News & Analysis

News Corp shows how different business units collaborate as part of its new ‘Future Focused’ agenda

- February 22, 2016 5 MIN READ

Shadow Communication Minister Jason Clare announced to a gathering outside of News Corp’s offices in Sydney last Tuesday that innovation was “critical for Australia’s future.”

The Minister, along with specialised media outlets, advertising partners, investors, startups and other members of the tech community were given an in-depth, behind the scenes look at ‘the future newsroom’ as News Corp hosted its inaugural Future Focused innovation event.

The last 24 months have seen many large companies join the innovation bandwagon, launching everything from their own accelerator programs to acquiring up-and-coming startups that will help usher the companies into a secure future and provide new revenue streams.

When it came to Future Focused, without a doubt the stand out technology that News Corp seems to be seeking to integrate into its various media offerings is Virtual Reality (VR) content.

Future Focused

Our Social Editor Gina experiencing VR

Realestate.com.au is by far the most prominent company within News Corp that is currently experimenting with VR in new and interesting ways.

Upon arrival to the event, attendees were able to get a feel for the technology in a simulation that required them to cross a ‘plank’ positioned between two ‘buildings’. It was a unique experience, and a perfect example for showing someone how VR is going to change the way we consume content.

It is amazing the way VR has the ability to disrupt your cognitive thought process. I knew I was on a plank 10cm from the ground and that the ‘wind’ I felt was just two fans blowing air. However I have never felt the fear and adrenaline from consuming a piece of content like that. It is both exciting and a little scary that we are still only in the early days with this technology.

What is most impressive however is the way that News Corp intends to monetise this new tech. REA Group, the owner of Realestate.com.au, which is all majority owned by News Corp, was the major disrupter of the ‘rivers of gold’ of real estate advertising in the last ten years. It has consistently been innovative and of course profitable in giving both consumers and agents the tools they need to sell and lease properties on the platform successfully.

However, it knows all too well that online media is about to change once again and in order to remain relevant News Corp – and all of its assets – needs to, in a way, disrupt itself.

An important step in that process has been New Corp’s purchase of a majority stake-holding in real estate marketing platform DIAKRITfounded in 2001 by Fredrick Bergman, Dick Karlsson, and Martin Fritze.

Since its launch the startup has established itself as one of the leading organisations when it comes to producing digital visualisation solutions that help agents and developers sell properties and assist home owners to easily find, renovate, and furnish their future homes.

News Corp executive chairman Michael Miller said in a statement earlier this month, “DIAKRIT’s 3D and rich media content makes buying property much easier by helping people visualise their dream home and enabling them to make more informed decisions. In this way DIAKRIT’s technology helps real estate agents and developers present their properties in a far more engaging manner.”

“The real estate market here in Australia, the USA, and around the world has only just begun leveraging this type of digital content, so the potential is enormous. We intend using our reach, digital assets and advertising expertise to further drive DIAKRIT’s growth in new markets, and in turn, our property businesses and real estate agent partners will benefit enormously from utilising DIAKRIT’s expertise and products. We are delighted to welcome DIAKRIT to News, in a deal that will add revenues to our bottom line.”

In fact, the revenue potential for News Corp if all goes to plan is huge – DIAKRIT forms the missing piece in an end-to-end solution that will quite possibly make it one of the most powerful next generation platforms the real estate sector has ever seen. When you combine REA’s current technologies with DIAKRIT and VR tech, selling, leasing, and searching for real estate becomes a totally new and immersive experience, not to mention it makes the process of first showings, at the very least, scalable.

Imagine being able to walk through a property you are thinking of buying from the comfort of your own home with a real estate agent in real-time. That is literally what the future of Realestate.com.au will be like as VR hardware becomes more affordable and mainstream.

On top of that, users will be able to use DIAKRIT’s technologies to ‘virtually’ renovate parts of properties to see potential – a shitty kitchen could be transformed into a stainless steel and granite masterpiece in an instant,  tapping into that part of a user’s brain that makes them want to buy nice things. The days of the persuasive tactics of real estate agents could be gone forever.

In addition to the design side of things, users could even potentially buy products, furniture, and materials they need for the renovation straight from within the VR experience and even connect with a professional electrician, builder or plumber via an integration with HiPages, another News Corp asset, to receive quotes on what the job would cost prior to purchasing the property.

Although I clearly see the mind-blowing potential across the above assets mentioned above, I am perhaps not yet fully convinced that many other areas of the company are in fact innovating or will even remain relevant in a few years time.

It is clear the company’s online assets for content, news, and sports (news.com.au, Daily Telegraph, The Australian, Taste, Supercoach et al) continue to adapt to a changing market, are growing and beginning to think outside the box when it comes to working with paid partners in new and exciting ways. It is also good to see a lot of effort being made to understand off-platform content creation and distribution on platforms like Snapchat and Facebook.

However I remain unconvinced that Foxtel is truly innovating, particularly in the on-demand streaming space.

Personally I find Netflix and Stan to be much more advanced products than Foxtel’s offering, Presto. While Netflix clearly dominates in terms of users and original commissioned content, Stan has started to show that it may begin to follow in Netflix’s footsteps sooner than we think with its original series No Activity and soon to air original series Wolf Creek. Not to mention that Stan has locked down a relationship with Amazon that gives it the rights to a number of Amazon’s popular original series.

For me, the key to being a real player in on-demand is positioning yourself as a creator of bespoke content first, not just a distribution hub.

The key to a successful ‘Future Focused’ News Corp is collaboration across its assets. It is clear from last week that the organisation understands that.

There has been a lot of talk in the last couple of years around how parts of the News Corp business are dying (read: print business) and while I am certain that this statement will ring true 50 years down the track, News Corp is most definitely not a company struggling to remain relevant – I would actually argue in a lot of ways it is pioneering the next generation of media-tech.

Featured image: Fredrick Bergman, Dick Karlsson and Martin Fritze | Source: Provided