The New York Times article “Snow Fall:The Avalanche of Tunnel Creek” is being touted, and deserves to be, as a breakthrough in multimedia story-telling. As I am a consistent “linker” to the digital work of the NYTimes.com staff, I will add my “wow” to the story, as well. It demonstrates how multimedia can be used to enhance and extend a story — and not merely “because it can be.”
However, there are a few things about the story I haven’t seen mentioned — while not negative, I find them interesting.
On the notable side, it’s the first time I’ve seen a story from a legacy media company (one that existed before the www) that so effectively ignores the metaphor of the page. The page, while a helpful measure of the location one may be while progressing through a physical book or article, is, nonetheless, a measurement that originated with the [tippy title="printing press" style="u" header="off" bgcolor="#FFF200"]Clay tablets were all one page and scrolls used location markers that weren’t “pages”[/tippy] and which made its way to the internet by that person who first hung the label “web page” on what, if you’ve ever scrolled to the bottom of a page on Twitter.com, you know has nothing to do with physical length.
(Sidenote: One of the reasons I love the app Instapaper is its use of mobile devices’ [tippy title="accelerometers" reference="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accelerometer#Consumer_electronics" header="off" color="blue"] In this context, I’m referring to the gravity sensors that enable the devices to know “up” from “down” and to measure the velocity of the speed at which you’ve just dropped your iPhone onto a concrete sidewalk. See Wikipedia for more accelerometer info.[/tippy] to enable “tile scrolling,” the best example I have to demonstrating the complete uselessness of multiple metaphoric “pages” on text content appearing on screens.)
No matter. It’s a great piece of story-telling and a great example of how online and digital media can be used correctly.