Over the last year, The New York Times has showcased how an established news organization can radically transform itself for the digital era.
We reimagined the news experience across our mobile platforms, from our apps on the smartphone to our new product on the Apple Watch. To cover major events like the 2014 election and the World Cup, we created sweeping destination pages that incorporated live reporting, social media, photos, video and other elements – a vibrant news ticker that brought readers back again and again.
We developed deeply immersive interactives. Some made data accessible and enthralling. Others took readers on startling visual journeys. We deployed video journalists to cover Ebola in West Africa and ISIS in Iraq, underscoring our commitment to digital storytelling, no matter what the form. The Ebola videos were a key part of a package that won a Pulitzer Prize.
We created small teams of editors, designers, software developers and product managers to push out nimble beta projects, including one to translate The Times into Spanish and Portuguese for audiences in South America. We brought Web, iOS and Android engineers into the heart of the newsroom to work side by side with editors.
This sustained, aggressive transformation has yielded profound benefits for our digital readers (and viewers and listeners!).
Here’s a survey of some of our best stuff.
Knowing that our users are flocking to mobile, we overhauled nearly every mobile platform, and developed some from scratch.
Other news organization created apps for the Apple Watch that were merely downstream from their phone apps. We believed that we had to build a native experience for the watch – what we called “one-sentence stories.” Reviewers and readers responded with raves. “Really satisfying,” The Verge wrote. “It’s one of the more polished (and responsive) apps that we’ve seen.”
Our Cooking vertical, home to thousands of recipes spanning decades, expanded from the web to iPad to iPhone to Watch. “Delving through 16,000 recipes on nytcooking.com,” wrote the celebrity chef Mario Batali. “I feel like Scrooge McDuck diving into a pool of gold!!!!” NYT Cooking had more than 4 million unique visitors last month, less than 18 months after its launch.
On the phone, the main Times app and NYT Now, our curated app, made significant strides. Both have their own editors around the clock, reflecting The Times’s willingness to devote significant resources to mobile. Google anointed The Times app as one of the best Android apps for 2014.
On NYT Now, we blended Times articles and links to outside sources into a single feed, something that no legacy news organization has done. “NYT Now is the best news app on the iPhone right now,” Cult of Mac wrote last month.
Apple agreed, calling NYT Now one of the best new apps of 2014.
Our storytelling ranged far beyond the printed word.
When readers opened “The Best and Worst Places to Grow Up: How Your Area Compares,” they may have been startled to find a personalized article ready for them. They did not need to input any information. We used geo-location to ensure that the top of the story changed depending on where you read it, along with text all the way down.
As returns flood in on Election Nights, readers often have difficulty making sense of all the numbers. For the 2014 midterms, The Times decided that the key was to give more context. We created a live statistical model for the closest Senate races, adjusting the results from the Associated Press based on from where the votes were coming and how those places had voted historically. Over the course of election night we were able to give readers a clear idea of how close the most important races were.
What is it like to free-climb a fearsome summit in Yosemite? On “The Dawn Wall: El Capitan’s Most Unwelcoming Route,” we used webgl (an API for rendering 3D and 2D graphics) to create a 3D model of the rock formation, which two climbers scaled in January. Readers were able to manipulate the model in real time, in an unusually responsive way.
Reviews of new architecture or museums can often be bland packages of text and photos. But when one of our chief critics, Michael Kimmelman, offered his evaluation of the new Whitney Museum in Manhattan, the review unfolded as a visual tour-de-force. The interactive graphic was not a separate element — it was the review.
In “Ukraine Crisis in Maps,” we examined the often-bewildering conflict there by focusing on the shifting battlefields. The Council on Foreign Relations called the interactive one of the essential resources to understand the fighting and its implications for United States foreign policy.
Other prizes for digital innovation have also poured in.
The most prestigious contest for information graphics and visualization, the Malofiej competition, gave Best in Show for digital to The Times this year. The Times won seven medals at the Society for New Design’s “Best of Digital Design” contest, more than any other organization.
We’re pleased now to have this opportunity to be considered for the O.N.A. award for general excellence. We believe that The Times has not only produced stunning digital storytelling in the last year, but also demonstrated that journalism’s old guard can create a culture of innovation that rivals that of any Silicon Valley startup.