The Trend for Longform Content and Our New Longform Feature

Want some longer reads on the web? We've got just the ticket.

Across the web this year, we’ve seen longform content popping up in all sorts of guises. The New York Times’ Snow Fall really set the bar high last year with Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek, then at the beginning of 2013 a trickle of big content pieces began to appear:

  • ESPN Grantland published Out in the Great Alone, a comprehensive piece covering the Iditarod Sled Dog Race.
  • Pitchfork published the stunning People’s List – it’s a fantastic looking piece and the advertising seems entirely part of it.
  • The Great Discontent have been running a number of large features interviewing people in New York’s creative scene.

ESPN Grantland’s Out in the Great Alone was one of the bar raising pieces of long form during 2013

Moving away from one off pieces, bitesized kings Buzzfeed spotted the trend and started BuzzReads – effectively its features section using a full width template. Other media owners, like The Verge, have also made it an integral part of their site. It’s clear that long form is now a major, and still growing, trend.

Why the Trend for Longform?

In an email to Forbes, the founder of Mark Armstrong attributed the ‘resurgence’ of long form journalism to four factors:

  1. The embrace of mobile devices and tablets
  2. The rise of social recommendations – when people read something they really love, they become its biggest cheerleader
  3. A community that has embraced a new way to organize this content (#longreads)
  4. The rise of time shifting apps like ReadItLater and the ability to take a story offline with your device.

Out of these, number 1 drives towards a shift in web content interaction and behaviour. No longer constrained to the desktop (where people regularly flit through web articles when you should be doing something else, like working or shopping), users have more time to engage on mobile devices. For instance, you might read content on your mobile device on your daily commute, or you might be sat on the sofa with your iPad in a fairly relaxed browsing mood – ie, not looking over your shoulder to find your boss is watching you on a site you shouldn’t be on.

Additionally HTML5 and CSS3 have enabled the web to look more beautiful. No longer constrained to div widths and box lengths, we’re able to use far more dramatic imagery, larger, bolder type, and generally break out of standard web templates to create the kind of impact that print media so often has.

Responsive web design and a change in viewing habits away from desktop has opened up the trend for longform content.

Factory Media’s Portfolio and Longform

Given we’re a media company with over 30 years of heritage in action sports, we’re not short of a magazine features. We are of course keen to publish much of our archive online and let audiences enjoy the content that’s not quite so accessible (unless you still have the original magazine copy). However, we were loath to do it without its original impact. We have our standard web templates, which are great for short to medium sized posts like news, video and reviews – but not the greatest for longform – there are usually too many distractions in sidebars.

So we built our own system within WordPress to present longform pieces as the things of beauty that they were originally intended to be. Not only can we create fantastic pieces for the web with high impact, but we can also do this quickly using WP short codes. What might take large teams days and even weeks of bespoke coding to produce, we can publish quickly in a matter of hours. It’s a brilliant piece of CMS functionality.

So if you’ve got a bit of time over the coming weeks, take a read of our first longform feature published on – from issue 109. Of course, we’ll be looking to put more and more of our back catalogue into this format in the coming months.


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