SB Nation: A New Twist On An Old Idea

Mark Nolan

The long-form article - consisting of deep research, investigative journalism and various other methods of telling a story - has been falling behind in the new age of Internet reporting. In a culture that loves instant gratification and quick cuts in their media, the long-form article took a backseat, but is hoping to make a comeback.

Before the Internet, before MTV, before all the quick-paced gadgetry that is our current media culture, the long-form article was a staple of newspapers and magazines. These long-form pieces took a while to create, not only in terms of the actual text content, but for the background research and the time it took to lay them out and make them appealing. As things started to move faster and as people had many more choices about how to consume their media, the art form of producing news drifted decidedly towards shorter bursts in a more timely fashion. Blog networks like SB Nation were part of that culture.

But lately, Vox Media and SB Nation has been reviving the long-form read, and people are starting to take notice. Not only for the quality of the reporting and the art of the story-telling, but for the technology that allows these pieces of work to be generated in a visually satisfying style.

Media Bistro has a strong article highlighting Vox Media's work in this field. The opening paragraph sets the stage:

News organizations across the globe fell in love with the New York Times' so-called "immersive storytelling" format with the launch of Snow Fall in November 2012, while critics of the project said it wasn't reproducible or scaleable. But long before Snow Fall came to fruition, folks at Vox Media - the company that brings us publications like The Verge, SB Nation and Polygon - were already perfecting a system to do similar layouts, reproducibly, with scale, on a deadline.

You might be wondering what exactly these articles are, what they look like and where they can be found. I invite you to check some of them out here. That link will point you to a page dedicated to the long-form articles produced by Vox Media. These aren't meant to be consumed in short bursts, so bookmark and when you find some time to kick back and enjoy a great story with excellent visuals, pick one out and give it a read.

So has this effort been successful? Back to the Media Bistro article:

So the question we all have about these beautiful layouts. Does it work? Is it more engaging? How do we know? Though [Trei] Brundrett didn't have exact numbers to provide, he said their numbers have grown and the audience has developed higher expectations for what they produce.

"We get really great traffic to these pieces, off the charts engaged time, people are reading all the way down the page, great comments and discussion," Brundrett said. "From a social perspective they get shared like crazy . They do really well for us."

There's a lot of effort that goes into these pieces from the writers. And a lot of effort by Vox Media's product team to make them look beautiful, and make them easy to produce. This is only the beginning, we'll continue to revive this format and produce quality journalism on par with any found in today's media.

Do yourself a favor, check out some the great long-form pieces already available.

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