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Local NYC storytelling in a new web outlet for long-form journalism

by James Thorne
on 27 August 2012

Dedicated to long-form, local human-interest journalism based around NYC, the web-based publication, marks a sign of changing times for the medium, where the rift between breaking content and meditated stories is causing outlets to choose sides. As Narratively founder Noah Rosenberg explains, the site is essentially about storytelling. His career—ranging from TV production to editing and freelance reporting—has given him the list of journalistic contacts necessary to pull off a project of this magnitude. Narratively's content, set to roll out in a few short weeks, features writing and photography from some of the city's most prolific talents.

Those interested in supporting Narratively can do so via their Kickstarter campaign, set up to prepare for the soft launch on 3 September 2012. Rosenberg recently shared his plans for Narratively, insights on the current state of journalism and a beta mockup of the site design.

Why does online journalism need Narratively?

The web is a crowded place, and it's no secret that there's typically been an Internet bias toward quick turnaround times, repurposed content and constant updates, which lend themselves well to breaking news and gossip. But with new devices like the iPhone and iPad, and time-shifting apps like Instapaper and Pocket, people are starting to consume content on their own terms. As a result, there's this really exciting resurgence of long-form, in-depth journalism happening—but it's not necessarily happening on the local level.

Of course, the major media outlets do some high-quality feature reporting about New York, but in a sea of breaking news on their websites, those stories are difficult to engage with and often lack interactivity. Narratively avoids the 24/7 news cycle entirely and takes a slow approach to presenting the untold stories that really make New York what it is. We'll tell those stories in the most appropriate medium for each piece, placing a premium on engaging our audience by publishing just one story a day and curating feedback and content from our audience.

At the end of the day, Narratively is a multidimensional, multimedia magazine that serves as a platform for talented journalists to connect with lovers of innovative, local storytelling. And we think it's a platform that's needed in other cities, too. Every city, every journalist, has stories to tell, but not always an appropriate outlet through which to present them.

What kind of content will Narratively produce?

We're devoted entirely to high-quality, true stories about New York that really have no shelf life. We want someone to stumble upon our site next year and be able to read a story from next month that will captivate and enlighten them in the same way it would have if they'd read it the day it was published.

Our content will range from local human-interest pieces to personal essays, profiles and journalistic investigations—but will always come stamped with an emphasis on craft and quality and a compelling narrative woven throughout.

In our initial weeks, we'll feature a personal look at assisted suicide in New York, a short documentary about the city's tugboat culture, and weeks devoted to sexual subcultures, waterways and obscure pastimes.

Where do you see the failure of the "more is more" approach to publishing that seems to have taken over?

There are so many outlets offering information these days that the web can often feel like a dizzying battle for immediacy. And by publishing and competing so often, I think certain publications have lost their ability to really command a meaningful audience. Someone directed to your website via link-bait is not necessarily taking note of the url at the top of their screen. Consumers have been trained to care about the moment and the time-stamp, and it's no surprise that quality and loyalty have suffered as a result.

What do you think is the state of storytelling in digital media?

I think we're seeing some really exciting things happening on the storytelling front right now. It's too early to say whether or not the tides have changed, or whether we're entering a golden era for digital storytelling as some people might have you believe. But without a doubt, new technologies combined with a renewed interest in quality over quantity are helping to usher in some innovative new endeavors, while also enabling certain legacy outlets to cultivate the digital audiences they deserve.

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