Multimedia Feature, or Multimedia Webpage?

The New York Times regards the story below as a multimedia feature. But in my opinion, it is not a feature, but is only a multimedia webpage.

The name and URL of the story

Riding the New Silk Road


The creators

Multimedia webpage by Shan Carter, Hannah Fairfield, and Derek Watkins

Photography and video by James Hill

Related story by Keith Bradsher

The date of launch

July 21, 2013

List of all assets

  • Images: 6 photos taken by journalist along the railway road, including scenery and human features
  • Videos: 5 short videos
  • Maps: dynamic map (with locations automatically linked to each image/video)                           + overview map of the New Silk Road beside the headline
  • Texts: lead+photo captions+related article
  • Share buttons: Facebook and Twitter share buttons on the upper right corner

Written storyboard 

  • Story briefing

 This is an interactive media story showing Hewlett-Packard’s new shipping corridor along the route of the ancient Silk Road. Centuries ago the road was mainly used to transport spices and gems, but now it shifts to be computers and other electronics. Therefore, this rail becomes particularly important for international electronics companies. But the story not only describes how HP pioneered the revival of this route famous in the West since the Roman Empire, but also offers a look at how the changing manufacturing industry of China affects the road, and the real life of workers who serve for the rail.

  • Analysis of the multimedia webpage

The New York Times regards this story as a multimedia feature. But in my opinion, it is not a feature. Although it has an individual webpage for multimedia, it’s still a supportive material with photos, videos and maps of the main article hyperlinked in the lead, which means it is not the most essential part for the story.

But since the New Silk Road is far and mysterious for the western audience, it’s reasonable that the Times chose to present it in a multiple and visual way. Although its sparkle cannot be ignored, there should be several aspects to be improved. So I am going to analyze both sides from three angles: content, structural design and availability for mobiles, with some personal ideas.

A. Content

Contents are the basic bricks for constructing a multimedia building. The primary bricks of this webpage were photos and short videos with captions that taken by a photographer for the Times, which shows the real scenarios of the railway along the Silk Road, such as:


And there is an overview map of the Silk Road on the top of the page, and a fantastic dynamic map with locations linked to every photo and video through the entire story:


mapThe contents also include a lead in the beginning to introduce the story:

“The network of routes known as the Silk Road connected Asia and Europe for centuries before fading in importance in the 1400s. Now, Hewlett-Packard has revived the route as a faster, overland alternative to shipping electronics from China to European markets by sea. A look at one section of the modern-day route, now more commonly traveled by train instead of by camel.”

There is no doubt that these are the most newsworthy materials because of the uniqueness. The contents are perfect if this is only a photojournalism story. But for a multimedia feature, these are far from enough. Because feature is a kind of story that offers in-depth research or creative angles. When reading this page, people can only get a basic idea of what the road looks like and what’s happening on surface, but have no idea on why this has happened and how it will be in the future. Actually the related long feature article (Hauling New Treasure Along the Silk Road)offers all the answers but the creator separated it from the multimedia page, which made the two parts either sort of stiff or superficial. So in my opinion, it’s better to put the long story into the multimedia webpage to achieve a win-win result, which is full of much more challenges though.

B. Structural design

 As the asset list shows above, the webpage consists of 6 photos, 5 short videos, 2 maps and 2 share buttons. Here is a plan graph showing the structure of the whole webpage simply ( P for Photo, V for Video):%e5%b1%8f%e5%b9%95%e5%bf%ab%e7%85%a7-2016-11-03-%e4%b8%8a%e5%8d%881-31-34

We can see from the plan above that the whole structure of the multimedia page is simple while photos and videos are all arranged in a vertical scroll together. Perhaps the reason is that the Silk Road is a north-south orientation itself, in order to present the original geographical picture, the creator had to put it into a vertical structure. The problem, however, is that the size of every photo and video is the same, which may lead to visual fatigue for audiences. So I think it’s better to adjust the size and framework to make those materials beautifully and rhythmically positioned.

 C. Availability for mobiles

 Technical issues are different on different terminals. I test this webpage on iPhone to see if it works well on mobiles. The overall page looks good, and the videos can be played independently as well as smoothly. But the most amazing part, the dynamic map of the Silk Road, looks not as good as that on PC terminal. Texts are really small and the background were blurred. And when you zoom in, the map even disappears, which is definitely an unfriendly experience (shown as follows).



Overall, I think this story is not a multimedia feature, but only a multimedia webpage that supports the long feature story. Dynamic map of the New Silk Road with main locations linked with each photo and video is the biggest highlight. However, the contents should be combined with richer texts, and the structure of the entire page is suggested to enhance layering. For different terminals, the display effect on mobile, particularly the animation of the map, is not as good as that on PC, so there should something that needs to be improved on mobile terminal.


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