PAULINE'S PICKS: 'NYT' Sets High Standard for Music Podcasts

By: Pauline Millard Yesterday we unveiled this new daily feature, in which I will highlight innovative or excellent Web features at news sites. We started with the Miami Herald's use of videos.

When looking for good examples of multimedia on the web, The New York Times is an obvious place to start. They have extensive resources and talent from which to draw, and so naturally the outcome should be superior -- and it is.

Even with all the resources in the world, a news organization needs to understand the best way to use applications such as podcasts and videos in order to best tell the story and keep readers engaged. Simply slapping some videos or audio clips into a story defeats the purpose of it being there. Bells and whistles should show a new facet of the story, not reiterate what's already there.

One of my favorite features on the Times' Web site is its podcasts. They are easy to find on the left-hand side of the site, or just by searching "podcasts." Once readers are on the page, each one downloads quickly by simply clicking an icon. If you want to take them on the road, you can also dowload them individually as MP3 files. Sure, there are short ads at the beginning of each program, but they are quick and subtle, much like the ones on National Public Radio.

One of the best uses for a podcast is a music review, and it's an area in which the Times is quite skilled. The paper offers a somewhat long program, about 15 minutes, narrated by chief pop critic Jon Pareles. He talks about several new pop albums, but the beauty of the podcast is that not only do listeners enjoy his insight about the artists, they also hear the specific music he's focusing on. This brings a new dimension to music reviews, where listeners get to know a new body of work while sampling it at the same time. It makes music writing seem more palpable and less abstract.

Podcasts are relatively easy to create, even for a small paper or one that's looking for something new to offer readers. Perhaps in a later column I'll get into them more. In the meantime, feel free to send me links to Web creations you think deserve highlighting.


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