How many words makes a good story? Don’t focus on longform’

Marco Arment made a solid point in his post about the recent popularity of long-form journalism”:

Rather than fetishize length, which is completely misguided, focus on quality. Length isn’t the problem that most people are looking to solve in their online reading, but we will always have an infinite appetite for high-quality material, and it’s increasingly difficult to find.

Agreed. People have shorter attention spans when it comes to sitting down and reading an article. But if the quality is there, they will stop whatever they are doing to read.

Each week, I am intrigued by several long articles((I find many through The Browser)), but only actually read one or two. For the others, I skim and try to get the gist of it.((like academics do when reading” a book))

I’ve found most long form articles I actually end up reading (and enjoying) are in print. Put my phone on vibrate, open a magazine and read. It’s easy to set it down for a while and pick it up later, without searching for the article in Instapaper or the tab in Safari.

Journalists love long-form writing. It allows them to convey more of the story, have more anecdotes and quotes. And, really, longer pieces seem to have more importance. The internet has freed writers from the confines of column inches, arbitrary cutting caused by the cost of printing articles.

But the internet journalism shouldn’t be about writing more of the stories you want to write, but getting more stories to a larger amount of people. A reporter in a small town was confined by circulation — now the world can become their audience.

Don’t get me wrong: well-written, researched and detailed journalism is important. But the goal shouldn’t be a length, but the depth at which it goes, whether it’s a 350 word story or 10,000 word expose. Every word and each sentence needs to be earned.

December 22, 2014