Posts tagged with ‘longreads’

Offer a Story: What Would You Do to Keep Reading?
Damien Spleeters, currently a student at Columbia’s J-School, is experimenting with new ways of sharing stories online. Here we have: The Offer a Story Project.
How It Works: Read a lede, decide if you like it, pay for the rest of the story with 1 tweet or 1 dollar, in bitcoins. 
He explains:

The micro paywall is quite flexible. Launched by BitMonet, it’s embeddable with a simple html code, and its features are customizable. You can offer one article, one hour of access, or a one-day pass. People pay with bitcoins, or just with a tweet. The more you share, the more you have access to. A bit like the reversed paywall introduced by Jeff Jarvis.
The story itself is hosted on marquee. A platform showcased during the Tow Center conference on the future of digital long form journalism a few days ago.


Immediate Thoughts: 1) If you care about what you tweet, do you really want to share a story before reading it? Scaled, how much noise does that add to the Twitterverse? 2) A dollar in bitcoins is nerdly cool, but how frictionless is the payment process for the non-bitcoin majority of the world? 3) This could encourage headline skimmers (and not your typical longform reader) to get enticed into a story through the lede, without yet knowing how long the story is and that they don’t want to read it right now. And by then you’ve “paid” so you might as well stay. Potential.
Try it out here. Give him feedback here.
Image: Screenshot from the first story on the site.

Offer a Story: What Would You Do to Keep Reading?

Damien Spleeters, currently a student at Columbia’s J-School, is experimenting with new ways of sharing stories online. Here we have: The Offer a Story Project.

How It Works: Read a lede, decide if you like it, pay for the rest of the story with 1 tweet or 1 dollar, in bitcoins. 

He explains:

The micro paywall is quite flexible. Launched by BitMonet, it’s embeddable with a simple html code, and its features are customizable. You can offer one article, one hour of access, or a one-day pass. People pay with bitcoins, or just with a tweet. The more you share, the more you have access to. A bit like the reversed paywall introduced by Jeff Jarvis.

The story itself is hosted on marquee. A platform showcased during the Tow Center conference on the future of digital long form journalism a few days ago.

Immediate Thoughts: 1) If you care about what you tweet, do you really want to share a story before reading it? Scaled, how much noise does that add to the Twitterverse? 2) A dollar in bitcoins is nerdly cool, but how frictionless is the payment process for the non-bitcoin majority of the world? 3) This could encourage headline skimmers (and not your typical longform reader) to get enticed into a story through the lede, without yet knowing how long the story is and that they don’t want to read it right now. And by then you’ve “paid” so you might as well stay. Potential.

Try it out here. Give him feedback here.

Image: Screenshot from the first story on the site.

Other than her church, the Waffle House was about the only place Rose felt comfortable going alone since Stan, her husband of 65 years, passed away last year. They used to eat at the restaurant together. From time to time she’d retell how the two of them met, a long and winding story involving a Ouija board and a flirtatious secretary rival.

from The End of the Waffle House by Jessica Contrera in the Indiana Daily Student.

The story is one of love, loss and local community, and it was reported and written by a senior at Indiana University. We point to it here because a) it’s moving and well-written and worth the 8 minute read, and b) we discovered it through Longreads. 

Did you know that every week, Longreads features a piece of writing from a college journalist? And they are often great. So, college students and professors, keep that in mind as your write and report. You can e-mail your stories to Syracuse University professor Aileen Gallagher (aileen@longreads.com), who helps Longreads curate, or tag them on Twitter with #college & #longreads.

FJP: I’ve always been a little sad that the excellent work done in college newsrooms is hard to discover. Cheers to the curators who help us find all the good stuff. —Jihii

For 40 Years, This Russian Family Was Cut Off From All Human Contact, Unaware of WWII →

The low door creaked, and the figure of a very old man emerged into the light of day, straight out of a fairy tale. Barefoot. Wearing a patched and repatched shirt made of sacking. He wore trousers of the same material, also in patches, and had an uncombed beard. His hair was disheveled. He looked frightened and was very attentive…. We had to say something, so I began: ‘Greetings, grandfather! We’ve come to visit!’

The old man did not reply immediately…. Finally, we heard a soft, uncertain voice: ‘Well, since you have traveled this far, you might as well come in.’

Your crazy longread to take you into the weekend.

The Guantánamo Memoirs of Mohamedou Ould Slahi
Via Slate:

Mohamedou Ould Slahi began to tell his story in 2005. Over the course of several months, the Guantánamo prisoner handwrote his memoir, recounting what he calls his “endless world tour” of detention and interrogation. He wrote in English, a language he mastered in prison. His handwriting is relaxed but neat, his narrative, even riddled with redactions, vivid and captivating. In telling his story he tried, as he wrote, “to be as fair as possible to the U.S. government, to my brothers, and to myself.” He finished his 466-page draft in early 2006. For the next six years, the U.S. government held the manuscript as a classified secret.
When his pro bono attorneys were allowed to hand me a disk labeled “Unclassified Version” last year, Slahi had been a Guantánamo detainee for more than a decade. I sat down to start reading his manuscript nearly 10 years to the day from the book’s opening scene:
“[Redacted] July 2002, 22:00. The American team takes over. The music was off. The conversations of the guards faded away. The truck emptied.”
We’re in the middle of the action. Slahi’s life in captivity had begun eight months earlier, on Nov. 20, 2001, when Slahi, then 30, was summoned by Mauritanian police for questioning. He had just returned home from work; he was in the shower when police arrived. He dressed, grabbed his car keys—he went voluntarily, driving himself to the police station—and told his mother not to worry, he would be home soon.

Overview: How the United States kept him silent for 12 years.
Part 01: Endless Interrogations.
Part 02: Disappeared.
Part 03: Family.
Timeline of Slahi’s detention.
Image: Handwritten page from Mohamedou Ould Slahi’s memoir (PDF), via Slate.

The Guantánamo Memoirs of Mohamedou Ould Slahi

Via Slate:

Mohamedou Ould Slahi began to tell his story in 2005. Over the course of several months, the Guantánamo prisoner handwrote his memoir, recounting what he calls his “endless world tour” of detention and interrogation. He wrote in English, a language he mastered in prison. His handwriting is relaxed but neat, his narrative, even riddled with redactions, vivid and captivating. In telling his story he tried, as he wrote, “to be as fair as possible to the U.S. government, to my brothers, and to myself.” He finished his 466-page draft in early 2006. For the next six years, the U.S. government held the manuscript as a classified secret.

When his pro bono attorneys were allowed to hand me a disk labeled “Unclassified Version” last year, Slahi had been a Guantánamo detainee for more than a decade. I sat down to start reading his manuscript nearly 10 years to the day from the book’s opening scene:

“[Redacted] July 2002, 22:00. The American team takes over. The music was off. The conversations of the guards faded away. The truck emptied.”

We’re in the middle of the action. Slahi’s life in captivity had begun eight months earlier, on Nov. 20, 2001, when Slahi, then 30, was summoned by Mauritanian police for questioning. He had just returned home from work; he was in the shower when police arrived. He dressed, grabbed his car keys—he went voluntarily, driving himself to the police station—and told his mother not to worry, he would be home soon.

Overview: How the United States kept him silent for 12 years.

Part 01: Endless Interrogations.

Part 02: Disappeared.

Part 03: Family.

Timeline of Slahi’s detention.

Image: Handwritten page from Mohamedou Ould Slahi’s memoir (PDF), via Slate.

No Sleep ‘Til Fairbanks
A few weeks ago EJ Fox wrote a piece for us exploring longform storytelling and adopting magazine experiences for the Web.
In it, he discusses how JavaScript and CSS techniques can introduce full screen images and video, parallax effects and responsive design to amplify and support storytelling. 
Importantly, he also writes about how producers of these longform pieces must break out from the templates and general style guides that control the rest of their sites.
SBNation’s coverage of the Yukon Quest Race is a great, new example of harnessing these techniques. Created with Vox Media, it’s an elegant display of wrapping a 5,500-word longread in a delightful presentation package.
Check it: SBNation, No Sleep ‘Til Fairbanks.

No Sleep ‘Til Fairbanks

A few weeks ago EJ Fox wrote a piece for us exploring longform storytelling and adopting magazine experiences for the Web.

In it, he discusses how JavaScript and CSS techniques can introduce full screen images and video, parallax effects and responsive design to amplify and support storytelling. 

Importantly, he also writes about how producers of these longform pieces must break out from the templates and general style guides that control the rest of their sites.

SBNation’s coverage of the Yukon Quest Race is a great, new example of harnessing these techniques. Created with Vox Media, it’s an elegant display of wrapping a 5,500-word longread in a delightful presentation package.

Check it: SBNation, No Sleep ‘Til Fairbanks.

Who reads music writing? There’s obviously a core of readers invested in what reviews and think pieces have to say — they debate on Twitter and in specialist havens like I Love Music, on their Facebook feeds and even sometimes in the comment sections. The economics of the web, which are both more directly tied to traffic numbers and lower-margin than those of print, make that audience too small to make any economic sense as a core demographic; readers outside the Best Music Writing-obsessed have to be reached as well.

Maura Johnson, NPR Music. What Happened To Music Writing This Year?

Johnson is on to something, and it’s not just about music writing — it’s about journalism as an increasingly porous activity. Lists and lightweight news bites regularly become the day’s most shared content. And many people who would be receptive to more in-depth, thoughtful content are likely banging out article-worthy ideas in online conversations.

She continues, asking a question all up-and-comers should ask themselves:

And this is where the larger quandary comes in. If the idea is to “serve the reader,” does that mean exposing them to new things they haven’t heard and ideas that might not have been aired yet, or does it mean pivoting off the conventional wisdom in some way?

H/T: Jay Rosen.

Michael Jackson’s Thriller Turns 30

Billboard has an interesting history about the November 30, 1982 release of Thriller. In it, we learn of technology disruption (FM was replacing AM radio) and the audience fragmentation that occurred because of it.

We also learn about CBS Records’ concern over the album’s potential success:

Since the start of the [80s], black music had been increasingly banished from most white-targeted radio stations. This was partially due the virulent, reactionary anti-disco backlash that resulted in the implosion of that genre at the end of 1979. As the 80’s dawned, programmers increasingly stayed clear of rhythm-driven black music out of fear of being branded “disco,” even when the black music in question bore little resemblance to disco. This backlash was greatly magnified by the demise of AM mass appeal Top 40 radio at the hands of FM, which led to black artists being ghettoized on urban contemporary radio, while disappearing from pop radio, which focused on a more narrow white audience.

How dramatic was the decline of black music on the pop charts in that period? In 1979, nearly half of the songs on the weekly Billboard Hot 100 pop chart could also be found on the urban contemporary chart. By 1982, the amount of black music on the Hot 100 was down by almost 80%.

Also, and notably, MTV had just launched. But the music videos the station played were very white as it followed the playlists occurring on the FM charts. They too were very hesitant to give Jackson airtime.

[MTV executives at the time] concede that the channel initially assumed it would not play the video, as its thumping beat and urban production did not fit the channel’s “rock” image. They contend however that in mid-February, after seeing the clip—which was possibly the best that had ever come across their desks—they began to re-think things.

Good thing they did.

Billboard, Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ at 30: How One Album Changed the World.

The Hackers of Damascus →

Via Businessweek:

Taymour Karim didn’t crack under interrogation. His Syrian captors beat him with their fists, with their boots, with sticks, with chains, with the butts of their Kalashnikovs. They hit him so hard they broke two of his teeth and three of his ribs. They threatened to keep torturing him until he died. “I believed I would never see the sun again,” he recalls. But Karim, a 31-year-old doctor who had spent the previous months protesting against the government in Damascus, refused to give up the names of his friends.

It didn’t matter. His computer had already told all. “They knew everything about me,” he says. “The people I talked to, the plans, the dates, the stories of other people, every movement, every word I said through Skype. They even knew the password of my Skype account.” At one point during the interrogation, Karim was presented with a stack of more than 1,000 pages of printouts, data from his Skype chats and files his torturers had downloaded remotely using a malicious computer program to penetrate his hard drive. “My computer was arrested before me,” he says.

Much has been written about the rebellion in Syria: the protests, the massacres, the car bombs, the house-to-house fighting. Tens of thousands have been killed since the war began in early 2011. But the struggle for the future of the country has also unfolded in another arena—on a battleground of Facebook pages and YouTube accounts, of hacks and counterhacks. Just as rival armies vie for air superiority, the two sides of the Syrian civil war have spent much of the last year and a half locked in a struggle to dominate the Internet. Pro-government hackers have penetrated opposition websites and broken into the computers of Reuters and Al Jazeera to spread disinformation. On the other side, the hacktivist group Anonymous has infiltrated at least 12 Syrian government websites, including that of the Ministry of Defense, and released millions of stolen e-mails.

The Syrian conflict illustrates the extent to which the very tools that rebels in the Middle East have employed to organize and sustain their movements are now being used against them. It provides a glimpse of the future of warfare, in which computer viruses and hacking techniques can be as critical to weakening the enemy as bombs and bullets. Over the past three months, I made contact with and interviewed by phone and e-mail participants on both sides of the Syrian cyberwar. Their stories shed light on a largely hidden aspect of a conflict with no end in sight—and show how the Internet has become a weapon of war.

Stephan Feris, Businessweek. The Hackers of Damascus.

We were on the brink of changing the world before we got stuck in this legal muck.

Michael Phillips, founder of a voice recognition software company called Vlingo, on being sued in 2008 for patent infringement.

At the time, Vlingo was in partnership discussions with Apple and Google but both stopped negotiations because of the suit.

While Vlingo was eventually exonerated, it cost the company $3 million in legal fees and they eventually agreed to be bought by the company that sued them.

The New York Times, The Patent, Used as a Sword.

In the smartphone industry, according to the article, ”as much as $20 billion was spent on patent litigation and patent purchases in the last two years — an amount equal to eight Mars rover missions.”

Cuba beyond Havana: a reading list →

fjp-latinamerica:

Here is a worth-sharing hand-picked selection of five longform journalism pieces on Cuban daily life beyond Havana. Good mix, take a look.

Via The Electric Typewriter:

On Tipping in Cuba by Chris Turner - A writer discovers the uncomfortable socio-macroeconomics of the cheap beach vacation

In Purusit of the Wild Cohiba by Ginger Strand and James Wallenstein - The world’s best cigars straight from the source.

Recruiting for the Big Parade by Terry Southern - ”How I signed Up for $250 a Day for the Big Parade Through Havana Bla Bla Bla and Wound Up Working for the CIA in Guatemala.”

The Happiest Man in Cuba by Rebecca Barry - How the U.S. blockade has made Cuba a trainspotter’s paradise.

Hitchhiker’s Cuba by Dave Eggers - Getting to know Cuba by picking up strangers from the side of the road.

FJP: TETW is well worth the follow for your longread pleasure.

(Source: tetw)

WNYC - Leonard Lopate

—Michael Lewis on Reporting

Playing Games with the President

Vanity Fair contributor Michael Lewis is doing the radio circuit to discuss the Barack Obama profile that appears in the magazine’s October issue.

The article comes in at over 14,000 words and we recommend setting aside the time to give it a read.

What’s particularly interesting to us is how Lewis reported the story: he basically hung out with the president a number of times over a period of months. Instead of doing traditional policy Q&A’s on, say, Medicare, they played games. Basketball is one that’s getting a lot of attention (Lewis was benched) but more interesting are the simple role plays that helped Lewis better separate Obama the person from Obama the media character.

As Lewis explains in this short clip from WNYC’s Leonard Lopate show, gamification plays a role in the interview process because “things are revealed in a character when doing things.”

The full interview can be heard here. And if Terry Gross is more your style, her interview with Lewis is here.

In it, Lewis tells Gross that his proposal to the White House went something like this: “I’ve got to basically come and loiter and just kind of get to know him. It’s going to be very free-flowing; I want to do things like play basketball with him… I said I wanted to caddy for him on the golf course. I wanted to be in meetings, I just wanted to be around, and no one had ever done this.”

My foray into fart science is a bit timid. The mere inclusion of the topic threatens to lower my intellectual tone. A confluence of circumstances forced the subject on me. While recording laughter for an earlier study, one of my subjects laughed so hard that he farted. Since I already had it on tape and was in a sound lab, why not check out the acoustics of farting? This was a defining moment. Would I lose resolve, as did Galileo when he was “shown the instruments” by his inquisitors? With tenure safely in hand, I forged ahead. What started as a playful acoustic analysis led to the quite serious consideration of why we speak through the mouth instead of the rectum. Along the way, I discovered a quirky and amusing literature that may elevate the status of the lowly fart as a topic in scientific discourse.

Throughout the ages, farting (flatulation) has generated jokes, folklore, etiquette, and a few legal sanctions, but little research. The legendary Hippocrates (460–377 BCE) considered the medical affliction of too much gas in The Winds, advising, “It is better to let it pass with noise than to be intercepted and accumulated internally” (1.24–25). The topic has been treated more often in popular fare, including the humorous writings of Geoffrey Chaucer, Benjamin Franklin, and Mark Twain. Fart jokes earn a place in the opening scene of Aristophanes’ The Clouds and the memorable closing scene of “The Miller’s Tale” in Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales. Although passing gas is usually considered ill-mannered, it’s usually laughed off as a minor offense. But this has not always been the case. The Roman Empire once had laws against farting in public places, a sanction that must have caused a lot of fanning and finger-pointing in the Forum. The law was lifted during the reign of Claudius, one of the most flatulent of emperors.

Consider the sad fate of Pu Sao of the Tikopia in Polynesia, who was so overcome with shame after farting in the presence of the chief that he committed suicide by climbing a palm tree and impaling himself through the rectum with a sharply pointed branch. Sanctions are less severe among the Chagga of Tanzania, but feminists have a lot of work to do there. If a husband breaks wind, the wife must pretend that it was really she who discharged, and she must submit to scolding about it. Failure to accept responsibility can cost the negligent wife three barrels of beer.

Robert R. Provine, Author, Curious Behavior. Via Salon, Passing gas is an art and science

FJP: I don’t post just because I’m puerile, but because this is actually a fascinating read about farts throughout the ages, from a famed French performer who dominated the stage with gassy butt tricks, to the thoughts of St. Augustine, Hippocrates, Aristophanes, Mark Twain and Chaucer, to the science of flatulence, human and otherwise. Well worth the read. — Michael

The World's Most Successful Digital Media Companies →

paidContent just published their top 50 list of the world’s most successful digital media companies.

And it isn’t your ordinary list. Instead, after an overview, it runs some 103 pages from Google and its $36.4B in revenue at the top to Japan’s Hakuhodo DY and its $719.22M in revenue rounding things out.

Taken together, paidContent reports, the fifty companies that make up the list generate $150-billion-a-year in digital revenue.

Via paidContent:

This year’s paidContent 50, for the first time, looks at companies outside the U.S. and in segments not considered last year, like business information and advertising. As a consequence, several U.S. companies fell off this year’s list — including CareerBuilder, ValueClick, WebMD, GameStop, Hulu, the New York Times, Ancestry.com and Demand Media…

…Indeed, opening the gates to the rest of the world adds some new perspective on the success of some of the largest U.S. digital players. Zynga, for example, suddenly falls 24 places, while Netflix sinks 14 places despite adding about $500,000 in revenue in an error-strewn year. Almost half of our list this year (23 companies) comes from outside the U.S.

A hundred plus pages is tough to get through so to shorten the task — or to help motivate — see paidContent 50: 6 big takeaways from this year’s list.

paidContent, The world’s most successful digital media companies.