Can 'slow journalism' work? Delayed Gratification is finding out

The Internet is all about speed, but quarterly print magazine Delayed Gratification is betting on slow journalism.

The publication takes its inspiration from the Slow Food movement, which is about promoting sustainable and high quality produce over mass food production. It was founded in 2011 by Rob Orchard, former editor of Time Out Dubai, with Marcus Webb, its former international editor and three other former Time Out editorial executives.

The idea is to put a new spin on topics that have already been extensively covered by the mainstream media through contextual analysis, along with original reporting, and charge £36 ($52) a year for it.

“We have amazing free news on tap from the likes of the BBC and The Guardian,” said Orchard. “So they set the news agenda and we evaluate it — we’re the seagull following the trawler.”

The latest issue, December’s, had about 20 long-form stories, including original reports on Cecil the Lion and the trophy trade, Belgian mothers of jihadis soldiers and people smuggling, as well as its own designed infographics and cartoons. The magazine also covers science, art and technology.

For one popular feature, it sent freelancer journalists to the Turkish town of Soma, where a mining accident killed 300 people. The journalists found the story had changed since the major news organizations covered it, and found the community left angered by forgotten promises of politicians who had moved on.

For the next issue, covering the period from October to December 2015, Orchard and his editorial team of four are sifting through the headlines to find the most important stories to revisit in 4,000-word articles. Some will put the attacks in context, an element that can be lost in a constantly updated newsfeed scroll.

“It was a period defined by terror attacks — Ankara, Beirut, Paris and Sharm el-Sheikh — we’re finding the interesting perspective that hindsight will give us on the Paris attacks,” Orchard said.

The slow journalism approach has won the magazine praise from the likes of The Guardian, which wrote that it “takes a leisurely (and contrary) look backwards”; and The Economist, which called it a “quarterly magazine that produces a slower, more reflective type of journalism.”

Half of Delayed Gratification’s revenue comes from its subscription, the rest from events and one-off newsstand sales. Design has been an editorial focus for the magazine, so events may cover how to create your own infographics or start your own magazine. The infographics it designs and creates are often its best-performing pieces, such as this Best Country in the World chart that got 4,300 views. They also get the most shares on social media (like this Premier League chart) and have won the Information is Beautiful awards that are created by data journalist and award-winning author David McCandless (including this one on How to Win an Oscar).

Still, Delayed Gratification isn’t ignoring the Web. It’s in the process of putting all its content online, a benefit that it hopes will double its subscriber count to 10,000 this year. It uses digital and social channels to grow print subscriptions. Like other publishers, its weekly email newsletter is its best marketing channel, with a third of its recipients regularly opening it.

Getting your coverage three months later is a niche audience for sure, and only so scaleable, but with goals to increase its revenue split to to 75 percent of subscribers the end of the year, it is more sustainable.

Other publications specialize in long-form, quality journalism, but Orchard believes its role is even more important today.

“When the impact of ad blockers grows from 20 percent to 60 percent, then the whole economic underpinning goes out of the window,” he said. “This is all combining for people to think, ‘If I want the good stuff, I need to pay for it.’”

Images courtesy of Delayed Gratification via Instagram.