To punch up the launch of its new podcast, USA Today has created an augmented reality experience to introduce listeners to the story of corruption in Chicago.
Debuting Sept. 24, The City examines the backroom politics of several American cities, with the Windy City serving as the subject in its premiere. The podcast's first episode focuses on how municipal government, organized crime, and federal authorities conspired to dump trash in a vacant lot of Chicago's North Lawndale neighborhood.
Available today in the USA Today app for iOS, the AR experience presents the audience with a 3D aerial model of the North Lawndale neighborhood.
As the audio story unfolds, a time-lapse animation of the dump grows in size and height. Visual prompts within the field of view direct viewers to points of interest on the model as the story continues.
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"We're thrilled to have assembled such a strong team coming from the worlds of public radio, podcasting, investigative reporting and long-form narrative," said Liz Nelson, vice president of strategic content for the USA Today Network in a statement. "The expertise this team brings to The City meshes seamlessly with our ongoing mission to produce first-class journalism and compelling content on new digital platforms."
Like The New York Times, USA Today has begun integrating augmented reality content into its reporting. Its AR coverage began with a standalone app, 321 Launch, for viewing SpaceX rocket launches. The app's functionality has since been integrated into USA Today's main app.
USA Today has not been as prolific in the practice as the Times, whose immersive content team has published about a story per month since starting the AR production in February 2018. Considering that augmented reality, particularly in the area of news reporting, is still an emerging technology, it will take some time before media companies achieve the scale necessary to produce content on a more consistent basis.