Clifton Dawson, CEO of Greenlight Insights, is an analyst who covers digital disruption and how today’s company are transforming their business models to deliver next-gen experiences through virtual and augmented reality technology. Follow him: @AskClifton.

Strategic Insight: This year’s Digital Content NewFronts will be a big stage for virtual reality. Digital publishers must follow up on last year’s major commitments to produce content with evidence of impact. The health of advertiser spending on VR campaigns and the viability of VR studios depends on the announcements shared by leading media brands.


Last year, digital publishers made sure that virtual reality made its way into their sales pitches during Digital Content NewFronts, the annual marketplace for digital media properties, brands and media buyers. Major media brands such as National Geographic, CNN, and The Economist all made announcements about VR originals or extensions of their media properties. Several leading digital innovators also included the then nascent medium in their presentations. For instance, Refinery29, the women’s lifestyle and shopping site, announced it will release one piece of virtual reality or 360-degree video every week for the rest of the year.

This May, virtual reality will again take center stage. However, marketers and industry observers will be looking for indications of how these campaigns have performed and how the initial experiments will be extended in 2017 and beyond. While most of the VR content thus far has been in the non-fiction category, the NewFronts provides valuable insights on the future of scripted efforts as well.

Among the most anticipated developments coming from the 2017 Digital Content NewFronts are:

  • What are the defining characteristics of the audience for VR campaigns, and how valuable is this audience?
  • What audience reach can advertisers expect with 360 video campaigns this year and in the next 5 years?
  • How will does advertising fit in and why are 360 video and fully immersive branded content an effective option?

Sentiment by publishers and advertisers at NewFronts will also have implications industrywide. Since 2015, there have been several newly formed VR studios helping publishers ramp up VR testing and video production. Their success rests partially on marketers spending more on 360-video and fully immersive advertising campaigns.

About Digital Content NewFronts

Taking place each May in New York City, the Digital Content NewFronts is a marketplace for brands and media buyers will include presentations from media powerhouses and digital innovators featuring big name celebrities, innovative storytelling, and groundbreaking video experiences. NewFronts’ co-founders—AOL, DigitasLBi, Google/YouTube, Hulu, and Yahoo—will be joined at the 2017 marketplace by AwesomenessTV, Bloomberg Media, Business Insider, BuzzFeed, Condé Nast Entertainment, Daily, DEFY Media, Disney/Maker Studios, Fullscreen, HealthiNation, Hearst, Major League Gaming, Mashable, National Geographic, The New York Times, Newsy, NowThis, POPSUGAR, Refinery29, Spectrum Reach, Studio71, Time Inc., Trusted Media Brands (TMBI), Turner, VICE, Vix, and Warner Bros. Digital Networks/Machinima. Learn more at