Automattic announced its acquisition of Longreads today. Since 2009, the Longreads service has helped people find and share the best fiction and nonfiction longform content on the web, curated by its team of editors and the #longreads hashtag.
Longreads defines longform content as anything over 1,500 words, the type of articles that are most often read by people who are away from the distractions of their desks. Though individual attention spans seem to be dwindling in the digital age, the proliferation of mobile devices and apps dedicated to reading has sparked a renaissance of the written word. Longreads became a key player in the resurgence of longform reading by helping people to discover the best content.
The editorial team at Longreads joins online publishing titan WordPress.com under the Automattic umbrella. Historically, WordPress.com has been a strong supporter of longform writing and offers several themes dedicated to longform posts. WordPress.com has also often featured longform reads among its recommendations.
Mark Armstrong, founder of Longreads, describes how he sees Automattic as the right partner to help them go deeper in their mission to promote longform storytelling:
We also quickly realized that Longreads’ goals and Automattic’s goals were complementary: For us it is to serve readers the best storytelling in the world, and for Automattic it’s to power a world where publishers and writers have the freedom and independence to own and control their own space on the Internet, and to then produce their best work using those tools.
Armstrong said that they will continue to run the service in the same way they always have and will keep the Longreads Membership active.
The Rebirth of Longform Storytelling
If the success of the New York Time’s Snowfall is any indication, “immersive storytelling” is on the upswing and longform content is well-positioned to be reinvented in the digital age. There’s no reason why WordPress publishers shouldn’t be at the helm.
The popularity of longform content is growing. Automattic’s Raanan Bar-Cohen, in his announcement of the acquisition, said that “Use of the #longreads hashtag on Twitter has grown more than 130% over the last two years, and more publishers than ever are committing resources to in-depth storytelling as part of their daily mix of stories.”
Complex topics and ideas often require longform articles in order to fully convey their depth. Longreads has found a successful way to tap into a segment of the public that values longform reading enough to pay for daily recommendations. Automattic’s acqusition of Longreads is a signal that longform content is not dead but rather has the chance to be reborn in the digital era. That’s good news for WordPress publishers and even better news for readers.