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Longreads Joins the Automattic Family

Mark Armstrong:

Big news today. We are thrilled to be a part of this amazing company.

Originally posted on WordPress.com News:

Today we’re excited to announce that we are acquiring Longreads , the pioneering service that helps readers find and share the best longform storytelling around the world, for reading on mobile devices.

Over the last five years, Longreads and its community have created a new ecosystem for readers to find great in-depth stories, and for writers and publishers to distribute their best work over 1,500 words. Longreads will continue to do what it does best — recommending stories from across the Internet — and we are excited to have them join the WordPress.com team and continue in their commitment to serving readers.

Mobile reading and the appetite for longform content

As consumption has moved to mobile devices, there has been a growing hunger for longform content: phones and tablets are perfect for enjoying in-depth articles, and there are more moments than ever for readers to dig into a story —…

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My Parents Fled From Iran During the Revolution and All I Got Was This Stupid Slate Article

Mark Armstrong:

From the latest story by Michael Hobbes…

Originally posted on :

My folks!

I have an essay in Slate today about how my parents moved to Iran in 1978 to be Christian missionaries, then had to flee when the Revolution happened.

The bus to the airport took 30 minutes. As they passed a gas station, Dave saw a man being pulled from his car by soldiers and struck in the face with a rifle butt. The bus turned before he could see if it was a foreigner or an Iranian.

The airport terminal was closed, so they ran around the building, across the tarmac and onto the plane. They got on, sat down, looked at each other. Martin’s wife and four daughters were there, buckled in, but Martin had stayed behind. The flight would take them to Bahrain, drop them off, and then come back for another batch of employees.

The doors closed and the engines started up. The plane taxied, accelerated, took off…

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If You Must Snowfall, Please Snowfall in Moderation

The New York Times has just published its latest “Snowfall”—or as I like to call it, Massively Multimedia Epic Heave (MMEH)—and it’s a doozy. “The Jockey,” written by Barry Bearak, is a story about Russell Baze, who at 55 years old, is the winningest jockey in North American racing history.

What I love about the story itself is that it’s an education about someone’s life and career. There is no massive tragedy or plot twist—it’s about one person’s career decisions, and how they impacted his family and his life.

Why did the Times decide to Snowfall this piece in particular? I suspect it has to do with the fact that horses are beautiful animals, horse racing is a thrill to watch, and that afforded them an opportunity to create a visually immersive experience. 

Better still, the Times got a sponsor for the story, BMW, so that they could better integrate advertising into the experience. That’s a huge advancement from what they did with Snowfall, which was just drop in some banners.

So, that was what I liked about the story.

Here’s what I didn’t like about it: This story forced me into a multimedia experience that I did not want. I just wanted to read the story, but instead I was asked to go get headphones, be attached to an Internet connection, and then watch videos after short bursts of reading.

A lot of companies are trying to sell us on multimedia storytelling being “the future,” but I actually don’t want that. At all. I wasn’t into it the first time, back when they were sold as CD-ROMS, and I’m not into it now.

I love watching video, I love listening to podcasts, and I love reading. But most of the time, these are singular experiences. I am doing them separately, depending on whatever mood I’m in.

“The Jockey” also was broken up into short chapters, which seems to be a cute new way of paginating a story even though we all agreed that paginated stories on the web were a sub-par reading experience. If the Times added a “view all chapters” button (thanks, @erikmal) then we’d be set.

I’ve always argued that publishers can and should make their stories “an event.” But we still need to be mindful of not harming the actual reading experience—or overshadowing what is otherwise a great story by Barry Bearak.

Or maybe I’m just a Cranky Old. What do you think?

What’s in Om’s Pocket

Nate and I met with GigaOm founder Om Malik last week, and we had an interesting conversation with him about his reading habits—what he’s interested in, and what he likes to share with others via his frequent “What I Am Reading Today” posts. Afterward we sent him his personal stats for saving and reading inside Pockethere’s what he did with it:


In his post, Om sounds a little dejected about his “open rate” in Pocket, saying that “I was only reading about a third of what I was saving.”

But fret not, Om! There is a misperception that Pocket should be treated like an email inbox, in which you have to go back to every single story or video that you’ve saved. Pocket works best if your “net consumption” is better than what it would’ve been without save for later. This means either:

  1. You are consuming, on average, more worthwhile content than you would have without Pocket, or
  2. You are consuming higher-quality content than you would have without Pocket.

My open rate is probably abysmal, because I am a digital hoarder. But I end up consuming exponentially more/better stories in a given day than I would have without Pocket.


Roxane Gay is Spelled With One “N”: Things You Should Know About Isaac Fitzgerald


Yesterday, Isaac Fitzgerald announced that on May 1 he is leaving The Rumpus after four years as managing editor, and will be assuming the position of publicity director for McSweeney’s.

This is wonderful news and I couldn’t be happier for him. He deserves all the best things. He will also be…

Roxane Gay is Spelled With One “N”: Things You Should Know About Isaac Fitzgerald


Longreads: Longreads Guest Pick: Emily Keeler on ‘To Err, Divine, so Improvise’ and ‘Afterlife’



Today’s guest pick comes from Emily M. Keeler, a writer, critic, and the editor of Little Brother Magazine. She recommends two stories, “To Err, Divine, so Improvise” by Kaitlin Fontana in Hazlitt and “Afterlife” by Chris Wallace in The Paris Review:

“This past week was one of…

Longreads: Longreads Guest Pick: Emily Keeler on ‘To Err, Divine, so Improvise’ and ‘Afterlife’