Slow Content and the River of One

The first time I ate at a Slow Food restaurant it was quite………….the…………..experience. Everything from drink orders to appetizers to the main entrée took an inordinate amount of time, but that was the point. We sat and ate and talked and enjoyed the time we spent in each other’s company.

Slow Food is just one element of the Slow Movement, which advocates slowing down of one’s life from a cultural perspective. Slow Art, Slow Money, Slow Travel and many other iterations of Slow exist within a movement founded in 1986 by Carlo Petrini, who became famous for protesting the opening of a McDonald’s in Rome.

In the Slow Content space (or Slow Media according to Wikipedia) there have been a couple of interesting developments meant to get consumers to slow down at the end of the work day and actually read long form journalism. Instead of reading all your emails, checking your news feeds, opening up Twitter and browsing through Facebook, you take the time to just read.

Jill Abramson, formerly of the New York Times, is working on a start-up that focuses on extra long form journalism, as in beyond the 20,000+ pieces we occasionally see in the New Yorker or Rolling Stone. About the service -

Writers will be paid advances around $100,000 to produce stories that will be longer than long magazine articles but shorter than books, she said. There will be “one perfect whale of a story” each month and it will be available by subscription.

Nieman Lab reports that Atlantic Media is funding a social media platform that allows sharing of only one link a day. The service, called This. is explained by one of the founders this way -

The central gambit for This — that limited access to a platform can effectively elevate the digital dialogue — is an intriguing one. “One of the huge benefits of the one-a-day is it inflates the perceived value, both for the person sharing it and the person coming to it,” Golis says. He likes to use a digital bookshelf metaphor to describe what This is — a place to collect and display media.

In the Slow Music arena is a new service called This Is My Jam where users post just one song that they really love and it plays for seven days. The idea here is to get the best of the best in that moment. It’s not about consumption for its own sake as much as it’s about qualitative consumption.

One could argue that the need to slow down one’s life is a luxury of the well to do. You can imagine that the working poor and the lower middle class don’t have the time to stop and enjoy the arts and sciences, to cook and eat food slowly with one’s family or to consume media at a slower pace. The time one has is precious and is used doing the things needed to survive and move forward.

My other criticism is that the Slow Movement, to really be deemed successful, needs to be comprehensive and encompassing. If you’re spending your day, in the case of media and content, perusing Facebook and Twitter, sending texts and checking the news at a clip you’re accustomed to, will you take the time and slow down to read a 35,000 word piece from Steven Brill? I think the idea is quite ambitious and very high brow.

While the motivations are good I think the premise of Slow Content is flawed in it’s current form. Users will have to want to consume less from the onset, from the beginning of their day until they go home. And this would include all users, not just the ones that happen to have a lot of money.


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