Long form journalism is alive and well and prepared for a digital future. Don’t believe me? Read on.
Some cynics would have you believe that the evolution of the Internet is killing our attention spans and journalism along with it. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the Web has actually put journalism at the center of a digital democracy, a place where nearly everyone has access to the same information. Devices have penetrated almost every nook and cranny of the market, setting the stage for what could be a golden age of content.
To be fair, content changes as platforms change. But what really hasn’t changed is that strong content always wins. One hundred years ago, newspapers printed long stories, short stories and everything in between. Depending on the reader, and even the mood of each reader, content of different lengths appeals to different folks. There has never been a single style or length of content that is perfect of every reader. That isn’t changing now and won’t be in the future either. Here are examples of media companies — old and new, big and small — experimenting with new ways to deliver the long form articles that readers love:
- The New York Times is experimenting with digital native formats as a way to engage readers. Its recent feature “Snow Fall” integrated photos and videos into a beautiful design. The article was read by 3 million people in less than 2 weeks. It is planning more features like this for 2013.
- BuzzFeed is already synonymous with new media and it is embracing long form journalism. Seems odd for a website built on celebrity GIFs, right? Wrong. BuzzFeed is ready to deliver content readers want. Sometimes that is hilarious pictures of cats and other times it’s a 4,500 word feature like “Atari Teenage Riot: The Inside Story Of Pong And The Video Game Industry’s Big Bang.” BuzzFeed recently hired a dedicated long form editor and even has a weekly email newsletter for its long read fans.
- Technology website The Verge is another example of a new media company relying on long reads to appeal to readers. Founded in 2011, it integrates beautiful photography and design into an innovative format for long pieces. We can just about guarantee you’ve never seen anything like the article “Not in my house: how Vegas casinos wage a war on cheating,” and we bet you’ll love it.
If you need more evidence of the vitality of long journalism, look no further than the popularity of services like Pocket and Instapaper that allow readers to save articles to other devices to be read later. Sites like The Feature, Longreads and Longform are constantly curating the best long articles on the Web. Lewis DVorkin of Forbes sums up the future of long form journalism eloquently:
Here’s the thing. The future is bright for all forms of journalism, long form included. The supply of credible — and I stress credible — information can’t seem to meet the insatiable demand for news in the digital era. That’s definitely not to say journalists can simply wake up in the morning and merrily do what they did in the grand old days of media privilege. If you want to cover a beat and write a 5,000-word story then you need to find and build an audience for it — and that takes time and a new level of expertise. The rise of digital publishing, social media and the resulting audience fragmentation requires journalists — for that matter, all content creators — to embrace and learn new ways.
Long form writing has an important place in the future of media. Things are changing to the benefit of readers, and smart publishers will follow suit. Just as in the past, the most innovative, trustworthy and hardworking content creators will win out.
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