For people of a certain age (readers and writers, both), it is a sad thing to watch newspapers and magazines wither or die, one-by-one, or attempt to try to live a new kind of life online. The publishing times, they are a-changing. Very, very quickly.
The question that people who care about publishing are struggling to answer is: What is the formula for survival in the digital age? An article by Mathew Ingram points to some possible new solutions, at least for the market in long-form non-fiction — the sorts of gripping, in-depth, well-researched articles found in The New Yorker, Harpers, Esquire, Rolling Stone and the like.
For example, The Atavist offers “a new genre of nonfiction, a digital form that lies in the space between long narrative magazine articles and traditional books and e-books.” By publishing digitally, with articles available for download on a variety of devices, the site can enrich the reading experience with all the hyperlinking wizardry and multimedia bells and whistles of the digital age: adding sound, video, maps, primary documents and links. The site promises articles that are “researched, reported and crafted by experienced longform reporters and writers who’ve spent months chasing them down. The topics may vary, but every Atavist story will be a narrative—around a crime, a scientific mystery, an adventure, or any other human drama—with characters and events.”
Another similar site is Byliner, which has already made a splash with its inaugural piece, the expose of Greg Mortenson’s Three Cups of Tea by Jon Krakauer. Sarah Lacy, eager to get involved with this project, which goes live in May, wrote a nice semi-inside article. She says the site will pay pretty well, attract some serious writers, and offer a respectable home for long form non-fiction pieces.
Both these sites are gambling that people are willing to pay to load their Kindles and iPhones and iPads with compelling, serious and in-depth pieces of these new digital non-fiction creations. Let’s hope so..