Does Size Matter?

In an age of fast-paced diversions and shrinking attention spans, some think it’s a wonder that long-form magazine writing still exists. A trip to the newsstand reveals magazine pages full of short blurbs and photographic captions accompanying collages of glossy images, with text-only pages becoming rarer and rarer. Michael Scherer doubts whether readers will actually get through his whole Columbia Journalism Review article, after all, “You can’t click it. You can’t flip it. All you can do is read it.”

“Consumers who actually open a magazine at the front and commence reading are becoming an increasingly rarified demographic group,” David Carr writes in The New York Times. Many magazines believe that skimming and perusing are taking the place of reading, citing the internet, shorter attention spans, and decreasing leisure time as the reasons audiences want brief and flashy articles.

Yet according to The New Yorker editor David Remnick, instead of accepting the idea that long articles are no longer relevant, the secret to keeping long writing alive “is (by) simply not caring,” and continuing to write long pieces in accessible ways – with just a sprinkling of sidebars, photographs, and graphics. The polls support Remnick’s theory, suggesting that Americans have as much leisure time as ever, and that long-narratives in the form of books remain as popular with young people as with older generations.
–Erica Sagrans
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