Ahead of an avalanche, the ‘Times’ reminds us this new thing is theirs, and it’s called a ‘Snow Fall’
The Times may have been mostly just a participant in the way digital storytelling is evolving everywhere in the web's third decade, as some have argued. But they seem to be seizing the opportunity that comes with making the biggest splash and being the brand identified with the evolving model of long-form, visually stunning, "responsive-design" digital-content features.
"We've got a couple more really big projects coming through," Times Company C.E.O. Mark Thompson told the audeince at an Internet Week panel hosted today by the website I Want Media.
Thompson was sharing the stage with Business Insider editor-in-chief Henry Blodget, Huffington Post founding editor Roy Sekoff, BuzzFeed boss Jonah Peretti and Salon C.E.O. Cindy Jeffers.
"We're trying to innovate," said Thompson. "We want to be the most authoritative storytellers, but also the most innovative storytellers. ... We really want to do things that haven't been done before."
After its publication on Dec. 20, 2012, "Snow Fall," an ambitious digital and print longform narrative about an avalanche, was showered with praise for its cutting edge approach to storytelling.
But skeptical media observers have more recently poured cold water on earlier characterizations of the feature as some sort of savior for journalism, partly because it's the type of time-consuming and resource-heavy project that few news outlets aside from the Times can afford to execute.
"The off-record beefing about Snow Fall in many ways isn't even Snow Fall's fault! It's the hubbub that surrounded it after—all the Snow Fall will save media baloney," Choire Sicha wrote yesterday on The Awl. "We all like Snow Fall, we're just tired of having to hear about it at conference after conference and panel after panel. Besides: not made like that it won't 'save journalism.' No way."
Call it Times exceptionalism, from the other side: A report from Columbia University's Tow Center recently came with a proviso that the New York Times' paywall experiment was unlikely to save other publications because of the Times' unique market position.
But just as the Times' early apparent successes with its paid-subscription model spurred hundreds of newspaper and magazine sites to initiate their own paywalls, expect to be buried under feet of Snow Falls over the coming few months, if perhaps on a smaller scale than what the Times can pull off (Pitchfork's Daft Punk profile, for instance), and expect to keep hearing reminders from the Times about who "started" it.