Yes, the online format affects all of these aspects. As for length, the web is dangerous for me. When not constrained and with no editorial oversight, I definitely err toward the tl;dr category. I find it almost impossible to write anything less than 900 words in the review/analysis/profile category without a strict word count hovering over my head. I don’t know how to fix this neurotic, verbose tendency, other than writing more <100 word reviews or maybe an exercise in live tweeting. (Currently, I don’t have a Twitter account.)
It’s super easy to take shortcuts and post links online, which makes reporting much easier. When I was Editor of …might be good, an online art journal based in Austin, Texas that came out every two weeks, I was often tasked with writing a topical editor’s letter about developments in Texas — new appointments and things like that. I relied heavily on links to avoid having to do extensive interviews with people. This aspect of print journalism (“original quotes” from sources about things like new jobs or exhibitions that are going to go up six months from now) feels somewhat obsolete with the online format. Why not just post a link to a press release? Or do an interview closer to the time that the exhibition opens and post it right away?
I feel positive about being able to include many more images in pieces online, but I think they should still be used judiciously. I feel really sad when a piece that I worked so hard on becomes a footnote to a zillion-image slideshow. Even worse is when videos are uploaded that are produced by the commissioning institution (for example, a museum-produced video of a show). It completely takes away from the criticism and makes it feel like it’s a footnote to promotional material. I think there are ways to circumvent this — maybe by “footnoting” the promo video, VH1 Pop Up Video style? — but I sincerely doubt an external video production source would allow their footage to be used in that way.
A negative consequence of the long-on-images, long-on-links, short-on-text story is also that it takes away one of the greatest triumphs and challenges of art writing: the pain and pleasure of ekphrasis. The process of writing, for me, helps me to formulate my ideas. I often begin by describing something about the work and find that my mind has changed in the course of writing. The same CERTAINLY holds true of outside theoretical resources. If you can’t summarize the outside source in a way that makes sense in the body of the text, you might just want to skip it altogether. And if your description doesn’t hold up, the reader is going to click the link and go off on their own, abandoning your text. (The same thing is true with footnotes!)
Of course, images can help “ground” a piece that goes off on a tangent about another topic, but in that case, sometimes I don’t necessarily want the piece to be grounded in that way…