The Better News Media: VR, Blockchain, and Bioanalytics

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

The “mass media” of today is not the mass media of my parents’ generation. It’s different from earlier eras in one key respect: media now is ultra-personalized, ultra-nichefied, and ultra-targeted.

So, mass media isn’t very “mass,” anymore. Targeted at users via their psychographic, demographic and socioeconomic signaling, generated through searches, purchases and activity on the social web, the only thing “mass” about media today is its massive presence in everyone’s lives. While “mass” in this sense, the channels of distribution are now so qualitatively different, that they require a new type of conceptualization and, consequently, a new suite of innovations to exemplify these new qualities.”

We are now in an era of “personal media.” This means while we may share certain dishes of our media buffets, we are ultimately dining alone, insulated within our own individualized information-silos. This has caused much dismay. Our generation, I think, misses sharing a common informational space with our fellow citizens. The sense of shared reality and shared continuity over the vastness of a country, or even a city or a town, is gone for us.

Does this have to be the case? I believe three new technologies on the horizon will define a second wave of personal media with the potential to crack our silos. They are VR, Blockchain, and Bioanalytics.

1. Virtual Reality: Living in someone else’s grandmother’s basement from afar
Silicon Valley philosopher and “Father of VR” Jaron Lanier has written extensively about the power of virtual reality to create new types of media experiences that no one has yet fathomed. He asserts that VR is unique in that it can create empathy for other perspectives in a way that other types of media simply can’t. One might not only watch an interview with a coal miner in Pennsylvania — now, one can actually visit the coal mine, “walk around” it in VR space, and perhaps at some point even interact with some locals using other related technologies. With virtual reality, the sense of “place,” a deeply known and effective aspect of the human experience, will itself become democratized and accessible to all. How might a troop of starving North Korean laborers react to a VR experience of high-tech and wealthy Seoul? Or, to be a bit more mundane — finally you can have coffee with your best friend, in her grandmother’s basement, from hundreds of miles away. You will be able to understand your best friend’s experience, through VR, in a way that words alone cannot convey.

This poignant and beautiful image of the democratization of VR requires two new developments: first, a dramatic reduction in the cost to produce the content, to the extent that creating a quality VR space is as easy and inexpensive as posting to Instagram. Second, a greater adoption on the consumer side to spur the development of greater content. Entrepreneurs that either build the tools to create incredible experiences at scale, or create moving and extraordinary experiences themselves to spur consumer adoption, are well positioned to generate entirely new types of media companies.

2. Blockchain: Knowing for sure that it came from the local drug dealer
While there is much conversation and hype surrounding blockchain as “the next internet” or “the next financial system” etc., one underreported purpose of blockchain is the way it can bring clarity and trust to systems and supply chains that currently suffer from a lack of transparency. One obvious arena for these applications is in the news business. If information is encoded into tokens, or on some kind of network, and it is possible to trace and outline the path of delivery and development any given story, this will revolutionize trust and transparency for our news business. “Anonymous” sources and international trolling farms become much less problematic if each one can be traced, via blockchain encoding, to their original basis. Facts can become far more deeply encoded into the structure of the national and international conversation as their origins and genealogies become transparent and searchable.

Entrepreneurs that seek to use blockchain to manufacture a profoundly-needed layer of clarity and trust for the news system may not only win, but save the industry itself.

3. Bioanalytics: Distractions that know when you need to turn them off and take a nap
With the smartphone repurposing the pocket or purse, computer vision and voice computing remodeling the living room, and wearable technologies such as the Fitbit or Apple Watch now metamorphosing the workout, biology and daily life are increasingly data-fied. As wearables, smartphones, and other forms of data collectors become ever more ubiquitous, our various forms of technologies will continue to learn more and more about us than we’ll likely ever learn about ourselves.

One rising example of this in new media is in eSports. Existing entirely in the world of bits instead of the world of atoms, eSports is the most quantifiable form of sports and entertainment ever created. Countless companies seeking to quantify and monetize the ways in which eSports are played and watched are founded every month. With this data, along with AI and machine learning that not only eSports companies, but any form of media company seeking to follow this model, can observe and obtain via biometric feedback, exciting and fantastic media experiences are being created.

Additionally, thanks to the conjunction of bioanalytics and machine learning, content experiences that can help create better people, that seek to help them live healthier lives and form relationships with others, are becoming far more effective. Measuring inputs such as eye-movement and heart rate, media experiences will be able to know if consumers are too overstimulated and need to relax, or a bit sad and need a pick-me-up, and adjust accordingly. Or even if a given experience itself should be turned off and stored away, so that a healthy and happy user can return the next day, refreshed, enthusiastic, and engaged.

Speaking of knowing thy customer - a better media makes for a richer society, so get off this blog and go make some good news!

By Social Starts/Joyance Intern Robert Walker Cohen

A $60M+ venture capital partnership with a uniquely data-driven approach to investing in moment-of-inception and Series A financing rounds.