Where the team behind MATTER write about writing about the future.

September 5, 2012 at 9:35pm


Writing long

When folks fret about the shaky state of in-depth journalism, blogs often get some of the blame. The accusation never made much sense, but recently it’s started to seem even sillier. Why? Because long, high-quality material is appearing with increasing frequency at places that, perhaps for want of a better word, we still call blogs.

Gawker used to be a go-to site for critics of snarky low-budget journalism. Now it’s reworked it’s work rota to give reporters more time to produce better journalism and often publishes long pieces, like this memoir of race, guns and prejudice in Mississippi.

At Wired.com, Mat Honan’s account of how his life was hacked ran at over 3,500 words and would have sat well as a feature in the magazine’s print edition. Brian Mossop, Wired’s Community Editor, tells me that it generated 20,000 tweets and two million (!) page views. And there are more examples at both sites, plus at places like Boing Boing, where science editor Maggie Koerth-Baker recently published a moving piece about miscarriage and abortion.

What’s happening? I’d love to hear the editors who commissioned these pieces talk about this trend, if that’s what it is. My hunch is that these sites have carved out strong brands that bring in relatively stable revenues, so editors can give their writers more time to report and space to write.

You could argue that I’m being naive about these sites’ commitment to long pieces. All the examples are first-person accounts, which limits the reporting required. None required travel. One — the Gawker memoir — is a book extract and so wasn’t produced in-house. Still, I’m encouraged by the fact that editors think readers want long pieces online. It’s yet another reason to think that while the web has changed the way we access content, it hasn’t changed the kind of content we want.

Jim, MATTER co-founder


  1. readmatter posted this