ny times has the [alexa] skills…

The inimitable New York Times has created not one, but five new Alexa skills.

Now, people can use their smart speaker to access:

> A daily flash briefing read by journalist Michael Barbaro
> Hear about the travels of Sebastian Modak with “52 places to go”
> Get a weekly music roundup from music editor Caryn Ganz
> Get book recommendations from Times book critics
> Play a weekly “New York Times Quiz” testing their knowledge of recent news

Why it’s hot:

It may not feel a massive innovation, but it’s a savvy move for the Times in a world where people are increasingly eschewing websites. No longer is it enough to build destinations, we have to think about how our brands can be present where people need them, when they need them.

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Augmented news

The New York Times app started to incorporate AR into its digital content that makes flat images three-dimensional.

In an article reporting on the Winter Olympics, NYT uses the technology to allow readers to engage with the content, the athletes. Readers can look closer on some parts of the content, look at it from a different angle and walk around it. This functionality extends the time a reader spends on the article by letting them engage with the content.

Why it’s hot: using technology to add value to content and improve customer experience.

NY Times launches NYT VR in partnership with Google

On Thursday, The New York Times took a step into virtual reality.

NYT VR is a mobile app that can be used — along with your headphones and optionally a cardboard viewing device — to simulate richly immersive scenes from across the globe.

You can use the app on its own. But the experience is even better with a special virtual reality viewer. Thanks to a partnership with Google, NYT will be sending free Google Cardboard VR viewers to all domestic New York Times home delivery subscribers who receive the Sunday edition.

Times Insider subscribers who have chosen to receive marketing emails will also receive promotional codes via email that can be redeemed for free Cardboard viewers.

To start, The Times Magazine presents three portraits of children driven from their homes by war and persecution — an 11-year-old boy from eastern Ukraine named Oleg, a 12-year-old Syrian girl named Hana and a 9-year-old South Sudanese boy named Chuol.

The stories

War has driven 30 million children from their homes. These are the stories of three of them.

The Displaced: Introduction

Nearly 60 million people are currently displaced from their homes.

Lebanon: Hana’s Story

At 12, she has lived one-quarter of her life in a debilitating state of suspension.

South Sudan: Chuol’s Story

At 9, without his parents, he was forced to flee to the swamps.

Ukraine: Oleg’s Story

At 11, he is living in the ruins of his former life.

Source: NYTimes.com

Why It’s Hot

NY Times is staying relevant through technology, and I think this is an important step in making VR more mainstream.

“I think it’s kind of a seminal moment regardless of whether it’s journalism or not,” says Brian Blau, research director for innovative personal technologies at Gartner. “It’s Google and the Times, two well-known brands. They’re giving away more than a million of these. That, I think, is the biggest deal… Having this many Cardboards out there is great. I’ve never heard of another organization attempting to give away that many for a single purpose.”

Orange is the New Black Native Ads Impress

The New York Times released a native ad with a write up about being a woman in prison, and includes audio clips, a slideshow and graphics.

The multimedia campaign centers on women in prison, the setting for the original series. It’s one of the first to come from the Times’ newly formed Brand Studio unit, which was built to create native ads for advertisers. The article was written by Melanie Deziel, an editor at the studio who worked in the past at The Huffington Post and BuzzFeed. The illustrations are by Otto Steininger, whose work has appeared on the cover of The New Yorker.  Believe it or not, the reviews have been very positive.OrangeIsTheNewBlack

See the full ad here.

Why It’s Hot

We’ve been talking about native ads for a while now, but advertisers are incorporating them at a fairly slow pace.  This, in my opinion, is a strong example of how great content and advertising can be seamlessly woven together.