16 Aug Longform stories in print & online
Last week I was at the Walkleys Storology conference in Sydney. This brought international and national journalists, publishers, editors, ‘journo-preneurs’ and other creatives together.
I was on a panel discussing the ‘Longform renaissance’ with Allen & Unwin publisher, Elizabeth Weiss, social media expert Steven Lewis & SMH tablet editor, Stephen Hutcheon.
It was a lively talk about what’s new, what’s working, what’s not. Here’s what we covered.
Firstly, what is longform writing?
When I researched that I was amazed to find some American editors describing a 2,000-word story as longform. To me, that’s an average feature article.
People typically sort longform journalism into two types:
- investigative reportage
- narrative nonfiction not pegged to the daily news & focused around a human story
Where can you find longform writing?
In print: in Australian magazines like The Monthly and in weekend supplements.
Online: The Global Mail are doing some innovative longform pieces mixing words with pictures and footage. See The town that wouldn’t disappear for a compelling example.
However as we discussed the multi-media approach doesn’t always work. Sometimes the images & videos get in the way of the story. And how often do you actually watch all the video? We agreed that this is still a work-in-progress.
Here are some other longform websites (mainly American). Some are free, others require a subscription.
- The Atavist
- The Awl
- Longform – Buzzfeed
- @ifyouonly on twitter features 1 great piece of writing a day
This is for stories between 5,000 to 30,000 words. While they’ve been very successful for a few writers, since 2011 only 400 titles have been published. Most cost between $0.99 and $4.99. In July they launched a new series that features long interviews with famous people.
Travel writing in longform
As many of you know, narrative travel writing has really suffered in recent years due to slashing advertising budgets and shrinking travel sections in newspapers. Now that most travel articles are under 1000 words and many are little more than travel advertorial, it’s hard to get longer travel pieces or essays published.
Yet I know the demand is there – both by writers and readers – from people who come to my travel writing courses.
Perceptive travel offer writers the chance to write longer stories but only publish travel writers who’ve written a book. They pay $100 per story.
My sense is that the so-called longform renaissance does exist in pockets, more in America, than in Australia. This is fuelled by the reaction against the sound-bite nature of news & social media and the ease of reading longer stories on tablets/i-pads. Hamish McKenzie has more to say on this.
As with so many aspects of publishing we’re still trying to find a way forward. I always take heart that people kept predicting that travel writing wouldn’t survive – yet it keeps re-inventing itself.
Stories won’t die either. The form is changing but they’ve been around since we first sat around campfires.
Would love to know your thoughts on this. Do you read longform?