Andy Gray's Hot Clicks archive at SI.

Andy Gray is a senior editor at Sports Illustrated, who (as per his LinkedIn profile) writes the Hot Clicks column (pictures of scantily-clad women combined with sports links), manages the Swim Daily section (ibid, minus the sports links), manages their Extra Mustard sports and culture vertical and manages the SI Vault Twitter account and the SI photos blog. On Wednesday, just as the news that MTV was laying off many of its writers and getting out of longform and reporting to focus on video and short culture pieces (similar to what many other companies have done in the past weeks) was breaking, Gray decided to weigh on on the layoffs and opine that no one wants to read longform anyways:

Even before any discussion of the merits of that opinion, Gray’s timing (essentially, telling talented people whose work was widely praised that no one read their work, and doing so right as they were being laid off) alone provoked a lot of backlash from writers across the web over the next 24 hours. But the most notable backlash came from Gray’s own SI colleagues, which makes sense, considering all the 1,000-word-plus stories that publication does. Here’s some of it:

Plenty of writers, editors and others outside SI roasted Gray, too, with some providing data about just how well some long stories have done:

Gray eventually (sort of) apologized for offending people, without recanting his assertion:

But Hoffman might have hit the nail on the head about the whole argument:

That’s exactly right. Some long pieces go unread, or only partly read, especially if there isn’t enough substance to fill out the story length. Others are widely-read, widely-shared and loved. It’s the same with short pieces. And pretending that all readers have the same interests or the same tolerance for story length is a bit silly. John Carvalho makes the valid point that it’s often hard to monetize longform today, and that there’s sometimes more love for it inside the industry than outside, but the above data also shows that the right long piece can definitely find incredible amounts of traffic.

Thus, Gray’s initial assertion that “nobody wants to read anything over 1,000 words” is undisputedly factually incorrect; there’s certainly an audience for longer pieces in general, and a big audience for the right long pieces. Yes, some people prefer shorter content, but some of those people will read the right longer piece. And even some of those who like longer pieces will be annoyed by ones that waste their time. So, there’s no universal prescription for piece length, and anyone who claims there is seems a bit silly, even if they’ve spent 12 years doing things like editing Swim Daily and writing Hot Clicks.

And beyond the merits of Gray’s argument, he unquestionably picked a bad time to drop this hot take, and drop it in such a over-the-top manner. If you want to argue for the merits of short-form content, that’s great. If you want to argue for only longform that deserves to be long, that’s great. If want to argue against all longform, as Gray did, that’s not so great, but that can be done; you might not want to do it right as a bunch of well-liked longform writers are losing their jobs, though. There’s clearly an audience for Gray’s work, but there’s an audience for the longform many of his colleagues do as well, and an audience for the longform many other writers do. This was some rare intra-publication Twitter drama, but it’s hard not to take the side of those criticizing Gray’s take.

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz is a staff writer for Awful Announcing.

  • sportsfan365

    I think there is a place for in-depth articles, but Gray is correct in thinking that most pieces should be much shorter. I read countless articles every day that only have enough meat for a couple of paragraphs – yet they are filled with a pointless re-hashing of previously reported information which is for the most part irrelevant.

    • Karl Kolchak

      That’s what happens when you fire editors. I’m so old, I remember a day before the Internet when every story that was published had to pass through a strong editor. Back then every story, long and short, was at least well written.

      • Mike

        You’re so old, you remember Kolchak the Night Stalker. As am I, alas.

  • Karl Kolchak

    This guy is a real moron. If I want to watch television, I’ll watch it. When I want to read, I go to the ‘net, and I absolutely HATE it when videos pop up when I’m trying to read.

  • NYRStevens

    Hmm, Gray’s take was way too general, but he may not be wrong. There’s a lot of data out there that just doesn’t support the idea that most people read an entire long-form piece. Hell, far more people SHARE a story than would spend enough time to even read half.

  • Pingback: This Week In Hot Takes: Phil Mushnick on Mike Francesa's "daily disregard for the truth"()

  • Joe Gillis

    I worked closely with Gray for seven years. I used to think he was merely unpleasant and tasteless, but now it turns out he’s the actual enemy. Also, he’s the worst kind of a dumb-dumb: self-assured. You couldn’t handpick a better embodiment of SI’s post-imperial mediocrity and, believe me, there are no shortage of options in that building.

  • Jeff Johnson

    I’m a baby boomer, thus old school, so one of my favorites that is saved for me on my computer is SI Longform because I love those kinds of stories. I was a one time (a long time now) in the newspaper writing business, and all this shift to video only is lost on me, but I understand too that I’m not the target audience anymore.

  • Pingback: Enterprise hits and misses - AI hype, retail upheaval and world-changing tech - Artificial Intelligence Online()