Posts Tagged ‘internet’
Todd VanDerWerff of Vox wrote earlier this week about trends in Internet content as in mass media generally, about how quick-responding content generation is now key.
Take a look at your browser tabs if you’re reading this on a computer. Inevitably, you have at least a few that are weeks, if not months, old, things you’ve always intended to get to but just never have. Odds are these are so-called “longform” articles that will take a while to read. (Here’s one of mine, which I’ve had open since October: a GQ feature about “the last true hermit.”) A fair number of you are going to open this piece in a tab and just never get back to it.
These longform pieces are the pinnacle to which lots and lots of us writers and the websites we work for aspire. They win awards. They garner attention from other journalists. They’re often why we got into this business to begin with. Even BuzzFeed turned out to be using all those cat GIFs as a Trojan horse for a lot of great investigative journalism.
And I don’t want to suggest, even inadvertently, that nobody reads these longer pieces. A well-written, well-reported longform piece can break out as well as anything, as Gawker found out with (among many others) its influential, over-9,000-word essay “On Smarm.”
The problem is scale. A larger, general-interest site can’t be built purely atop longform, because longform takes time — both for writers to produce and readers to read. Therefore, as both Buzzfeed and Gawker realized early on, well-done longform could be the steak, but it couldn’t be the meal.
Some of this was driven by the greater knowledge the internet has given publications about just who’s reading what on their sites. Newspapers could suspect nobody was reading the city council report or the dance review; with the internet, we know nobody is. The internet has made it clear that the kinds of things that people want to read are sort of an endless collection of what’s cool. And that might be a longform story, or it might be the quick, clicky little things that repackage the best flotsam and jetsam out there in a more presentable fashion. And if longform takes time, then aggregation is its opposite, easier to throw together in a few minutes with huge potential upside (though, it should be said, with much bigger potential for disaster, since everything is moving so quickly).
Thoughts? The author references Hossein Derakhshan’s Medium essay, previously linked here, abut how individual sites are losing their distinctiveness on the social web.