Long form: long-form journalism, long form online; you may have heard the term bandied about but a definition will prove elusive.
‘Long form’ makes me think of p-books1. In the same way we have e-books and p-books, we now have the short essay, the blog post and lately, the long-form essay. The fact that we can’t reach a consensus on the territory the long-form essay claims suggests that is it not an established term, and scrutiny may result in fraying around the edges.
When researching reading online, one is bound to come across the following ideas: long form onscreen is hard on the mind and the eye; it’s taxing and the reader is easily distracted; it is not suited to the digital medium. It is hard to say what will become of the long form, it is implied, when we cross the great divide into the wholly digital textual world.
Long form, I propose, means ‘essay’. It can include but is not limited to technology essays, academic essays, New Yorker essays. It is a term created to describe a form established and practiced pre-Internet.
Many internet audiences have come to accept that blog posts are short. Which is true, up until a point – but it depends what you’re selling and who your audience is. And audience is pivotal to this argument. (Again.)
Long form, suggests the New Yorker, ‘is something you want to sit with and not be distracted by. I don’t mean this in a spiritual way, but it’s a meditative experience. The Web is fundamentally a distracted experience’.