Several successful media figures gathered at the South by Southwest Interactive festival Sunday to discuss the art of longform journalism.
The session “Longform Journalism: What is it and what’s next?” was moderated by Susan Glasser, editor of Politico. The panel also featured Joey Marburger, director of digital products and design at The Washington Post, Chad Millman, editor-in-chief of ESPN The Magazine, and David Nassar, vice president of communications for The Brookings Institution, a Washington D.C. think tank.
Glassner began the panel by admitting she does not like the term “longform journalism” because it could give the impression that the reader will be “bombarded” with information. The panelists agreed "immersive storytelling" is a better term to describe longer and more detailed stories.
While the Internet is changing the journalism industry, Nassar and the rest of the panel were confident that longform writing will always have an audience no matter how small.
"The immersive elements really do get the reader more engaged in the story," Nassar said.
Glassner called this current period of time the “golden age of longform.”
"The good news is, it's easier than ever before to put ambitious and immersive reporting in front of millions of people," Glasser said.
However, as society becomes more on-demand and used to instant gratification, Marburger said he worries stories will not “resonate” with readers if they are not easily accessible.
Marburger pointed out that companies like Buzzfeed have grown enough to be able to expand their coverage from entertainment to hard news.
"You can rag on the cat videos, but that's a strategy," Marburger said of Buzzfeed drawing in readers.
Compared to the media popularized by the Internet, longform journalism is “archaic,” Marburger said. Yet meaningful and immersive content is still “tangible,” especially if it is of high quality.
"No one wants to read a bad longform story," Millman said.