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Gothamist Enters Long Form World with a Splash

Gothamist, the blog that covers anything and everything New York, has entered the world of long form writing in a big way. Today the site has published snippets of a piece titled, “Confessions of a ‘Rape Cop’ Juror.” The article was written by Patrick Kirkland, one of the jurors who acquitted the infamous NYPD “rape cop,” Kenneth Moreno.

It’s a very powerful read, so FishbowlNY decided to catch up with Jake Dobkin, Gothamist’s Publisher and Co-Fouder, to talk with him about it and the site’s first foray into long form pieces. [Full disclosure: I have freelanced for Gothamist]

Gothamist got about 300 submissions when it put out the word that it was looking to publish something in the long form realm, but Dobkin said Kirkland’s easily stood out among the crowd.

“I wanted something a little more bloggy — something with a strong point of view,” Dobkin explained via email. “We narrowed it down to three pitches: a solid research piece about disasters hitting New York, an account of an NYU student who joined the Hare Krishna movement, and this one.  We eventually decided on this one because it had the strongest POV and the most newsworthiness.”

He said he’s aware that the nature of the piece, which centers on a highly-controversial decision by the jury, might draw some intense reactions, but that the way Kirkland framed it made it too good to resist.

There are only two snippets of the 13,000 word article on Gothamist’s site because Dobkin believes people will pay for the entire thing (a PDF download is $1.99 and a Kindle version is $2.99). The site settled on this business model after a survey showed most people thought $1.99 was a proper price. They had to up the Kindle tag because of technicalities with Amazon.

“I’ve been interested in long-form for a couple of years, and the ‘singles’ model seemed like good model to try first,” said Dobkin. “We’ll probably try it again on our next feature — although we may adjust the pricing and the target length for the piece.  I’ve also got a few other models I’d like to try soon: the Kickstarter model (readers donate in advance to fund a piece), the patron model (users can choose the amount of their donation), and a few others. Once I’m done with the experiments I hope we’ll settle on a model that works, and allows us to do a bunch of these pieces each year.”

The fact that Gothamist is just now entering into long form reflects the success of the site. Dobkin said that things have never been better, as revenue is up 50 percent year-over-year. Kirkland’s piece is a strong start for Gothamist, so Dobkin will most likely see that trend continue.

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