How The New York Times Is Using Multimedia (And You Can, Too)

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In December 2012, The New York Times ran a multimedia feature titled ”Snow Fall” about an avalanche that trapped skiers and snowboarders in the Cascade Mountains of the Pacific Northwest. It was critically acclaimed, winning Peabody and Pulitzer awards.

Multimedia elements add depth and dimension to online features.
Multimedia elements add depth and dimension to online features.

The ensuing popular and critical praise prompted more NYT stories, and similar features later appeared sites like Rolling Stone and Pitchfork.

After the success of ”Snow Fall,” the Times hired an editor to lead multimedia efforts, which in their case are long form journalistic pieces, including photos, video, and animation. Of course, multimedia had worked its way into web pieces long before the NYT‘s masterpiece, and with the rapid pace of technological advancement, tools are available to digital publishers to bring multimedia features to their own websites.

Multimedia Is Great for Audience Development

High quality text content is the mainstay of successful websites, particularly in the news and trade website sector. However, other media can really bring text to life. When you add relevant images, animations, or video to text, you create a resource with greater clarity, and when it is shared, your appeal broadens, particularly if you take a dry topic and make it more understandable through multimedia components.

Strong multimedia content helps with short and long term search engine optimization (SEO), through proper tagging and use of relevant keywords. Elements including videos and images can show up in search engine results, boosting SEO and attracting visitors who will see your ecommerce efforts, job boards, and other revenue development features.

Elements of Strong Multimedia Content

No matter how engaging your site’s writing is, walls of text are intimidating. Visual aids help you explain and reinforce text by visually breaking it up so it’s easier to read. Here are ideas for using multimedia elements to turn a good feature into a great one.

Images

”A picture is worth 1,000 words” is a cliché for a reason. Images relevant to your text can make it more comprehensible. If you post a tutorial, screen shots help people feel like they’re learning by doing, particularly if you anticipate and answer their questions (”Look for the ‘Add’ button in the lower right corner of the window.”) Infographics are a form of image that take complex data and make it understandable. There are plenty of online tools that can help you make infographics. Images also lend themselves to sharing on Pinterest boards, further supporting your social media strategy.

Videos

Many people would rather watch a video than read an entire web page. Videos are another great tool for tutorials. Tools like ScreenCast make it easier to create videos showing exactly what to do. Footage from conferences, breaking news stories, or interviews with industry leaders can engage your audience effectively and easily lend themselves to online sharing.

Sound Recordings

Sound recordings are particularly appropriate accompaniment for some online features.
Sound recordings are particularly appropriate accompaniment for some online features.

Whether you publish a regular podcast or make audio versions of your blog posts, you give your audience one more option for accessing your content. This is terrific for people who want to listen to a story during their commute, or who process audio information better than what they read. Sound recordings can add specific touches to features as well. The call of a particular bird you’re writing a feature on adds a new dimension to the story, as does the sound a car makes when a bearing goes bad in a feature on car maintenance. Additionally, audio makes your content available to people with visual impairments. There is a wealth of online information about how to create great audio recordings to share online.

Your Mobile Audience

Make sure your multimedia content is usable by your mobile audience. As smartphone and tablet use increases, more people consume digital content on the go, and they won’t bother with sites that send their devices to regular web versions that have to be pinched and zoomed. Making your multimedia content attractive and usable across platforms is essential today.

Know What to Leave Out

It is possible to overdo multimedia. Not every blog post needs a video, and infographics are not necessary to explain all statistics. In many cases, text supplemented by still images or graphics is sufficient. Throwing every multimedia technique at the wall to see what sticks will only annoy your audience, so know what elements are appropriate to your content and leave out multimedia elements that don’t add anything useful and slow down page loads.

With their ”Snow Fall” feature, The New York Times raised the bar on great multimedia web presentations. But you don’t have to have the reach or resources of the Times to use multimedia to great benefit on your own news of trade publication website. Multimedia tools are available to web publications of all sizes, and when you make judicious use of them, you address audience development, engage repeat visitors, and bring more traffic to your sponsored content, ecommerce stores, and custom job boards, boosting revenue development at the same time.

Photo Credits: Michal Marcol/freedigitalphotos.net, marin/freedigitalphotos.net

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