Some short thoughts on long-form journalism

I am noticing a promising trend.

More and more, media outlets appear to have prioritized long-form journalism as an important asset moving forward.

It strikes me every time I look for pieces for my weekly “3 Great Stories” post. I see long-form articles that feature creative presentation, graphics, and multimedia incorporation. In many ways, such stories indicate how media can build unique, enriching content for a digital audience. With these stories, the written text itself could work in a newspaper or magazine, but the entirety of it — with all the other forms of media thrown in — could only work online.

Here now, a few short thoughts on long-form’s future:

The market and audience appears to be there. Look at how many web sites now cater to long-form enthusiasts, from BuzzReads to Longreads to the Browser. Even more amazing, the Browser actually charges for its curation — $20 a year, which won’t break the bank but is still, at least, something. Major media outlets are investing in ways to tell long-form stories to an online audience, with the New York Times and New Yorker regularly producing innovative work.

It marks a big step forward for online journalism. On Monday I linked to a New Yorker story about New York’s shadow transit system. Take a look at the sophistication here: the written text is accompanied by transit maps and embedded video, yet it is all presented in a clean, organized manner. The New Yorker staff is not just doing long-form journalism online; they are doing it well, in a manner still distinct to the magazine’s brand. Media outlets collectively seem to be figuring out the format.

Print media currently have the jump on the rest. Radio and TV stations have been generating long-form content online for years. However, they traditionally post carbon copies of their on-air work. Print media, in my opinion, have done a better job so far of delivering a wholly unique product. Their video content is often aesthetically unimpressive, but it fits within the framework of the larger story.

It all bodes well for journalism and storytelling. Here we have a rare instance in which media seem to be using their collective power “for good”. Long-form pieces serve to bring depth and complexity to a media landscape increasingly lacking in both. I commend the print outlets who have taken the lead on developing compelling long-form content for the digital age.

As more journalists and companies catch up, they will inevitably produce an even greater variety of long-form content than we currently see. But “long-form” is just an umbrella for the diverse, compelling work that is starting to emerge online.

I can’t wait to see what’s next.

Matt Pearl is the author of the Telling the Story blog and podcast. Leave a comment below or e-mail Matt at

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