Curation, aggregation, 140 characters, constant updates, 24 hours a day, seven days a week: despite being easier than ever to access, reading the news online can be exhausting. In this digital age we can follow a story from its birth, watch it grow, develop and fade away. The problem is that this process frequently takes place in one quick burst – over the course of a day, maybe two – infusing online news sites like the Huffington Post with a wearying frenetic quality. It’s no secret that the rush to be the first to report breaking news means that concerns such as narrative depth, context and analysis are frequently marginalised, but fortunately for those searching for respite from the onslaught of breaking news, long-form journalism is undergoing a revival.
The digital transition that initially contributed to a decrease in demand for lengthy reports and articles is also providing a creative space in which new kinds of storytelling can be developed. Thanks to apps such as Longform, lengthy articles (usually 2000 words minimum), previously seen as a hallmark of traditional journalism, are increasingly read on tablets and smartphones. Long-form articles are further establishing their presence in the digital world with Kindle Singles, a condensed e-book format that provides a home for journalistic pieces full of “compelling ideas expressed at their natural length.”
Freelance journalist Noah Rosenberg is hoping that his Narratively project will be able to take advantage of the opportunities afforded by new digital platforms. Rosenberg and his team aim to provide New Yorkers with a series of stories from the heart of the "city that never sleeps" by publishing just one story a day; each story would be connected to a particular theme that would change week by week. Speaking in Narrative.ly’s Kickstarter video, Rosenberg says that the publication “[doesn’t] care about breaking news or the next big headline. Narratively is devoted exclusively to uncovering New York’s untold stories.” These stories will be told not only in a long-form journalism format, but also via video documentaries, photo essays and short films. Should the project reach its Kickstarter goal of $50,000, Narratively would be launched as a mobile-accessible website, but e-books and a print-option could be on the horizon if the digital platform proves successful.
A shift to digital content has so far paid dividends for Vice magazine, which has seen web-based video storytelling overshadow its print output. Having begun life as a Montreal-based arts and culture publication, Vice is now best known for its documentaries, and is proving that long-form video journalism can generate revenue. In an interview with journalism.co.uk, Dan'l Hewitt, general manager of AdVice, a division of Vice Media, explained: “We work with brands to create legitimate content that talks to their consumers and their audience in the most appropriate way. We don't think about branded content, we think about telling stories and making content that relates to brand messages or products."
Evidently there is a demand for a type of journalism that is considered, painstakingly researched and carefully crafted over time – a demand that Vice is already responding to and that Narratively hopes to meet in the coming months.