Call them long reads if you must, but in-depth journalism online can’t begin with the word count

“Long reads” is a term I’ve quickly come to dislike, mainly because it’s often bastardised to mean something that’s been horribly over-written to imbue it with a sense of importance that is content doesn’t deserve. But it’s quicker than saying “journalism with so much detail, authority and colour that it needs a couple of thousands words to do it justice”, so I’ve had to learn to bear it.

Source: Call them long reads if you must, but in-depth journalism online can’t begin with the word count

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen someone share a link while summarising it as ‘good, but long’. Why the but? Surely if it is good then you would want if not as much as possible, then at least a bit more?

The article above discusses longer articles and features from a local publisher’s perspective. In my most recent job I would grit my teeth when I needed to commission an article from an academic and told to give them “500ish words”. For that site, a place to learn things, that’s often barely enough space to set the scene of the article. People who are interested in a topic, whether they’re novices or experts, will read something for as long as it remains interesting. That’s the key—it’s not ‘how long is it?’, it’s ‘how interesting is it?’.

Anyway, long live long reads, I guess? You have a stupid name but you are generally miles better than a 300-word amuse-bouche of a thing.

Author: Matthew Culnane

Sometime social and UX person working in education. Interested in food, books, music, others. Working out how it all works.