Digital Readership and Narrative

The New York Times finds itself in trouble with it. Huffington Post and Buzzfeed are thriving in it. Quartz and Circa are breaking it and remaking it.

What is it? It’s narrative.

Narrative is changing.

Narrative, particularly journalistic narrative, is being reshaped. It’s kind of a mess, pushed by readers on one side, tech on the other. Let me see if I can find my machete, or maybe a backhoe, and thrash my way through it with you.

Narrative has found a comfy, traditional long form home on, of all places, television. When you watch the writers of ‘Mad Men’ or ‘Breaking Bad,’ or ‘The Good Wife’ spool out longass story threads, episode after episode, that’s long form narrative. Do I really have to wait a year for ‘Mad Men’ to finish? Yes, apparently, and since I am willing to wait, that is the power of long form narrative in action.

For many years the New York Times has dominated in the one-off, long form narrative that digs deep and lasts. Another way to put this is to say that …

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