As numbers go, Michael Jordan at 50 years old is huge.
Not just for Jordan, but for many sports fans who never realized he — or we — could be that old. Wright Thompson’s feature story, Michael Jordan Has Not Left the Building, which appeared on ESPN.com and in ESPN The Magazine last month, captured this sentiment in a way that resonated with readers.
In fact, since the piece was published Feb. 15, it has created big numbers of its own, pulling in nearly 2.5 million page views across ESPN.com and ESPN mobile web sites, while engaging readers two to three times as long as the typical ESPN.com article.
Another huge number: Thompson’s article is nearly 8,000 words, making it a “long form” piece of journalism, which continues to be an important form of content for ESPN’s Digital and Print Media group as it continues to explore new and better ways to tell stories. (Another example hit ESPN.com today with Don Van Natta Jr.’s His Game, His Rules, on NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.)
We checked in with Patrick Stiegman, ESPN.com Editor-in-Chief, for more insight on ESPN’s approach to feature storytelling across platforms.
What is it about long form articles that resonates with ESPN’s readers?
It’s all about storytelling. “Long-form” is really an outdated term, especially in a digital age. Our emphasis is not on story length or news hole or word count, it’s about writing a story for what it’s worth. A truly compelling narrative — and Wright’s piece on Michael Jordan is one of the most provocative, insightful, raw and revealing profiles you’ll ever read — is irresistible, whether it’s 1,000 words or 10,000 words. From the stunning illustrations by Mark Smith to the pitch-perfect headline to the gifted reporting and writing to the deft editing by our digital and print enterprise teams, Michael Jordan Has Not Left The Building was an exquisite example of one of the most challenging tasks a writer can face: Tell me something truly revelatory about one of the most famous people on the planet. Working with editors Jay Lovinger, Jena Janovy and Bruce Kelley, among others, Wright accepted that challenge, and quite frankly, crushed it.
It seems that more long form pieces have been featured recently on both ESPN.com and in The Magazine. Discuss the cross-platform approach. continue reading…