On 25 June 2022, I will be presenting ”The evolution of digital long-form journalism distribution practices through the analysis of an aggregator” at the Histories of Digital Journalism Conference.
In order to provide further understanding of digital long-form journalism and its evolving distribution practices, this paper focuses on Longform.org, one of the most prominent long-form content aggregators on the web. Drawing on scraped data from the archive and using digital methods (Rogers 2013), the paper will analyze two different years (2016 and 2020) of Longform.org’s activity, in order to demonstrate aggregators’ efficiency in exploiting datafication of news content (Mayer-Schönberger & Cukier 2013) and leveraging the long-tail (Anderson 2009) of archived material. Hence, the paper will be able to frame Longform.org’s evolution over time and assess in-depth its curatorial practices. The paper analyzes the frequency with which Longform.org draws from different types of publications, from digital-only outlets to magazines and daily newspapers and provides an outlook on the role of archived material. Founded in 2010 as an application at the time of the release of the first Apple iPad. Since 2017, its application is not available anymore in the main mobile platforms (Mac iOS and Android) and in 2022 it has ceased its article recommendation service. Its relevance is demonstrated by the traffic it has contributed to generate towards digital long-form journalism, regardless of publication date and outlet (Boynton 2013). More broadly, the paper assesses the evolution of aggregators as more efficient distributors of content if compared to traditional media outlets in relation to the long-tail theory developed by Anderson (2009). Anderson’s theory posits that the long-tail is defined by infinite choice, cheap distribution and limitless variety and frames aggregators as more efficient in distribution if compared to what he defines ‘entrenched’ industries (Anderson 2009: 88) such as news media production. Thus, analyzing an aggregator as Longform.org using this framework allows for it to be assessed within the current digital environment.
Keywords: digital journalism, long-form journalism, aggregators, long-tail, Longform.org, datafication