The Web Without the Muck: A Long Interview with Longform.org

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give a great reading experience. And if enough people can express their support of that, it’s going to be a good thing for publishers.

Anecdotally, people love to read on the Kindle. The Kindle may be a better design example of where things are going than the Web. If I were a publisher, I would be looking at what people actually like about the Kindle experience. Anywhere a bunch of enthusiastic readers are going is a place publishers should go also. I don’t need to tell publishers what to do, but our app shows both the present and the possible future.

X: Curating Longform.org must be a big job all by itself. How do you manage that?

AL: We have five or six editors who work on Longform now, and that has freed us up to do things like work on the app. If curation was entirely my and Max’s responsibility, we would have trouble taking on new projects. We took people who were already submitting great stuff and were enthusiastic about what we were doing and asked them to be editors, and we divvied it up by days of the week. One person is on call every day, like a doctor with a pager, to make sure we have three or four great stories up there. We don’t try to post 20 stories a day. We want people to be confident, so that they’ll say “I am blindly going to read this story because Longform recommended it.”

X: Do you worry that by adding all these automated feeds to the app, you’re diluting the value of that curation, which is, after all, one of the reasons people like your site?

AL: I hear what you’re saying. But we are readers too, and we are always looking for stuff, and we found that having a tool to sort through, say, all of the long-form stories from Wired was really valuable to us. So the app is almost designed for us. And anecdotally, what we find is that people like the ability to scoot around and design their own experience.

There are also feeds that are doing really interesting stuff that don’t necessarily overlap with the kinds of stuff we feature on Longform. And if you stick with the app for the next six months to a year, you will start to see stuff that is even more surprising and offers a different take. Ultimately I would like there to be a “Longform Tech”—with three or four curated Longform stories every day, which would allow me to go down the nerd hole a little bit and geek out. We also see a lot of interest in a sports feed or a politics feed. On the back end, internally, we are running a feed of the long-form articles posted to Hacker News. I have all these secret feeds turned on, and I use them all the time. All of that stuff will be making its way back into the app.

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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