NYT’s “Snow Fall”-like South China Sea multimedia story

2013 10 25 spratleys2

Online today: a “Snow Fall“-like New York Times Magazine multimedia feature on the South China Sea.

The piece uses an in-depth, narrative text story about a visit to a Filipino outpost to examine how China and other countries are vying for control in the resource-rich area.

There are videos, images, sounds, maps (like the one above), and more. Very much worth checking out.

UPDATE: Here’s how the story appears in today’s International New York Times.

2013 10 25 south china sea

Jim Stewart on the NYT’s Future Following the WaPo Sale

2013 08 11 wapo front page

I was lucky enough to study with Jim Stewart at Columbia this year, and I always look forward to reading his New York Times column, called “Common Sense.”

In his stories, Stewart often examines complex business and economics issues by focusing on facts and evidence and questioning conventional wisdom.

His latest column, which ran Friday, is especially intriguing, as it concerns the current profitability and long-term prospects of The New York Times, his very employer.

Following Jeff Bezos’s purchase of The Washington Post, Stewart asks: Would the Sulzbergers, the family that owns the Times, ever sell the paper?

The family says the NYT isn’t on the block, and Stewart highlights an important point — one which is often overlooked when people make assumptions about the newspaper industry: The Times, unlike the Post, is making money:

That The Times and its controlling family would be among the last survivors should come as no surprise, since it is the strongest of the great newspapers journalistically, and it is profitable. The Times has won 112 Pulitzer Prizes since 1918, including four this year, more than any other newspaper. A week ago, The Times reported quarterly operating earnings of $77.8 million, up 13 percent from a year earlier.

By contrast, The Washington Post’s newspaper division had losses of $53.7 million last year, with no end in sight.

With the Post owned by billionaire Jeff Bezos, “In stark financial terms, The Times is now a minnow in a sea of sharks” compared to companies like News Corporation, Facebook, Google, and others with huge market capitalizations, Stewart writes.

He continues:

Nearly everyone I spoke to this week praised The Times for what it has done with its resources. In contrast with Mr. Graham’s comment that he had no answers, The Times has articulated a strategy that addresses many of the pressing questions facing newspapers, and it seems to have been yielding results.

And:

Like The Post, The Times has tried to improve profitability by reducing costs, including the size of the newsroom. But that can go only so far before it begins to affect the quality of the news operation. It may be even more difficult if, as expected, Mr. Bezos invests in The Post’s national news operation. “The likelihood is that The Post and The New York Times will be competing head-to-head in a way they haven’t since the days of Abe Rosenthal and Ben Bradlee,” both legendary editors of The Post and The Times, Mr. Jones said.

The column is worth a read.

Meanwhile, for more on the WaPo sale and what it all means for the economics of journalism, see:

More on Matt Gross, the NYT, and multimedia travel journalism

In Jan., 2009, I wrote a post praising the work of the New York Times‘s Matt Gross, aka the Frugal Traveler.

For the last several years, Matt has been combining text, blog posts, and videos to create a unique brand of personality-driven travel journalism for the Times.

Matt has supplied readers — and viewers — with not just conventional, written travel stories. He has also provided advice on the best travel gadgets under $50, he has offered Q&As with fellow travelers, and he has even given us tips on traveling with a baby. Matt covers it all, from big picture stories about travel trends to narrowly-focused pieces on specific destinations and emerging technologies.

In terms of outreach, it’s interesting to note that Matt’s home on the Times site contains amble social media integration. There’s a Frugal Traveler Facebook page, and Matt is active on Twitter, interacting frequently with his more than 14,000 followers.

Matt’s latest story is a typical example of his multimedia storytelling. It appeared last Sunday, and it’s about a ramen noodle expedition he undertook in Tokyo. We get a lengthy (nearly 3000-word long) text story, “One Noodle at a Time in Tokyo,” as well as photographer Basil Childers‘s gallery of memorable images.

Matt also gives us a blog post with the back story about why the assignment was his dream trip, and readers can even find an annotated Google Map of the establishments he visited during the journey.

Moreover, the video that Matt (and, presumably, the NYT multimedia folks) has produced is useful, as well. And at four minutes long, it’s at least as long as a standard TV news/feature package. (You can find the video on the lower left side of the main story page.)

Another interesting tidbit: In the ramen story, Matt mentions that one of his guides was Brian MacDuckston, an American who lives in Tokyo and blogs at RamenAdventures.com. The NYT story links to Brian’s blog, naturally, and I noticed an interesting meta-twist: Brian has a blog post with images of one of the eating expeditions he took with Matt.1

Is there a larger point here? I’m not sure.

But perhaps, in recounting all of this, the message is that in order to engage with audiences who are increasingly consuming their material online, travel journalists shouldn’t — can’t — think of themselves as simply writers anymore.

It helps if they’re insightful bloggers and understand the digital world. It also helps if they snap their own photos to accompany their stories — as Matt often does. And travel journalists have to be adept at producing videos and curating links to corresponding multimedia materials — blogs, bloggers, Google Maps, Facebook, Twitter — so that their audience can get the most out of their work.

It seems to be working for Matt and the Times.

  1. One of Brian’s photos, in fact, is this one, which shows what I assume is photog Childers snapping a series of images of two women, one of whom has blonde hair, slurping noodles. One of the pics Basil snapped must be this shot, from the gallery. So here we have the digital contribution from the blogger/noodle enthusiast who guided Matt’s research — and some pics of the shooter in action. []

Rohingya rescued off Indonesia

Here’s a new Rohingya story from the New York Times: “Burmese Refugees Rescued at Sea

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Dozens of refugees from Myanmar, rescued by the Indonesian Navy after drifting aboard a wooden boat at sea for almost three weeks, are receiving treatment at a hospital in Aceh, on the northern tip of Sumatra, Indonesian officials said Tuesday.

About 200 refugees, all of them men, were found by a local fisherman Monday afternoon. It was the second boatload of refugees from Myanmar to land in Aceh in the last month.

Interviews by Indonesian Navy personnel indicated the men are all part of the Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar who had fled to Thailand in December.

Survivors from the first boat, which was found in early January and was also carrying about 200 men, told Indonesian authorities that they had been rounded up by the Thai military after escaping Myanmar, and then were beaten, towed out to sea and abandoned.

The survivors rescued Monday told Navy personnel a similar story, adding that originally there was a flotilla of nine motorless boats that had been led out to sea by the Thais, containing about 1,200 people.

There’s more from the AP, the BBC, and AFP.

Matt Gross and multimedia travel journalism

What’s the best way to tell a travel story?

Newspaper and magazine travel journalism, as we know, typically aims to pair descriptive, compelling text with illustrative photography. But what if you add complimentary video and a blog to the mix?

The New York Times‘s Matt Gross — the Times‘s Frugal Traveler — has been producing some really, really good travel journalism over the last few years.1 And he’s been doing so using not just well-crafted words accompanied by well-shot images. He’s also been using a blog and sms alerts to connect with his readers. And some of his stories are plotted on Google Maps. There’s even a Frugal Traveler Facebook group (latest count: 1,345 fans).

Matt has traveled around the world in 90 days; he took a road trip across the US; and he re-created the European grand tour. All of his stories are formatted as blog posts, and many of them receive over a hundred comments. In some of the comments, readers give him travel tips on where to go and what to do when he gets to future destinations.

In short, though I’m not a fan of the phrase “Web 2.0,” Matt is a travel writer for the Web 2.0 age.

His stories are not only rich in practical details that are helpful in planning a trip, but his dispatches are often emotionally revealing. For example, during his grand tour last summer, he filed a story called “Tracing Family Roots in Vilnius.” The article describes how he tracked down his Lithuanian ancestors. And the accompanying video (embedded below) is also interesting — but it’s more lighthearted:

The written article, blog post, and images were one story. The video was another.

I also like “Spying on Bucharest’s Cool Underground,” which ran with this video (embedded below):

In the end, I think that traditional newspaper and magazine travel journalism will continue to thrive, as will travel TV shows. These meet a need. But it’s interesting to see how Matt’s work has blended traditional and multimedia elements to create something different entirely.

For more reading, I suggest:

  1. Disclaimer: I’m lucky enough to call Matt a pal, but I was a fan of his work before our paths ever crossed. In fact, before I ever moved to Bangkok, I ate up his NYT travel stories from Southeast Asia, particularly “To Be Young and Hip in Bangkok.” []
  2. Rolf has also engaged readers through a long-standing blog. []

“Web news wars” and CNN.com

Brian Stelter has a good story in today’s New York Times about CNN.com and “Web news wars” among top news sites.

Some snippets that caught my eye:

On media ubiquity

  • CNN now is as close as any news entity is to achieving ubiquity, with an array of television channels, Web sites, a radio network, airport TV sets and magazines. It is even signing up newspapers for a wire service — fed by CNN.com — that will compete with The Associated Press.

    The challenge, for Mr. Estenson and others, is to make CNN.com more distinctive. At the end of a long day recently, he showed a visitor screen grabs of four Web pages on his Macbook Air.

    “When you look at the top news sites, they often look almost identical,” he says, gesturing to the home pages of CNN, ABC News, The Wall Street Journal and Yahoo News. Down to photo choices and color schemes, the four sites look practically interchangeable and utilitarian, he says — hence his emphasis on the power of “unique signatures.”

On high-traffic times

  • Tracking audience sweet spots is also a juggling act. CNN’s television arm exerts much of its pull during the prime-time hours of 8 to 11 p.m., when advertising rates and audience levels are highest. But for the Web news desk in Atlanta, prime time is the lunch hour, when users log on during work breaks.

    More broadly, Ms. Golden defines “Web prime” as 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. During those hours, the home page will feature six or seven lead stories, on average, so no one headline lingers too long.

On profitability

  • CNN.com formally achieved profitability eight years ago, the company said; Time Warner doesn’t break out separate revenue figures for the unit. In an era when “monetization” is a buzz word among news organizations migrating to the Web, CNN.com has been able to capitalize on its traffic surge by keeping visitors on the site longer, thus exposing them to more ads.

    It’s also trying to make money from more experimental forays. During the inauguration coverage on Tuesday, for the first time, CNN.com Live, the Web site’s video arm, will include TV-style commercial breaks. Until now the only ads on the streaming service have been snippets that play before the main clip, and small sponsorship banners.

    Amid a recession, advertising sales are sluggish on television and online, putting a damper on CNN’s growth plans. But CNN.com is expected to remain flush; while Web revenue doesn’t match TV’s, the costs aren’t nearly as high.

“Goalkeeper Science” in the NYT’s 2008 Year in Ideas

As I may have mentioned in the past, I’ve been a soccer (football) goalkeeper since the age of 7. I can’t get enough of the game, and I absolutely love goalkeeping. (I still play regularly today.)1 So I was delighted to see that, according to the New York Times, one of 2008’s big ideas that begin with the letter “g” — along with topics like genopolics, gallons per mile, and the guaranteed retirement account — is goalkeeper science:

What’s the best way to stop a penalty kick? Do nothing: just stand in the center of the goal and don’t move.

That is the surprising conclusion of “Action Bias Among Elite Soccer Goalkeepers: The Case of Penalty Kicks,” a paper published by a team of Israeli scientists in Journal of Economic Psychology that attracted attention earlier this year. The academics analyzed 286 penalty kicks and found that 94 percent of the time the goalies dived to the right or the left — even though the chances of stopping the ball were highest when the goalie stayed in the center.

If that’s true, why do goalies almost always dive off to one side? Because, the academics theorized, the goalies are afraid of looking as if they’re doing nothing — and then missing the ball…

(To read the rest of the entry, visit the link above and then choose “g” in the navigation bar. Sadly, there’s no direct link.)

For more on this subject, I recommend this blog post: “The Rationality of Soccer Goalkeepers23

This study illustrates the tension between internal(subjective) and external (objective) rationality discussed in my last post: statistically speaking, as a rule for winning games, to jump is (externally) suboptimal; but given the social norm and the associated emotional feeling, jumping is (internally) rational.

(Hat tip to B.L. for the NYT link. Image credit: Flickr.)

  1. A few of my favorite goalkeeper-related Web sites include The Glove Bag — an exceptional online community of goalkeepers — and the news blogs The Goalkeepers’ Union and JB Goalkeeping Blog. And if you’re seriously into the philosophy of goalkeeping, I recommend this manual: “The Art of Goalkeeping or The Seven Principles of the Masters.” []
  2. Insert joke about all goalkeepers being necessarily — and perhaps genetically — irrational here. []
  3. And if you want to see a photo of yours truly saving a penalty kick several years ago in Taiwan — and I apologize in advance for the tight goalkeeping pants, but it was cold and the pitch was terrible — click here. []