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Longform

Do We Still Need Byliner?

Screen Shot 2014-06-17 at 9.26.16 AMEarlier this month, we learned that Byliner, the digital longform journalism platform launched in 2011, is looking for partners to continue sustaining its operation.

An email to contributors, published originally by PandoDaily, reads:

“We’ve struggled to reach the level of growth we’d been hoping for the business, and thus we’ve begun conversations with possible partners about the future of Byliner. We’re working to find a good home for our platform and your stories, and we’ll be in touch shortly with specifics about your titles.”

Not good news. Since then, co-founder Mark Bryant, executive editor Laura Hohnhold and now co-founder/CEO John Tayman have found the exit door at Byliner, a San Francisco startup. At this point, contributors are left wondering what Byliner’s fate will be, and the company — once lauded as a paradigm for longform journalism online — must rely on partners to boost Byliner.

But the more important question may be, ‘Do we still need Byliner?’ Perhaps Byliner’s troubles underscore a general sense of apathy toward longform, or highlight a lessening need for long publishers like this one.

On the other hand, outfits like The Big Roundtable and The New New South have popped up over the last year, BuzzFeed is taking longform more seriously and Longreads is still hanging on (and they don’t even require subscriptions like Byliner does). Aeon and Matter/Medium commission longform that performs well, and The Atavist relies in part on the licensing sales of its software platform The Creativist to be successful financially.

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What To Read Today: Interview With Buzzfeed’s Jonah Peretti

If you only read one thing on the Internet today, this is it. And it will probably be all you have time to read, clocking in at the 91 minute mark according to Medium’s estimation.

(But hey, if your Tweetdeck is down and Feedly’s under attack, you should have more time than usual to lean in to a piece like this. Sorry for the reminder.)

jonahperettiIt’s an eight-part Q&A that reporter Felix Salmon conducted over a few interviews with Jonah Peretti, who helped found two of the most viral, traffic-driving websites on the Internet: Huffington Post, and after leaving HuffPo, Buzzfeed.

If you only read part of it, skip to sections 6, Buzzfeed as Willy Wonka’s Lab, and 7, How to win the Internet. On the whole, it’s a fascinating look into the mind and methods, plus the future and back story, of one of the people who made the Internet and general online mediascape what it is today — for better or worse.

4 Observations From The Atlantic‘s “100 Fantastic Pieces of Journalism”

Screen Shot 2014-05-20 at 12.27.23 PMDon’t worry — longform storytelling isn’t going anywhere, thankfully, and The Atlantic writer and journalist Conor Friedersdorf has released his take on the best nonfiction journalism of 2013.

If you don’t follow Friedersdorf or receive his The Best of Journalism newsletter, you’re missing out, because he takes the time to scour the web for terrific journalism and serves it to you right on a silver platter (AKA your email inbox).

Anyway, the final list has a few more than 100 pieces of reported works. Here’s what I noted from taking a closer look at it:

1. Digitally native pubs have a nice showing. 

Sites like The Awl, Aeon, Pacific Standard and Gawker that find their homes on the web are producing some really nice journalism. Even BuzzFeed made Friedersdorf’s list twice. Grantland, The Verge, Medium and Slate had a presence on the list, too — an encouraging fact for those of us committed to doing quality writing and reporting online. Friedersdorf also took a moment to applaud Glenn Greenwald and his team for their reporting on the NSA’s mass surveillance.

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Longreads Joins Forces With Automattic, Owner of WordPress

Screen Shot 2014-04-11 at 1.36.20 PMDuring the month of its five-year anniversary, Longreads was bought by Autommatic, the web development company best known for its ownership of WordPress (also Gravatar and Polldaddy, for the nerdiest types).

Longreads, started by former journalist and longform journalism enthusiast Mark Armstrong in 2009, announced April 9 it was joining forces with Autommatic in order to expand its impact and better equip itself to share the best longform (1,500+ words) work on the web.

“The world cannot live on 140 characters alone,” Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg said to Bloomberg Businessweek. “Longreads embodies a lot of what we really value with Automattic and WordPress.”

This move makes total sense. WordPress.com is the “largest and most influential publishing ecosystem in the world,” as Armstrong wrote, and its content management system powers the work of big news brands like NYPost.com and Quartz, and lesser known yet immensely talented freelance writers. Longreads is constantly looking for great journalism to share, while competing against sites like Byliner, and Automattic’s WordPress offers writers a place where their journalism can live. So, it’s a win-win situation. And, in a SXSW talk last year, Mullenweg said WordPress was looking for a way to delve deeper into — and monetize — longform journalism, as what became known as the longform “renaissance” had really started to take shape.

 


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The Big Roundtable’s Social Media Experiment

The BRT wants the stories it publishes to be "surprising" and ambitious - and for them to be read widely.

The BRT wants the stories it publishes to be “surprising” and ambitious – and for them to be read widely, of course.

Longform startup The Big Roundtable (BRT) recently commissioned three college students to put its assumptions about social sharing to the test.

The challenge? Taking one story, one month and whatever techniques they could think of (legal, of course), the three undergraduates were tasked with the challenge of racking up the most unique page views.

Said BRT Founder Michael Shapiro on the pub’s blog, ”The contest was inspired by this simple, painful realization about the patterns in our traffic: there are none.”

Having struggled with pegging what makes people click — and how to get them to a place where they’re able to find stories — BRT noted high traffic numbers when its pieces were linked in other publications’ stories, but acknowledged that stories they thought would take the Internet by storm didn’t turn the results they anticipated. They wanted some answers.

BRT, led by Shapiro, editor Mike Hoyt and publisher Anna Hiatt, was formed in mid-2013, and is based on the idea that writers should be directly connected to, and supported by, their readers. Backed initially by a successful Kickstarter campaign, BRT has since been publishing quality longform (5,000+ words) pieces, some with media partners like Buzzfeed and Longreads, enabling authors to be paid via reader donation. Additionally, a “reader’s circle” receives 1,000 word samples of potential BRT content, so it’s not just the editorial team making calls on what gets read.

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