Future Think: Atavist
Atavist, a multimedia storytelling platform which launched in January 2011, has received acclaim for its unique mix of longform journalism and an innovative content management system. In fact, the company has already received high-profile investment backing from the likes of Marc Andreessen and Google's Eric E. Schmidt. Co-founder, CEO and editor Evan Ratliff says: "We are this kind of hybrid outfit in that we're not solely focused on software or publishing. We are a media and a software company."
This media/software combo wasn't in the original plan. The initial goal was to be an innovator in the space called longform journalism, pieces of 5,000 to 30,000 words meant to be read in one sitting. "We started as an outfit that just wanted to do publishing, and a certain type of publishing: These short [pieces] between book and magazine [length]," says Ratliff — books that would be "multimedia" and "enhanced." "In order to that, we ended up developing our own publishing software to publish to multiple devices at the same time."
Acting as publishers under The Atavist name, they're putting out original longform non-fiction journalism. As software producers, they've created and are constantly improving upon a product called Creatavist that makes "multimedia stories for apps, ebooks, and the Web" integrating text, audio, video and interactivity. "Both sides help each other," Ratliff explains. "We push forward the software to publish new things then use it to incorporate something, say interactive graphics, more seamlessly." Creatavist is now being used by high-profile partners such as TED, The Paris Review and The Wall Street Journal.
While the number of players in the longform market is growing, Atavist was an early entry. "A lot of things we do that are prevalent now," says Ratliff, "no one was doing when we started." Among their accomplishments: very tightly integrated video; as well as integrated print and audio; and layered-in additional information, such as timelines or footnotes that the reader can turn on and off. "That's a signature thing we're known for — this layer of additional material that you can put on top of the story."