the transition to digital journalism

Text and Writing

People won't read long stories online is a familiar refrain. But while scanning web pages is a common practice for online readers, they will read long text stories that they find of interest.

The EyeTrack 2007 study of online and print readers found that "63 percent of story text chosen by online participants was read to completion. Reading in the two print formats (broadsheet and tabloid) was considerably lower. Forty percent of stories selected were read all the way through in broadsheets, 36 percent in tabloids."

For two more conflicting views on whether long stories work online, see Long form journalism on the Web is "not working," TIME.com Managing Editor and Talk to the Times: Assistant Managing Editor Gerald Marzorati (scroll down to the section on "The Future of Long-Form Journalism").

Or read about how Forbes online found that short breaking news stories and longer explanatory stories both attract large numbers of readers. See also this Forbes article on the popularity of long-form writing.

Web Sites and Services for Long-Form Stories

  • Longreads.com - Twitter alerts and links to longer stories (usually more than 1,500 words). Longreads also has a partnership with The Atlantic to promote the service.
  • Longform.org - links to longer articles, new and old.
  • Atavist - a platform for publishing stories to tablet computers and other mobile devices. The stories usually are longer than magazine articles but shorter than books.
  • Byliner - a site that publishes 10,000 to 35,000 word narratives, especially by accomplished writers.
  • Matter - "Every week, we will publish a single piece of top-tier long-form journalism about big issues in technology and science." They raised $100,000 for the project using Kickstarter and plan to charge 99 cents per copy of each story they publish
  • Medium - A site that features in-depth text stories (with some photos). It was co-founded in 2012 by Ev Williams, one of the creators of Twitter and Blogger. But an analysis in Poynter online found that stories on Medium are acutally relatively short.
  • The Big Roundtable - website featuring longer non-fiction stories, founded by a Columbia Journalism School professor.
  • Inkshare - a crowdfunding site where writers can raise money for and publish longform stories
Several other online publications, known for breaking news or aggregating other content, began emphasizing long-form or investigative journalism or adding special sections on long-form stories. They include: 

Another resurgence in longform writing online is "subcompact publishing." These are publications that shun the multi-column, non-linear format and extensive use of rich multimedia content at many news sites in favor of simple scrollable linear stories with photos or illustrations.

The publications have a simple design and navigation and the stories are prominently displayed and easily accessible. Attention is paid to attractive typography rather than multimedia embellishments.

The publications come out regularly and fairly frequently (such as weekly) and are optimized for mobile devices, especially tablets. See this Smashing Magazine article for a good summary and examples of subcompact publications.

Services for Saving and Reading Stories Later

Automating the Journalism Narrative

While some sites see a renaissance for the long-form narrative online, other services are trying to automate the narrative:

Narrative Science - this site uses a computer program to analyze data such as sports scores and corporate earnings  statements and generate stories about the scores and statements.

Journatic - this company analyzes local community data to identify stories that then are out-sourced to inexpensive, often out-of-the-country writers to turn into news articles. The company came under fire in summer 2012 for using fake bylines and other questionable actions.

Readings and Resources

Presentation Links - Digital Transition

Presentation Links - Picking Media