New iPad app aggregates only long-form journalism

The essential role of an aggregator is to make choices for readers, usually about which topics, sources or issues are worth paying attention to. A new aggregation and reading app launching Wednesday for the iPad holds a different standard -- length.

Longform for the iPad aggregates long pieces of writing from popular sources.

The Longform iPad app aggregates editors’ picks of long-form journalism from, as well as long stories from 25 sites known for such work, including The Atlantic, Slate, Mother Jones, and Esquire.

For most sources, the cutoff is 2,000 words, Longform co-founder Max Linsky told me, though editors can exercise discretion to include a great 1,500-word story or cut out a 4,000-word item that doesn’t belong.

“We really want this to be a home for this kind of writing on the device,” Linsky said. “The goal is to try to create a central place people can rely on to find a very particular kind of writing, which I think is really in a golden age.”

The app, which costs $4.99, embraces some popular ideas. Readers can share stories to social networks and save them to another reading app like Instapaper.

It also offers a reading view that strips an article down to a distraction-free page of just the text and photos, with customizable typography and spacing. First, though, the app displays articles on the publishers’ original Web page, ads and all; a user must switch to the reading view.

“It’s important to us that magazines get that page view,” Linsky said. “Even if that advertising model is broken, and particularly broken for long-form journalism, it’s still the model that they’re working under and we want to be helpful.”

One hot tech trend the app purposely avoids is personalized recommendations.

“We thought about that a lot,” Linsky said. “One of the things I realized after spending two years reading a really insane amount of this stuff is that after you read an incredible 5,000-word story about warlords in Afghanistan, you don’t really want to dive into another 5,000-word story about warlords in Afghanistan.”

The app should be available in the iTunes story around noon ET on Wednesday, Linsky said.

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    Jeff Sonderman

    Jeff Sonderman is the deputy director of the American Press Institute, helping to lead its use of research, tools, events, and strategic insights to advance and sustain journalism.


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