#ONA11 New platforms for long-form journalism (part 2)

Mark Armstrong of Longreads

Why and how he started Longreads: ”I got obsessed”  with reading on the phone phone during his 40-minute daily commute to Manhattan, and noticed he was looking for different things than when he was at his desk – He wanted more New Yorker, Vanity Fair, etc, and couldn’t find one place for that kind of material.

So “just on a lark” he started the Twitter hashtag #longreads and “quickly found I wasn’t alone – I knew there was something significant here”.

Change was that, with the advent of the iPhone, iPad, Kindle, etc., readers were reading differently than they did on their desktops @ work. New tech is “something more of a natural fit” for people looking for things to read during downtime – on the commute, the couch, in the doctor’s waiting room: times when you can really read. (Longreads stories run from 100-30,000 words).

#longreads continued as a Twitter service for a year and a half – Launched longreads.com to enable archiving, adding further context to the Twitter feed, his daily curated feed.

Note: use of the Twitter hashtag has quadrupled since May/11.

Users are not just readers but publishers, authors, and other curators. – not just one voice but many who dig into topics and look at what other people are doing/reading….not just what they’re already known for.

Longreads’s goals: discovery, community and support.

Tim Carmody / Wired

Carmody said he was all geared up to persuade people to read long-form on their iPhones… “but you guys are already on it.”

Reiterated that “Someone using phone on a commute is using it very differently than (someone) walking down the street.”

Mentioned an interesting sports-oriented long-form site called grantland.com as a ‘notable example’ of what’s out there.

Longreads not just in politics, investigative.  Sports, humour, memoir – any genre can be made to work in long form – and that’s important because these sites make it easier for journalists to ‘cross over from one section of reporting to another.”

Refers to science writer David Dobbs, who wrote a memoir, ‘My Mother’s Lover’ –

it would have been difficult for him to pitch a book outside the area in which he’s already established,  not to mention that his readers wouldn’t find the new book in a bookstore – they wouldn’t be in that section of the store!

People are loyal to a range of brands, and you have to think about how to get content to them through different distributors… e.g, the New York Times posts articles on Facebook. Not everyone reads the NYT through nytimes.com . Similarly, Conde Nast made a deal with Flipboard to move their stuff within Flipboard –  even the New Yorker, because that’s where people are going for their reading.

You can even repurpose slightly and offer the same material for pay or free. Example is a big guide to Mac OS10. Website Ars Technica puts it up for free, but you can only look at one page at a time. Many people are prepared to pay for it in a single page or  PDF format.

For journalists, this is important to be aware of how it will/may be repackaged. You need to keep a close eye on contracts and the rights your publisher has to republish and sell – or that you keep your right to do other projects on your own – e.g, making a long-form piece into a Kindle Single. there are many things that just weren’t an issue five or ten years ago. “People didn’t think that something you wrote for blog could become a very successful book.”

The Q&A:  to post later


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