Sam Sifton, the New York Times' national editor and former restaurant critic, has been named to a new position where he'll oversee emerging technology products for the paper of record. The announcement was made today by executive editor Jill Abramson in a memo posted by Jim Romenesko.
At his new post, Sifton will be responsible for developing two new projects: a multimedia, "lean back" reading digital-first project, and a new dining news project:
(Sifton's) first assignment is to create an immersive digital magazine experience, a lean back read that will include new, multimedia narratives in the tradition of Snow Fall and last weekend’s compelling account of the Arizona fire, as well as some of the best reads published during the previous week. As the new Need to Know project is aimed for quick and periodic dips into the news, the new digital magazine would be a need to read. (This is a different product from the Sunday magazine, where Hugo Lindgren has been unendingly creative in digital presentations and he will surely be a counselor to Sam). The second assignment puts Sam’s incredible depth as a food editor and food writer to use in creating a new dining news product, separate from our current dining report and section led so expertly by Susan Edgerley, who has already drawn up some very exciting ideas for expanding our dining coverage and will surely be an invaluable partner on this project.
Reading the tea leaves, it seems that Snow Fall--a multimedia HTML5 journalism project that launched last year to great acclaim--wowed a lot of folks within the Times organization and set a template for future multimedia journalism projects. (The story, written by John Branch, won a 2013 Pulitzer prize for featuring writing.) Other companies, like Atavist and Byliner, have been producing similar enhanced, immersive non-fiction reading experiences for a few years.
As for the food project, it's not hard to see why dining and food coverage is being fast-tracked for multimedia at The Times. The paper already has a stable of nationally known food writers (see Mark Bittman, Pete Wells, and Sifton himself) and there's lots of sweet, sweet advertising revenue from restaurants and brands to go around.
But what we're still wondering is how much Snow Fall cost exactly... and why the Times Magazine and T, both of which have been doing top-notch digital-first content, were left out of the new venture. Any Times kremlinologists want to speculate on that one?