Publishers shouldn’t become overly concerned about technological challenges related to interoperability across virtual-world platforms and different types of realities. Instead, start by communicating and connecting with the creative minds across both centralised and decentralised virtual worlds. You will figure out the technology together with them as time progresses.

The Metaverse does refer to a utopian endpoint, but what matters today is the journey. Everything related to the Metaverse will mutate. This includes creator economies, as they will need to convey multidimensional intellectual property, addressing the entire domain that goes from physical to extended reality (XR), across different platforms, and ensuring constant value dissemination and revenue creation. 

3. The link with AI mustn’t be underestimated

AI will be the engine of the Metaverse. It will power large data processing, from visual, data-processing applications (like 3D physical-virtual view integration) to data modeling, security, and computing. AI is expected to surpass $300 billion in global spending by 2026. 

Generative AI has been the latest trend catching people’s attention. According to Sacha Morard, CTO/ CIO at Le Monde, generative AI messaging and coding software like ChatGPT have the potential to revolutionise the way developers work in newspaper media.

Content management systems (CMSs) may start resembling this type of software. Developers will need to master these technologies to increase efficiency and to have a more competitive position in the job market. Le Monde already sees data scientists becoming rare resources and increasingly sought after by media. ChatGPT is a work in progress, yet Microsoft has just invested $10 billion in it, extending its existing partnership. Big tech companies like Meta or Google are already working on alternatives. In the future, it isn’t unfathomable to think of generative AI creating 3D virtual worlds.

4. Think beyond replicating physical commerce

Physical commerce, such as buying newspapers or seeing advertisements in person, should not be exactly replicated in virtual environments or be limited to a specific virtual platform. These experiences need to be adapted to new platforms, interfaces, and consumer needs. They also need to seamlessly connect various channels, including 2D and 3D, Augmented Reality, and Virtual Reality.  This involves interconnected and immersive content that transcends capacity limits, attributing publishers the task to create personalised 3D experiences in media, and igniting new models of advertising and ad consumption.

It is likely that the Metaverse economy, a creator economy, will eventually generate substantial economic value for newspapers through these models. The masses currently lack the necessary hardware, software, payment options, or understanding to make purchases in interconnected virtual environments.

In the future, newspaper advertising may shift towards creating authentic immersive content and giving users more control and ownership over their personal data.  In the next few years, Ad spend growth of newspaper publishers may be evaluated alongside Metaverse activities and the future of advertising is likely to see a greater focus on data privacy.

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