measuring tape length tailored
Credit: By photographingtravis on Flickr. Some rights reserved.
Longform journalism is a big priority at Huffington Post UK going into the new year, according to editor-in-chief Stephen Hull.

Speaking to Journalism.co.uk, Hull said he believed 2015 would see more publishers experimenting with longer reads as they seek to distinguish themselves from the "viral producer" label.

"Between 2011 and now one of the things we wanted to do was create a big audience, and a lot of that was around writing lots of viral stories and following the conversation," Hull explained.

"I think [longform] is something which is going to grow, especially in the UK and especially towards the election."

He noted that the longform format enables publishers to present their journalism as "deep thinking".

That analytical type of story is much more valuable to a lot of publishers these daysStephen Hull, Huffington Post UK
For Hull, there are two types of news coverage: breaking news, where a journalist is a "slave to events", and what he calls "going beyond the news".

With regards to breaking news, he said: "You're running around, you're trying to keep up with everything as it happens or even before it happens sometimes," he said "and I'm not sure that's really the place for The Huffington Post to be all the time."

"We look at the how and the why, so that analytical type of story is much more valuable I think to a lot of publishers these days."

In November, Huffington Post UK published a series of longform pieces called Beyond Belief looking at religion and people pushing for change from within a particular faith.

One article in the series is a profile of Christian musician and theologian Vicky Beeching, who speaks about her experience of coming out as gay.

"Some of the human stories that we told through that series, if you look at the amount of retweets and shares [they] had on social media it just shows that it's not the quick snappy viral wins that... are always going to do well. It's quite often that slower, informed read," said Hull.

The story about Vicky Beeching's experience, for example, received 5,600 Facebook 'likes' and more than 700 readers comments.

"It's fair to say that across all verticals of our website, longform is a feature and it's still going to be a feature [next year]," he said.

Huffington Post UK has also used the long reads format in its political coverage, such as this insider-style piece about the Rochester and Strood UKIP campaign published last month.

The storytelling style helps identify political ideas and bring them to life, said Hull.

"I think politics is in a position now where there's so much colour to be had," he explained.

"You can't do that in a 200 word story. You might be able to react to a tweet, [but] if you want to get under the skin of what they really mean and what they talk about and what their beliefs are, you're not going to be able to do that with a short piece."

If your words are meaningful, they are as strong as any other type of digital experience you can haveStephen Hull, Huffington Post UK
Technology journalism will also get the long read treatment in January, when Hull hopes to publish one longform piece a day from the CES conference in Las Vegas.

However, reading a story between 2,000 and 4,000 words long requires an investment in time and energy from the reader – something Hull said he understands not everyone is prepared to give.

Longform pieces at the Huffington Post were initially published alongside a short version that included the top line of the story and a link to the longer read, and the outlet still occasional publishes stories this way today.

But analytics showed audiences were not necessarily reading the short piece, Hull said, but rather "wanted to cut to the chase, wanted to know the whole story".

He also explained that while an immersive and more interactive experience was the best way to present long reads online, a simpler combination of text and images could be equally effective.

"If you got substance in what you're writing about, if your words are strong and meaningful, they are as strong as any other type of digital experience you can have."

Free daily newsletter

If you like our news and feature articles, you can sign up to receive our free daily (Mon-Fri) email newsletter (mobile friendly).