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Narrative Journalism and Digital Media

The debate around long form narrative journalism and it’s growing potential on the web has been gaining momentum. So, I just wanted to share with you two stories and hear your ideas/comments about them.

In the first article, Forbes‘ Lewis DVorkin argues that now that we can access to data on how long people stay reading a web page, how far down readers will scroll, and how many clicks deep into a story they are willing to go, we can assess with accuracy whether readers enjoy shorter or longer pieces online.

According to Forbes’ data, and contrary to what newspaper editors thought in the past, long form journalism for the web not only interests readers but is also key to business success. Thanks to statistics (Google Analytics and so many others) but also to social media, we can now measure and more importantly see how the “social conversation evolves” around news articles (FB “likes” and “shares” and Twitter “hashtags”).

Tapping into these tools, what DVorkin found is that longer, well researched pieces have exponentially higher readership than shorter snippets, or lesser researched pieces. His recommendation: long and short form should work hand in hand. Short form will generate interest in the story (something like a teaser) and long form will deliver the bulk of the content.

In the article, DVorking also quotes an e-mail exchange with Mark Amstrong, creator of Long Reads. Amstrong  argues that this long form journalism is in vogue due to four variables:

1- The embrace of mobile devices and tablets

2- The rise of social recommendation

3- A community that embraced a new way to organize long form content

4- The rise of shifting apps like Read it Later (indirectly, also, the spread of WiFi) This fourth one is particularly amazing, because Read It Later shows data on hundreds of millions of stories saved to be read in portable devices while users have no access to the internet.

But, in fact, the mere existence of Long Reads or The Atavist, a search engine and a market platforms exclusively developed to find and market long form narrative journalism stories, speaks to the resurgence of this genre.

A second article by Wired writer David Dobbs develops some of the ideas introduced by DVorkin and adds that in Wired they also found that long form “breeds reader loyalty.”

My questions to you: how do you think this new trend could affect your career? Could these new trends affect the way you will approach your studies or your job search? Please read the articles and post a brief answer to my questions.

16 Comments

  1. I think these articles are extremely interesting and they somewhat restored hope in me about studying journalism. We hear from people all the time that journalism and print is a dying breed, but this long-form boom and the articles by Forbes and Wired renew hope that journalism is adapting to a new trend and media world. I personally want to go in to print/online and love writing longer more in depth pieces than short ones. So to say this new information is vital to my studies and career search is an understatement. I’m glad we have the technology now to examine scroll length and clicks because it allows journalists to produce content that pleases readers but also allows them to better do their job. I think a major contributor to the trend, like DVorkin said, is social media and short-form journalism. Twitter allows users to share a thought, or in this case article, in 140 characters or less. Teasing someone with extremely short-form journalism, in this case headlines, entices readers to visit the page and read through the entire long piece. The trend will most definitely give me hope and steer me towards a company or job that is using all of it’s social media to it’s best advantage.

    Sunday, February 26, 2012 at 12:38 pm | Permalink
  2. Daisy Arriaga wrote:

    I think this would effect my career for the better because since readers want longer pieces than this would require me to research more. By having a longer word count to fill it allows me to craft the story so that the nut graph is still there but I can elaborate more in my article than to have my readers go find more details elsewhere.

    I do not want to go into print and digital journalism, I want to go into advocate journalism, knowing that there are readers who are willing to read a longer piece than a few shorter pieces helps me with my research techniques. What I mean is I can, not just getting the facts but knowing that I don’t have to cut out what may seem as cushion information. I can use every piece of my research in a story.

    Sunday, February 26, 2012 at 1:31 pm | Permalink
  3. Kerry Tkacik wrote:

    I have always loved this kind of long form journalism, first and foremost. Therefore, my approach to job searching and studies is already tailored in the direction of this kind of journalism. It is good to hear this kind of journalism is getting people excited. It shows an innate curiosity and general interest in learning in our audience. These qualities are often underplayed because of sensationalism and the brief nature of a lot of online journalism today. Apparently, the desire for long form, well researched and carefully crafted journalism is alive and well. I knew it (or hoped for it) all along, but it is nice to see it validated here in these articles.

    Sunday, February 26, 2012 at 9:34 pm | Permalink
  4. Alicia Gallen wrote:

    I found these articles very interesting and thought provoking. As students, we complain when we are asked to write long pieces and when we have a few days to produce shorter pieces. These two articles made me think about our future careers in journalism. We would feel pressure writing an article that needs to be done in a day or two but, as students, we never have the time to fully research and write longer pieces. We keep our pieces short and concise to keep the audiences attention or because we are writing for social media. I saw Megan mentioned this in her comment, but writing for online publications and having the technology that we do today where we can monitor our clicks is very helpful. It helps us learn more about the audience while developing fully researched long pieces. The magazine I edit at school is online and the website we use monitors how many original views we receive, how often, and what pages received the most attention. It helps us see what pages we need to improve while making sure we keep what the audience likes. I never felt journalism was dying, but to read about people discussing a new trend makes me feel a little better.

    Sunday, February 26, 2012 at 11:23 pm | Permalink
  5. Mary Apesos wrote:

    Newspapers may be dead, but journalism is still alive in other mediums. Reading this article gave me some relief from the tizzy of worry that has been surrounding the supposedly dying career. The public needs journalism to relay news and keep checks on the government, and the public is now seeking this information in places like smartphones, ipads and basically all computer-related technology. The fact that these news-seekers are reading thorough material is a surprise to me. I thought that most people did not read an entire article, never mind articles that are written by legitimate sources. My career will not be directly related to journalism, but will nevertheless have something to do with writing, and knowing that someone will be reading my writing and it won’t go to waste is hopeful.

    Monday, February 27, 2012 at 12:48 pm | Permalink
  6. Evie Santiago wrote:

    I’m going to go ahead and speak as an outsider, because the first question doesn’t particularly pertain to me since I do not intend to go into journalism. Journalists must adapt to the changes occurring today. It is time to take advantage of the advances. The ability to track hits is incredible because you can begin to realize what and how much your audience wants. This comes particularly handy for journalists focusing in on a certain area of interest. However, it could also be dangerous because we could begin to conform to telling the readers what they want to hear rather than what they need to hear. Everyone was quick to jump on board the panic train when they saw newspaper sales plummeting and companies filing for bankruptcy. All forms of journalism will continue to survive as long as they adapt. Long form journalism in particular has both advantages and disadvantages. It is up to those in the field to take advantage of the former and find ways around the latter.

    Monday, February 27, 2012 at 6:32 pm | Permalink
  7. Kari Beal wrote:

    I think long form journalism online can be successful as long as it is geared to the right audience. Forbes started off as a magazine which is suited for long-form journalism. Their typical readers are those who would buy the magazine if they did not have an ipad or laptop sitting in their bag. This cliental is typically business workers or those who aspire to be. So for them I think long-form articles work. These people are continuously trying to get ahead in the game, figure out new trends, learn from success or failures of previous leaders and so on. They are the type of people willing to dive into a 2000+ word story in hopes to benefit and learn something from it. But if Entertainment Weekly posted long-form journalism I don’t think it would be as successful. The cliental (I’m guessing) is less educated than Forbes and the readers just want the juicy information, not some long format elaboration. I think long-form stories also might have trouble in local publications.
    I am happy though that heavy research and content based stories can be successful if written intuitively and syndicated to the right audience. I found some of the articles DVorking’s posted articles quite interesting.

    Monday, February 27, 2012 at 8:41 pm | Permalink
  8. Laura Murray wrote:

    I have been told that the majority of Americans typically skim the headlines to get their daily dosage of news, but these two articles prove that notion wrong. Lewis DVorkin and David Dobbs report that readers are interested in reading long-form journalism, and new technologies such as the iphone and ipad make it easier for consumers to receive and read in-depth coverage. The fact that well researched articles “have exponentially higher readership than shorter snippets” makes me more optimistic for the future of journalism because it shows the public is interested in attaining as much information as possible to become informed citizens. This is the key to reviving investigative journalism! I want to pursue broadcast journalism so this may not have a huge impact on my career. However, these reports definitely make me recognize the value of learning how to perform proper research. I will now bear in mind that consumers are willing to take the extra time to read news that is thoroughly reported and analyzed. Therefore, I will try to incorporate as much background information as possible to gives readers a complete picture rather than a fragmented description of an isolated event that does not make any societal connections.

    Monday, February 27, 2012 at 9:38 pm | Permalink
  9. Sydney Normil wrote:

    Reading these two articles excited me. When I think about digital journalism I automatically think of the words fast and short. It’s usually inverted pyramid style and there is only half a chance to grab and maintain the reader’s attention. These two article show that the reader actually does care and great works of journalism are being appreciated. I especially liked the idea of pairing long pieces with short pieces. I think it’s a great business model and can add another element to the long piece. While I am not pursuing a career in journalism, but in law, the same standards of integrity and accuracy applies regarding writing and research. Quality is still more important than quantity.

    Tuesday, February 28, 2012 at 3:32 pm | Permalink
  10. Megan Blarr wrote:

    My first love was long form, narrative journalism; therefore, these articles encourage me to pursue my passion. Broadcast journalism became my second dream nearly 10 years ago, and I have sometimes struggled where to place my loyalties (broadcast or print). I’ve come to the conclusion that I will primarily pursue a career in broadcast. Not because newspapers are a “dying breed.” Not because I don’t like long form journalism. But because broadcast allows me to combine my two loves: television and writing. While I currently aspire to be a legal analyst for broadcast news, DVorkin’s article certainly makes me have a strong plan B in narrative journalism.

    Tuesday, February 28, 2012 at 4:44 pm | Permalink
  11. Brandon Doyle wrote:

    First off, I do not believe that this long-form journalism will affect my professional journalism career. I want to work in sports journalism and/or digital journalism. More specifically, for sports journalism, most sports articles worth reading are in long-form, and usually presents data and statistics to add credibility to the sports writer, and to prove points about a specific player, team, or coach. Sports articles need to be well researched and present this type of information, otherwise the writer will be viewed as less credible. I also do not think this will affect my job search, but may affect how I pursue the rest of my academia here at Ithaca College. Taking classes like Narrative Journalism Workshop now seem more beneficial and more appealing than other journalism classes offered here at IC, since that is where readership is heading.

    Tuesday, February 28, 2012 at 5:57 pm | Permalink
  12. After reading these articles, I was surprised to learn just how popular narrative journalism is today. In a world that savors Tweets, status updates, and text messaging—all forms of communication that rely on quick blurbs of text—it seems unlikely that long-form journalism would captivate readers’ interest. I am thrilled, however, that the interest is there. In my opinion, narrative journalism is one of the most rewarding aspects of this career path; the stories that evolve from the in-depth reporting and research are compelling in ways that a short news story often cannot achieve.

    In regards to my career, I certainly think that every journalist could benefit by having a narrative journalism background. The skills that are developed by completing a piece are helpful in creating any type of news story or multimedia package. I am hopeful that this trend will restore some of the credibility that has seemingly been lost in journalism. In addition, I am looking forward to a career at a publication or website that values in-depth, carefully researched reporting over sloppy stories that are published before being fact checked.

    It is my last semester as a student at Ithaca College, so I do not think that this trend will directly impact my academic career. However, I am currently enrolled in Narrative Journalism Workshop, so reading these articles makes me thankful that I took the course. I am looking forward to applying the skills that I learn over the course of the semester to my future career.

    Tuesday, February 28, 2012 at 10:27 pm | Permalink
  13. I’m not sure how the trend to promote longer, narrative forms of journalism will affect my career, as I’ve produced both longer articles — maybe not ‘narrative’ but leaning more toward investigative/in-depth — and shorter blog-form pieces for different publications I’ve contributed to. I also will be honest and say that I love Twitter as a news source, and have live-tweeted events before as a form of reporting, as I’ve seen happen a lot with recent widespread social movements, and currently with the Occupy movement. I think what people gravitate to depends on what they’re looking for at that moment. If they want a steady stream of breaking news on an event unfolding, they might turn to Twitter or other social media. If they want a quick update on something that just happened, they might turn to a blog post or other shorter piece. If they want to gain an extensive knowledge of an event that has already happened, or a trend or movement that is in the process of happening, they might turn to a longer investigation or humanizing narrative piece.
    That all being said, I guess the short answer is I don’t see it affecting much other than providing another opportunity for a way to disseminate news and encouragement that this longer-form of reporting is still appreciated. I don’t think any one form will knock out others, as each one has a purpose.

    Wednesday, February 29, 2012 at 2:52 am | Permalink
  14. Molly Freeman wrote:

    I don’t think it will have too much of an affect on my career. I think that the new findings about readership are very interesting and I’m happy that longer form pieces are making a comeback, as it were, because I like longer form pieces, both writing and reading them. But I don’t see how it could affect my career as I have experience writing longer form pieces in class.

    As far as jobs go, this trend might affect where I apply because I might apply to a publication that favors long form pieces since I like writing those. Other than that, though, I can’t see it having too much of an impact.

    Wednesday, February 29, 2012 at 11:12 am | Permalink
  15. I really like the idea of pairing short news stories with long narrative-style pieces. Personally, I read longer pieces far more often than I read short news snippets. I believe that the fast-paced, Twitter-esque news style has resulted in some pretty spotty journalism. While the style has merit in its accessibility, it’s simple not as reliable — and information seems to fly in one ear (eye?), and out the other.

    It’s great, business-wise, that companies now have access to data over things such as time spent on a page or clicks into a story. While I think this is a huge violation of privacy, I’m sure the media industry will use this information to their best advantage, and squeeze every dollar out of it. It may not result in better news, but it may help attract more readers. (And hey, to be honest, most media is simply consumer-controlled these days. I feel as though the news, as it stands today, isn’t as much about presenting what’s true, but about entertaining consumers.)

    I actually have recently landed a job in political research. While I will not be on the production side of the news, I will certainly continue to consume it hungrily. The integrity of our democracy in the U.S. continue to rests upon the fourth estate, and I have high hopes that journalism will uphold its moral standards no matter how long or short our news packages are.

    Wednesday, February 29, 2012 at 12:18 pm | Permalink
  16. Alex Ash wrote:

    I like the idea that short and long form journalistic pieces can work together, or pair together, I just don’t know how it’s going to affect my career. I feel it would at least keep the print journalistic field alive and slow down all the talks of it being a “dying medium.” I find narrative journalism to be far more interesting than quick news snippets, but that’s only because there is only so much you can put into those short news articles. I think it definitely reflects positively for the future of journalism.

    I don’t think these new trends will change my approach to how I study, or how I look for a job, I just think it will just allow for more opportunities to arise in the written side of journalism.

    Wednesday, February 29, 2012 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

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