News Track

Week 8: NYTimes.com

Keeping with my own blog theme this week, I will be looking at the New York Times’ continued use of interactives. This week I will look specifically at their use of interactives to cover a feature story. In particular, a feature story focused on a forgotten issue.

In their multimedia feature entitled “The Russia Left Behind,” the New York Times uses maps, photos, videos, and interactivity to tell the story of a forgotten Russia.  A Russia still suffering the effects of centuries of dark history, but a history that rarely makes the news.

How do you use interactivity to tell a story of a forgotten people? Simplicity and good looks. The Times opens the feature with a huge and beautiful image. The reader still isn’t exactly sure what the nutgraph of the story is, but the photo pulls them in.

Next: a map. It places the reader in the context of the feature and clearly and simply displays why they should be reading this. It reads, “On a jarring, 12-hour drive from St. Petersburg to Moscow, another Russia comes into view, one where people struggle with problems that belong to past centuries.” Boom. Nutgraph.

The following article is divided into individual stories from certain towns in the area. As you scroll down, a map follows you and allows you to view the movement of the story in accordance with the map. This is an effective method because it allows the reader to string together individual stories and get a larger image of what life is like in Russia. 

By integrating a mixture of photos and videos with this as well, the reader is constantly engaged. The reader also has the ability to move onto the next story if they are uninterested in the one they are already reading. 

All in all, this was an effective use of multimedia and interactivity. It was well produced and the multimedia acted as an agent of story telling, in addition to the story of the text. It was a good choice for the topic as well. 

Week 7: NYTimes.com

The New York Times offers many great ways to ingest visual media. One of these is audio slideshows.

Just scrolling through the homepage, however, doesn’t seem to be good enough to find an audio slideshow. The homepage of their website is text-heavy. It does not lack images, but it does lack audio. And it is the powerful combination of audio and visual that we are looking for here. To find an audio-slideshow on their website, you need to already be looking for it.

Even checking out the links on the left-sidebar of the homepage doesn’t offer hope of finding an audio slideshow. This clearly is not their preferred form of journalism. They are out there though.

Just type in audio slideshow in the search bar and you can find them. Despite their immediate invisibility on the website, the audio slideshows are well produced.

They all seem to have well-tailored starting images (title pages). The selection of photos used is also well-tailored. They choose a minimal number of photos to describe the story. After working with audio slideshows myself, I realize how difficult it is to select a minimal number of photos and still tell a story. So this was appreciated.

Their slideshows don’t utilize too much motion. The pictures stay up there for a good amount of time and are usually still. This helps you to focus on the complimentary audio. Their audio is based on interviews. Narrators infrequently interject. The use of well-tailored photos with descriptive interviews lets the stories speak for themselves.

Another great feature of their audio slideshows is that they include captions at the bottom. Because the photos stay up for a pretty good period of time (5-8 seconds), the captions work. They are helpful rather than distracting. The New York Times also includes a bar at the bottom telling you who is speaking. Just a great feature of streamlining the viewer’s experience.

And it is rather effective. It conveys a point quickly and simply. Check out these examples:

Sampling the Air

–Interview based audio and well selected photos

Frank Bruni on Buttermilk Channel

–A narrator speaks in this piece, but it works well because it is an opinion piece

Between the Lines

–Interview based, photos tell a story of their own

Week 6: NYTimes.com

The New York Times  has a great photojournalism and photo-essay blog. It is called “The Lens”.  The layout of this blog draws your eye directly to large, high-resolution images. A look at individual photo essays, though, requires an attention to text as well. 

Many of the photo essays share a similar layout: the top features a slideshow of photos, and the bottom is a text-heavy and picture enriched article. The layout feels relatively effective. The photos featured on the top pull you into the visual atmosphere of the story. They make it easy for you to start reading. Once you’ve begun reading, long blocks of text are separated by descriptive photos. Photos that tell time, place, and feeling.

Check out these articles, for example:

West Africa, as Seen From Its Barbershops

The Amazon, Through an Anthropologist’s Eye

Their combination of text and photos are make this effective. Together, they convey the sense that this is still a story. But the photos add an extra element. They set the scene. They let you see and feel what you are about to read. After this, the text works primarily as a medium to tie a story together. But the photos already tell the story.

I am surprised (and happy) that the photo essays that they use aren’t caption heavy. I enjoy that the photos and the text mainly stand-alone, but still work together. This is successful, probably, because the photos are amazing. The quality and depth of the photos on “The Lens” allows these photos to convey emotion and tell a story all on their own. The addition of text simply exaggerates this.

Week 5: NYTimes.com

Overall, The New York Times seems to be directed more towards visual journalism than audio journalism. Much of the audio journalism found on their website is in the form of videos. To find this, you can easily navigate to the “Multimedia” section on the left sidebar, and then “Video”. Under the “Video” section, there are tabs that you can click on to access all different type of news– science, culture, world, U.S., business.

Don’t feel dismayed though, The New York Times does offer some options for viewers looking solely for audio news. Type in ‘Podcast’ in the search bar and you will be directed to their limited selection of audio journalism. There are only two options for podcasts: Book Review and Science Times. Compared to the vast amount of news available in video form, this is a drastic reduction.

The New York Times does not make this easier to access either. Underneath each podcast, there is a button where you can “subscribe” to the podcast– making it appear that you have to PAY for your audio news. If you click the link, however, you will be directed to iTunes, where you will find out that the podcasts are still free.

One great feature that is included in their podcast section, is recommendations for other podcasts that you might like. So even though they don’t have too much to offer, they give you other options.

Book Review airs on Fridays and Science Times airs on Tuesdays. Regular updates, on regular schedules probably helps to gather a loyal following of listeners.

As for the audio reporting itself, it is well done. The podcasts seem to be heavily focused on Traxx and Axx. There is limited background sounds, nature sounds. Instead, they are interview-heavy, and use the narrator as someone to just guide the interviews. They are not flashing or distracting– just get down to the actual news they are reporting on.

The limited number of podcasts available in combination with the regular broadcasting of the podcasts, and news-centered audio reporting, this seems to be geared towards a certain demographic of viewer. By reducing glitz, glamour, and distraction, listeners probably seek out these podcasts and stick with them for a while, instead of surfing and browsing the web for interesting titles or images.

Week 4: NYTimes.com

Navigate to the Opinion Pages of The New York Times website. Then navigate to the “Room For Debate” tab on this page. This section is a wonderful example of journalistic curation.

This section of the website introduces a topic that is surrounded by debate and then presents several different opinions on the issue. For an example, read the article “No Trends for Old Men?” from October 3.

This is an example of successful curation because the first page that it directs you to gives an overview of the subject up for debate. Below this you can click on “Read the debate” to dive into different opinions on the matter. But you also have the option of navigate through the debate yourself.

On the right-hand side of the page, you will see highlights boxes of the debaters which they present. These boxes summarize each person’s opinion through a title, a quote, and a photo. If you are interested in their opinion, you can click on the box to read more.

This is effective because it lays the debate out very clearly on the first page, without diving into too much detail right away. It compiles information from many different sources, and presents it in an easy-to-navigate way.

By compiling several different opinion articles in a larger, more comprehensive article, The New York Times uses curation to summarize an entire debate, instead of a single opinion. The debaters which they present aren’t just from The New York Times–they are from blogs, columns, and magazines. Using curation, The New York Times brought many news sources into one place. This makes it faster and easier for readers to understand all sides of the story, without having to find it themselves.

Week 3: NYTimes.com

The New York Times does a great job providing data visualization tools for their readers. If you navigate to the left side-bar on the homepage, you will see a link titled ‘Interactives.’ This link is your best friend.

Most internet readers have a very short attention span. The interactives available on this page allow readers to process news through images, graphs, slideshows, and links. Let’s check out one example!

The multimedia feature titled “The Refugees” puts faces to the victims in Syria. The feature is set up using three different headers– the explore three different families in Syria. Once you have navigated to one of the three, you will see text accompanied by visuals…or more like, visuals accompanied by a small amount of text.

This feature does a wonderful job using high-resolution images to convey a sense of humanity for the Syrian crisis. Not only are there still photographs of the families, but there are interactive panoramic tools, which allow you to have a 360 degree view around the families homes.

This gives a sense of what homes means to them, and allows readers to compare their idea of home to what they see in front of them. The combination of an interactive panorama, with still photos, and some descriptive text is a simple, and straight-forward way to engage readers in the content.

Week 2: NYTimes.com

There are currently 43 blogs on The New York Times website. Their blog directory divides them into categories: News/Politics, Business/Finance, Technology, Culture/Media, Heath/Family/Education, Styles/Travel/Leisure, Sports, Magazines, and Opinion. By providing such a variety of blogs, The New York Times offers its readers the possibility to experience their news based on their desired news value:

Timeliness

Look to their blog The Lede to find timely news updates. As explained in the blog description, The Lede mixes breaking news stories with original reporting and web research. By doing so, this blog allows readers to have, in the words of The New York Times staff, “a global conversation about the news taking place online.” This is an active effort to build a community of readers.

Proximity

For local news, The New York Times offers a blog called City Room. The blog offers features, reporting, and reader conversations about their home-city. One blog post is a group of 20 photos taken in New York during the past week. This blog is not necessarily very informative, but meant as an outlet for reader interaction and thoughts about the city. It is noted, however, that reader comments are moderated on this blog. They also offer a blog called Latitude which is intended for a larger, global audience– instead of just New York City. This blog offers commentary on political issues deemed relevant to local audiences from countries all over the world.

Impact

The New York Times  has a large Op-Ed blog section as well. Paul Krugman’s Op-Ed blog, The Conscience of a Liberal, discusses the economics of inequality. Economic news is sometimes hard to follow and boring to read. But it impacts us all. In his blog Krugman discusses how the economy defines class inequality.

Magnitude

Lens is a blog that offers a refreshing mix of photography, video, and visual journalism to capture the world with as few words as possible. Sometimes images can speak the loudest for the mood of the world around us. Lens lets its readers absorb a multitude of images from across the globe and decide for themselves what meaning these images hold.

Prominence

The Moment is a wide-ranging blog that discusses topics interesting to followers of popular culture. In this blog, readers can navigate to many sections: fashion, design, travel, food, and culture.  The content on this blog caters to a wide audience, because it discusses prominent trends within many different realms.

Conflict

Their blog At War focuses on post-911 issues involving civilians, veterans, and combatants. It is reported live from places such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq. Not only does this blog provide useful information on current world conflicts, but their use of live reporting from within conflict zones adds a personal and an emotional element as well.

Novelty

To read both a heart-warming and heart-wrenching blog, look to The New Old Age. This blog explores a topic that is less prominently discussed: how to navigate the challenge of an aging generation that is now looking to their children for support. This can be both a resource and an emotional outlet for baby boomers struggling with caring for people over 80.

Emotional Appeal

Motherlode is a blog with more of a personal touch. The author discusses topics of emotional concern within families. Family affairs tend to elicit strong emotional appeal, so this blog can be applied to a very large audience. It brings up issues such as sex, education, and eating in an attempt to guide parents through the process of raising children.

Week 1: NYTimes.com

The New York Times is a widely-read news distributor. Most of us probably first knew them as a print-news source. Let’s check out their website to see how well they are meeting the challenges of the increasingly digitized audience of the 21st century.

On-Demand

One of the first things to notice about the timelines of The New York Times’ website is the ‘Last Update’ time stamp that appears on the top of the page. This is important for the audience to determine to credibility of the information we are about to read.

Moving past this, online readers need a resource for finding the most up-to-date information on their website. The home page is great for headlines and big stories, but online readers want to know the most recent updates on stories. Well, The New York Times has a solution for this: readers can navigate to the ‘Most Popular’ tab at the top of the webpage. Here they can find the most trending news. There are pages to access articles and movies that are ‘Most E-mailed,’ ‘Most Viewed,’ ‘Most Blogged,’ ‘Most Searched,’ and ‘Most Popular.’ And in case you missed this on the home page, these pages are also accessible on the right-hand sidebar of every story!

If this still isn’t recent enough news for The New York Times’ readers, the website provides a link to their Twitter account, where by-the-minute story updates are posted. The link to their twitter account is unusually small and hidden amongst a cluster of news on the home page. Thankfully, readers nowadays are already informed enough to check Twitter to see if The New York Times is updating stories. Otherwise, the timeliness of their Twitter account would get lost in the shuffle.

Multimedia

Converging different media sources is important for online readers. The New York Times’ website is definitely loaded with multimedia features. The home page is not overwhelmingly cluttered with it, though- thank goodness! It seems that the New York Times is trying to continue to display a clean-cut, story based appearance. Headlines and text blurbs take up most of the space on the home page. However, multimedia options are ready for use!

The top navigation bar allows readers to navigate to a digital PDF of today’s paper or to a page for videos. Right away, readers are allowed to choose how they want to ingest their news- print or broadcast. Not only that, but the interactive PDF of today’s paper allows print-news junkies to feel like they are reading an actual paper without having to go out and buy it.

The New York Times’ website also does a good job of suggesting multimedia supplements to articles. Once you choose an article to read a side-bar on the left displays photos, videos, other images, and links to related documents. This is a clean way to provide readers with access to resources that complement the story they are reading.

Interactivity 

The big one! Interactivity is important for letting readers feel involved and for increasing the circulation of online news. Well-designed interactivity will get readers talking, blogging, sharing, and e-mailing.

Beneath stories, their website allows readers to comment. The comment section folds neatly into a collapsable window- not cluttering the page with too many comments. Each story also has interactive buttons in two places: on the right-hand side bar and at the bottom of the story.

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