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“Spark a revolution in digital journalism”: NYT launches 5G journalism lab

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The New York Times recently announced that it has launched a 5G journalism lab in partnership with Verizon, to explore how 5G can be used in journalism. 5G technology promises download speeds that are 20 times faster than the current 4G networks, but there is a lot more to it than just that.

At The New York Times, we’re interested in how higher and faster bandwidth can unlock new ways for us to tell stories, and for our readers to experience them.

Aharon Wasserman, Serena Parr and Joseph Kenol from The New York Times

An intelligent ecosystem of connected devices

Emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), extended reality and blockchain will all see new uses with 5G. They may also be combined in new ways, creating new value for businesses.

According to The Economist, “The technology will spawn an intelligent ecosystem of connected devices, harvesting massive amounts of data that will change the way we live and work. It will be incredibly fast, stable and versatile.”

The immediate possible uses of the technology outlined by The Times’ team include, how they gather and deliver news. Speaking at the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) earlier this year, Times CEO Mark Thompson said, “5G can spark a revolution in digital journalism in two ways.

“First by transforming the way our journalists gather the news, allowing them to capture richer more immersive media and deliver their stories with much greater immediacy and second, by bringing that rich and more immediate journalism to audiences instantaneously and in the form they want and need it.”

The Times has journalists all over the world sending content that requires high-bandwidth and reliable internet connections. The same is required by reporters who are covering live events.

The lab will explore how 5G technology can help journalists stream HD media — including photos, videos and audio, and even 3D models—to the newsroom in real-time.

“More dynamic storytelling formats”

In the long run, the publisher will be looking into how 5G can be used for “more dynamic storytelling formats” for its readers. These will include using virtual and augmented reality to deliver immersive experiences.

VR and AR are among the fields that will benefit from 5G. The technology has been designed to reduce latency—the lag due to the time taken by data to travel back and forth. This can be seen when say, starting a web-search—the response isn’t exactly immediate.

A latency of 50 to several hundred milliseconds is common, as signals pass between different carrier switching centers. 5G technology will reduce this to a few milliseconds. This will significantly improve virtual and augmented reality applications.

Cristiano Amon, President of Qualcomm Incorporated told the Times that with 5G, high-quality VR applications need not require bulky headsets connected to personal computers that generate 3-D images. The technology would make it easier to “develop goggles the size of eyeglasses.”

Significant impacts that “publishers can’t anticipate today”

Joshua Benton, Founder, and Director, Nieman Journalism Lab, writing in his piece about The Times initiative, states, “It’s safe to say the most significant impacts 5G will have are probably ones publishers can’t anticipate today.”

He gives the example of how Twitter affected journalism, “Think of what Twitter has done to reporters: turned them from “people who report and write stories that are edited and published online every so often” to “people who are constantly sharing links, commenting on events, live-tweeting press conferences, giving granular updates, asking for help, and having human conversations, all in public and in real time.”

New technologies often establish new norms as much as they enable new products.

Joshua Benton, Founder, and Director, Nieman Journalism Lab

He adds, “What happens when 5G does that for streaming video or even AR? Could 5G’d reporters become livestreamers by default? For high-value segments of publishing, could access to a reporter’s livestream become part of a premium package?”

As if echoing Benton’s thoughts, Thompson said in his CES address, “Previous revolutions in mobile networks and devices have led to many unexpected—sometimes counter-intuitive—breakthroughs and 5G will be no exception.”

Whilst there are health concerns attached to 5G – which need addressing to allay public fears – what seems inevitable is the rapid adoption of this new technology and its potential to transform the world. As the Economist states, “The transformational potential of 5G is hard to underestimate, and it’s likely it will have applications we’ve yet to even dream of.”