We’ve all heard how the irrepressible explosion of social media (specifically, the status update, the tweet, the snap) has conditioned humans to prefer consuming content in Polly Pocket-sized morsels. But after reflecting on some of my favorite feature articles and other journalistic feats of the last 12 months, I’d say 2015 was the year that longform writing got its groove back.
As more media outlets revamp their websites, test the limits of their content management systems, and pioneer more innovative approaches to storytelling, it seems that they’re having more fun architecting deep reads. Perhaps a simpler explanation – evidenced by the popularity of websites like The Awl – is that people actually will read more than 40 characters, if they're well written and relevant to their interests.
I’m a big believer that one of the keys to becoming a stronger writer is to read great writing, and writing of all different lengths. And as an agency that regularly strives to help clients push the boundaries of their own content programs, it's important to track how our counterparts on the media side of the spectrum make use of the latest storytelling tools and tricks.
So without further adieu, here are a few of my favorite longreads from 2015 for your drafting or design inspiration (or just to take a break from Twitter):
- What Is Code? (Bloomberg) - This exhaustive (38,000-word) interactive feature is a compelling primer on how code works, a mini-history of the tech industry, an overview of common programming languages and a parable all in one. Break off a couple chapters at a time.
- Danny Meyer is Eliminating All Tipping at His Restaurants (Eater NY) - Worth a read even if you’re not following trends in restaurant labor management, or aren’t obsessed with Shake Shack’s founder. The beauty of this feature is how the Eater team boiled down such complex news into a one-sentence headline, and annotated it so readers could drill down into specific aspects of the story.
- A World Without Work (The Atlantic) – Sometimes, great writing can stand alone – no intricate designs or widgets necessary. The Atlantic (as it so often does) delivers some classic, in-depth reporting into the very congested debate over whether or not machines will obliterate human jobs, and why that might not be such a bad thing.
- Apple Watch Review: A Day in the Life (The Verge) - Every newsroom and Mac super fan covered the launch of the Apple Watch, but The Verge wins for most comprehensive (and fun) review. There’s text, there’s video – and sidenotes and side emoji – that detail 24 hours of Apple Watch shenanigans.
- How One Stupid Tweet Blew Up Justine Sacco’s Life (The New York Times Magazine) - You may recall that unfortunate 2013 Twitter incident in which a PR professional tweeted something regrettable, hopped on a plane to visit her family in South Africa, went viral during the flight, and got fired almost instantly. This profile picks up where the Tweetstorm left off, and explores how social media has given rise to a new form of public shaming and punishment.
What are your favorite longreads of 2015? Tweet us @WalkerSands!