Alan Taylor, a Web developer at the Boston Globe, hit the sweet spot between immersive storytelling and simple technology with his photo blog, The Big Picture. Taylor discussed the genesis of the blog with Waxy.org in a June interview. Here’s a few notable excerpts relevant to publishers:
I have an advantage in that my main role is as a developer here, so I could build all my own templates, format my own style, and so on. I sort of bulldozed some things through though, like extra width, few ads, and I made it simple internally by doing it mostly on my own, no requests for development time, marketing or promotion.
Taylor’s photo selection process combines technology and editorial curation. He selects photos from Web searches, photography sites, and wire services. Then he uses custom scripts to extract meta data and resize images for the blog.
When I find an image I like, I save it to a local folder until I get about 25 or so good ones to choose from. Then I open all 25 in Photoshop, arrange the windows in a horizontal tile and drag them around to get a rough ordering that makes sense. Then I start to edit out images that don’t make the cut, run a couple of recorded Photoshop Actions to size the images, and do some hand-cropping if necessary.
On his personal site, Taylor explains the simple ideas that brought The Big Picture together:
When I see quality photography consigned to the archives, or when I see bandwidth readily given up to video streams of dubious quality, or when I see photo galleries that act as ad farms, punishing viewers into a click-click-click experience just to drive page views – those times are the times I’m glad I was able to get this project off the ground (many thanks to my friends within boston.com)
The Big Picture brought in 1.5 million page views in its first 20 days; phenomenal numbers for any upstart blog. More importantly, the site shows how tech skillsets and big media resources (those wire services aren’t cheap) can catalyze innovation within a large publishing organization.