Are you ready for the metaverse? While the public at large may not have fully embraced the metaverse just yet, large media and tech companies are going all-in on the promise of this persistent virtual space where people can interact using virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR).
In late January, Apple Inc. alluded to its upcoming plans for the metaverse. "We see a lot of potential in this space and are investing accordingly," said CEO Tim Cook, when he was asked about the company’s plans for the metaverse. Meanwhile, Facebook has been making waves for months with its rebrand as Meta. As Facebook’s new parent company invests heavily in the metaverse, its fourth quarter 2021 earnings report revealed the financials of its Reality Labs division — with a loss of $10 billion.
As Digital Content Next (DCN) reports, “While only 8% of news publishers currently say they intend to invest in metaverse products, the need to discover younger audiences and to discover new revenue sources is a powerful lure.” The metaverse, like any uncharted territory, holds great potential — but also hides many pitfalls for its earliest explorers. So let’s take a little time to map out the metaverse.
What is the metaverse?
The metaverse is a term used to loosely refer to a persistent virtual world, but it can also generally refer to digital spaces made more lifelike through VR or AR. As it currently stands, the metaverse also often refers to gaming worlds where users’ avatars walk around and interact. To complicate matters more, the metaverse doesn’t really exist yet in its idealized, comprehensive, and ever-present form — and instead just refers to “Web 3, NFTs, decentralized virtual spaces, and the gaming landscape,” according to DCN. Simply put, the metaverse is still evolving but that isn’t stopping some intrepid explorers from diving in.
What opportunities does the metaverse hold for publishers?
While much of the current buzz around the metaverse is coming from the gaming and social media spaces, it holds two main opportunities for publishers:
- New revenue streams
- New touchpoints for younger consumers
Imagine selling a virtual magazine to someone walking down the street in the metaverse who would never pick up a print product in the real world, or screening a movie for paying audiences at a virtual theater. These are very real and viable ways to develop new revenue streams in a virtual world and make connections with young consumers who may not otherwise connect with your brand.
A few early adopter publishers are already making money in the metaverse — or at least with non-fungible tokens (NFTs). In March of 2021, Quartz listed one of its articles for sale as an NFT. The article sold for one ether, or approximately $1,800 at the time. It’s a small victory, and possibly not a replicable one, but as the metaverse matures so will the opportunities for publishers and companies across the spectrum.
The Wall Street Journal, on the other hand, joined forces with an architect to create a virtual apartment building where readers could explore a luxurious virtual apartment while seeing the WSJ’s news, market reports, and videos on a wall. The opportunities are endless, and limited only by creativity and a company’s resources.
Keeping up with content demands: AI-generated content
As early adopters are already finding out, one of the main challenges of doing business in the metaverse is the sheer volume of content needed to keep it going. An immersive and endless virtual world demands an enormous amount of content to keep users exploring — and that puts new stresses on already strapped newsrooms.
As Jonathan Lai writes, “Fully emergent social experiences that model the serendipity of the real world will become the norm through two key trends: the proliferation of user-generated content (UGC) and the evolution of AI into both creator tool and companion.” AI-generated content is already helping newsrooms keep up with the demand of 24-hour news cycles and always-on consumers — and it may be the key to making headway into the metaverse.
“Whereas only a small number of people can be creators today, this AI-supplemented model will fully democratize content creation,” Lai explains. “Everyone can be a creator with the help of AI tools that can translate high-level instructions into production-ready assets, doing the proverbial heavy lifting of coding, drawing, animation, and more.”
Finding the right AI content creation tool to aid your production efforts will be integral to success in the metaverse, whether you’re a publisher, a real estate mogul, or a fashion designer. In the real world, there are limits on production — from printing costs to available building lots — but in the vast and endless metaverse, the sky is not the limit, and humans will need AI-generated content to keep up.