The business of longform journalism on the web

Lauren Hazard Owen, writing for Gigaom:

Does Byliner’s failure mean that longform journalism on the web is doomed? Or are Byliner’s problems specific to Byliner?

Owen tiptoes around those questions, not explicitly answering either of them. But she does hint a bit, suggesting that Byliner had its own set of problems that haven’t affected its main competition, the Atavist. (The Atavist has managed to stay afloat selling access to their slick platform and likely plowing some of that money back into the longform journalism that gave it its name.)

But the larger question—is longform doomed on the web—I think the answer is, no. The rising popularity of longform articles on the web proves that there’s demand.

That’s not to say you can just start a longform site and expect to succeed. As someone who runs a site that focuses on longform science journalism, I can tell you it’s not an easy task. Keeping a site moving at internet speed still requires some quick hits, though I firmly believe that if you want to stay relevant, you have to deliver original, substantive content. If you’re going to be content-only, you have to find the right balance. But if you’re like Byliner and focus almost exclusively on longform articles, you should probably have a few other irons in the fire to keep the whole operation going.

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