Turns Out People Actually Do Like Smart, Long Form Content Online
from the well,-how-about-that dept
You may have noticed that I tend to write a lot of posts for Techdirt each day. There are times when I consider whether it might be more useful to cut it back to just one or two posts per day that are much longer and more in-depth. I have ideas for more in-depth pieces, but I often don’t have the time to set aside to focus on just those pieces. And, besides, according to folks like Nick Carr, people don’t read long pieces on the internet, as it’s trained our brains to only want short snippets. Or, in the parlance of commenters trying to be funny, tl;dr.
Over at Slate, they’ve apparently tested this assumption, with a project that gives journalists there four to six weeks off from their usual beat, to focus on working up one super in-depth piece (or, perhaps, a series of in-depth pieces on one subject). It’s created some impressive (and long) works of journalism:
So far, the project has netted such praiseworthy specimens of long-form as, among others, Tim Noah’s analysis of why the U.S. hasn’t endured another successfully executed terror attack since 9/11 and Julia Turner’s look at the fascinating complexities of signage and June Thomas’ examination of American dentistry and Dahlia Lithwick’s crowd-sourced foray into chick-lit authorship and John Dickerson’s reclamation of risk-taking after the financial crash gave that quintessential American practice a bad name.
But, of course, no one’s reading these because they’re all way too long, right? Wrong.
The other thing the initiative has netted? Pageviews. They’ve been in the millions, a Slate rep told me: over 4 million for Noah’s piece, over 3.5 million for Thomas’, nearly 3 million for Turner’s. That’s especially significant considering the length of the pieces, which often run in the tens of thousands of words. Combine that with New York Times Magazine editor Gerry Marzorati’s claim, last year, that “contrary to conventional wisdom, it’s our longest pieces that attract the most online traffic” … and “tl;dr”: you are on watch.
This goes back to our recent discussion on content farms. No content farm is going to create the type of content described above. They won’t even come close. Perhaps one of the problems with traditional media is that they’ve focused on writing stories that can be easily copied by content farms. Instead, they should be focusing on deeper, quality work. Let the superficial coverage go to those who can do it cheaply, and for more traditional organizations, focus on quality.