Here’s a problem that we, People of the Internet, should solve: The web is not yet organized in a way that recognizes that there is more than one type of text-based web content. There’s quick, snackable stuff, formulated for 5-minute scanning between checking your email and getting some real work done. But then there’s the long, in-depth content better suited for the couch, the commute, or the airplane. Most sites jumble these two types of stories together. When I click a headline at NYTimes.com, I can never tell whether I’m going to get a 200-word blog post or a 10,000-word epic. At work, I want the former; at home, the latter. But my browser doesn’t care. Graydon, you would never ask me to read the Vanity Fair cover story standing at the newsstand. Yet that’s precisely what VanityFair.com and others do.
Now that I have the ability to “read later,” I will. It’s time for publishers to start recognizing this need for “time and place”-specific content. I humbly offer up “Longreads” as the tag by which we, The Internet, will understand when content is meant not just for scanning but for reading, savoring and digesting.
Can’t we all see where this is going? The online world no longer needs to be 500-words-or-less. Instead of killing long-form journalism, the internet can help save it.
Now that we have a time, a place, and a format where the best journalism in the world can thrive online, the appetite for it is obvious. It’s on the iPhone, iPad and Kindle. It’s on apps like Instapaper, where you can read offline and on your own terms. And it’s from writers and reporters who can expand our worldview and move us to tears — or better yet, action — in 7,000 words.