E-singles and longform stories have found a place on the digital world. People have enjoyed reading content longer than a typical blog post and getting in-depth information on a specific topic.
It also helps kill time.
Mark Armstrong founded Longreads nearly five years ago. The site caters to those who enjoy longform writing whether fiction or non-fiction. Anything longer than 1,500 words is considered for the site.
Armstrong and his team at Longreads are pushing a member drive to get the site to 5,000 members. People can sign for $3 a month or $30 a year. Teleread had the opportunity to chat with Armstrong about website and its future.
Teleread: What intrigued you about (longform writing) and why did you want to create this kind of space for it?
Armstrong: Well, my background is in journalism—I started out my career as a newspaper reporter, and I’ve worked in the digital media business for many years. But really, I created Longreads out of my own personal interest as a reader.
This was 2009, I was taking the subway to commute from Brooklyn to Manhattan for work. I had bought an iPhone, and I was looking for material to read on it. I had just discovered the save-for-later apps, and I realized that what I wanted to read on my phone was quite different than what I’d read at work on a desktop browser.
Teleread: I can definitely relate to that. I travel to Manhattan as well.
Armstrong: Totally. And at the time, there was no central place to find and share in-depth stories. I had been thinking about the phrase “Longreads” and I was also interested in what I could do with Twitter and hashtags for crowdsourcing projects. So one afternoon I introduced #longreads and the @Longreads account, I wrote a blog post asking for everyone’s help finding and sharing these stories. I defined them as anything over 1,500 words, both nonfiction and fiction welcome. And the community immediately took off.
Teleread: Is there fiction or non-fiction on the site?
Armstrong: Yes, it’s still heavily nonfiction, but there is fiction, too—I’d love to have more of it, in fact—and the definition was really meant to be as broad as possible. Text over 1,500 words. That would allow for people with different, diverse tastes to contribute whatever it is they like to read.
We’re interested in giving people a diverse collection of stories from both well-known and smaller publishers. We started out simply finding and sharing links to stories (new and classic) that were already available, and over time we’ve moved toward the idea of also going out and looking for stories and book chapters that have never been published online. There is so much great stuff out there to read right now, but there’s also so much that has never been shared before. For those pieces, we’ll go and clear the rights with the publisher or writer.
A lot of these are what we call our Longreads Member Picks. They include new ebooks from publishers—for example, we just featured an amazing ebook by Belle Boggs, from a new publisher called The New New South.
And we’ll also unearth classic stories: We just featured an old story from Jason Zengerle, from Dave Eggers’s Might Magazine, and we published a classic piece from the short-lived, but beloved, magazine New York Woman.
Teleread: Why did you decide now for a member drive? And why 5,000?
Armstrong: Our 5,000 Member goal is what we’ve identified to not just keep our current service sustainable, but also make good on a bigger vision for Longreads as a hub for readers, writers and publishers. We’ve been transparent with the community about our numbers and our model—and direct support from the community is vital to the kind of service we offer. We are then supplementing community support with traditional advertising and sponsorships.
Teleread: How far are you from your goal?
Armstrong: We’ve had a great first few days—we’re now up to about 1,600 members. We still have a ways to go, so we’ll need all the community’s help to keep pushing forward. But the response and hearing everyone’s support for Longreads so far has been really gratifying.
Teleread: My last question is how do writers get paid? I’m sure that’s been a topic that people have wondered about.
Armstrong: Since we introduced the Longreads Member Picks last year, a portion of the Longreads Member dues has been going to writers and publishers to help us pay for the rights to those stories. So in our view, this Member Drive isn’t just about sustaining our own service—part of our mission is to build this in a way that benefits writers and publishers in a much bigger way over time. I explain some of that on our blog.
Thank you! We’re really excited about what’s next, and I’m thankful for the community’s support in helping to make it a reality.