One of my favourite communities online is Stuart Waterman's Non-Fiction Addiction community on Google+. Dedicate to long and engaging content, it's a delight of discovery. As long as you have a web connection, there's enough reading material to keep you occupied over a train journey. Longform content isn't exactly trendy though. Sites such as Buzzfeed and Us Vs Th3m are leading the way when it comes to espresso hits of quick, shareable content. The fact that plenty of sites seem fit to ape them (especially the former, the latter hasn't been around quite long enough for copycats) shows that many sites are pointing towards the quick, easily digestable amusing visual content (and generally not doing it anywhere near as well as the leaders in the field).
But for all that, it's been fascinating to chat to several friends who work within the newspaper industry or for online publications who have all mentioned the same stat: namely that longform articles tend to do rather well on tablet devices at certain times of the day.
Joshua Lachkovic picks up the theme of longform at Hotwire's blog. In a lengthy post he discusses how the likes of Longreads and The Magazine are quietly building a significant reader base.
It's worth noting the discussion around Kindle publishing in Lachkovic's piece. Kindles may not exactly be seen as sexy in the digital sphere but they're certainly effective. Again, more than one editorial conversation I've had has spent a fair bit of time exploring the benefits of Kindle publishing for longform.
This isn't to say that longform will overtake shortform. The two can co-exist quite happily, and the world would be a poorer place without Buzzfeed and Us Vs Th3m. But has tablet usage especially increases, sites or apps who manage longform particularly well are in a good place when readers decide they want something a little longer on their morning commute.
One word of warning though. Slate's "You Won't Finish This Article" gives plenty of reasons not to bank on longform, at least not via a browser, not least that the majority of people will have stopped reading a long time before the end. Worth keeping in mind next time you're minded to churn out a 5,000 word essay.