Posted on September 23, 2013 in Archive

‘Snowfall’ is changing people’s perception of what makes a story


Snowfall, a multimedia project published by the New York Times in December 2012, was, and is, a beautiful example of how journalism and publishing can work across multiple platforms.

Ostensibly a six-part story written by Pulitzer Prize winning John Branch, the written portion focused on the growing number of skiing fatalities in the U.S. What made it special though, was the excellent integration of interactive features such as graphics of snow-covered mountainsides, videos and biographies of skiers and snowboarders.

While inserting multimedia tidbits into a feature story isn’t that new, this story quickly gained hype for its ingenuity, presentation and clear layout, receiving 3.5 million page views in its first week. Unfortunately, we can’t tell you the total viewership to date, as the New York Times hasn’t revealed its total traffic since December.

Many newspapers and magazines have since attempted their own ‘Snowfall’ (that’s right – it is now considered a verb by many journalists), they still treat it as a special piece or as an addition to the written article that has already been published in the printed newspaper. If you’re interested in seeing more examples of multimedia journalism, this website can help.

What these newspapers don’t realise is, multimedia projects represent a whole new avenue of business for their publications, especially if they aim it towards the tech-savvy, multiple-device wielding market.

The investment that a newspaper makes into creating a long feature article can sometimes be a five-figure sum – so we know that businesses aren’t afraid to spend money to get a good story. So why not push a little more money in order to get a story that works across more than just the platforms of still images, embedded videos and written words?

Much of today’s media seems to be stuck in the mud, not realising that content and medium could and should be entwined when it comes to storytelling.

Liquid State - Snowfall - the daily logo

R.I.P. ‘The Daily’ suffered from lack of subscribers, perhaps because it was just an app that showed news stories. 2011 – 2012.

This might be the cause of death for the News Corp. owned ‘The Daily’ app – Rupert Murdoch stated that the app “could not find a large enough audience quickly enough to convince us the business model was sustainable in the long-term”.

While there was great publicity initially for the world’s first tablet-only news app, it failed to keep readers interested, perhaps because it didn’t “reinvent the wheel”, so to speak. In this case News Corp prioritised form over content, and the result was an estimated $10 million loss in its first quarter.

There’s no reason why everyone – not just big media like the New York Times – can’t get in on this act, despite the fact that publications like the NYT might be better staffed and equipped to create such ventures.

The normal workflow of a newspaper simply has to be re-imagined according to how people use their technology and how they would like to use their technology.

Changing people’s perception of how long-form digital content works really wouldn’t be that hard – the readers already have the technology to view and consume it. Now, it’s up to you (in this scenario, you are the newspaper) to catch up with them.