[I’m Reading] ‘Online, each story is at best its own magazine, sent out to find its own temporary audience’

Excellent piece written by Ben Smith and published on Medium:

Online, each story is at best its own magazine, sent out to find its own temporary audience. One article may absorb people who subscribe, or would once have subscribed, to Foreign Affairs; another might absorb devotees of Wired or Men’s Health or Glamour. The author and the story choose their audience, and the editor’s role is to begin the conversation over who will read and share the piece — not to rework it for the group of people who happen to subscribe to your magazine.


Bennet and others have celebrated technical aspects of digital journalism — images and gifs and audio — as a reason to be excited about the web. These tools are can be beautiful and useful, though they can also sometimes evoke worst of Flash-dominated, distracting early ’00s web design. (Rolling Stone recently published an article on animal rights that actually moos.) We are careful to get out of the stories’ way: Images and gifs and videos must look great on the iPhone screen, which may already be the most common way readers experience long narratives.


The scroll is a wonderful way to read that forces writers and editors alike to make more purposeful choices. The editor loses the excuse of a word limit or the geometry of columns to make choices easier: He or she must instead be able to convincingly explain what belongs in the story and what doesn’t. Writers lose the same crutch. The story should be as long as it should be.