During 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.
— Mark Armstrong (@markarms) April 9, 2014
Even having been at it for five years, Longreads hasn’t had an easy go and has been funded pretty much by the crowd. At a time when short news bytes and aggregation was taking off, Armstrong’s quest to curate the best longform journalism started with a desire to have something substantive to read on the train ride to work (on mobile) and a simple Twitter hashtag: #longreads. From there, he found there was a community who also craved longer pieces but didn’t know how to find them, launched a website and built a four-person editorial team, which will join the growing editorial team at WordPress. Late last year, Longreads launched a member drive with a goal of gaining 5,000 members. Monthly subscriptions, which give readers daily suggestions on what to read, cost $3, and annual memberships are $30. They also have free weekly email updates and group memberships available for businesses and publications. Still, they have had success, teaming up with publications like The Atlantic along the way for more reach — and just being able to stay afloat in today’s publishing environment.
The financial details of the merger were not disclosed, according to Bloomberg Businessweek’s Brad Stone. But Armstrong assured readers the content of Longreads won’t change now that they’re owned by someone else. “To this community: We will continue running this service the same way we always have,” he wrote.
What do you think of this acquisition? Are you more or less likely to buy a Longreads membership now?
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