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For the last few years, the net has been awash with crude, dumbed-down content. Perhaps we can make things somewhat more thoughtful this coming year?

My heart despairs when I see lists of the most visited sites online. The Daily Mail Online? You can’t be serious. For an intelligent species, I’d hoped for more.

Fortunately, not all hope is lost. Not yet, anyway. There’s still a chance to revive some of that faltering intellectual curiosity Read the World's Best Books for Free With the Harvard Classics Read the World's Best Books for Free With the Harvard Classics The Harvard Classics is a multi-volume collection of the world's best books. Collated by Dr. Charles W. Eliot in the early 20th century, these can now be downloaded absolutely free of charge. Read More . There are still the odd online pockets that shelter more thoughtful, nuanced discussion, and commentary.

For a couple of years now, we’ve occasionally brought to light some of these refuges of intelligence. In 2013 we introduced you 8 Great Places To Find Articles Worth Reading On The Web 8 Great Places To Find Articles Worth Reading On The Web The Internet is arguably the best news morgue on the planet right now. And apart from that great collection of old articles, thousands of new ones are added every day. Find the good ones. Read More to Reddit’s In Depth Stories, and The Feature. In 2014 we told you Too Long But Do Read: 6 Places To Go To For Some Of The Best Reading On The Web Too Long But Do Read: 6 Places To Go To For Some Of The Best Reading On The Web TLDR is now an accepted part of Internet slang. Too Long Didn't Read is symptomatic of our attention spans…or rather lack of it. But there's a subtle shift that's happening beneath the layers of the... Read More about Narrative.ly and The Browser. Now at the end of 2015, we’re offering a much more comprehensive list of where to find the best online content, and journalism.

The Conversation

The Conversation

The Conversation offers in-depth news analysis written by professional academics. Each article is then edited to ensure high readability while maintaining credibility. This “knowledge-based journalism” is always evidence based, treating all data responsibly.

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What’s more, all articles have a Creative Commons license What Is Creative Commons, And Should You Use It? What Is Creative Commons, And Should You Use It? Creative Commons is a set of licenses which automatically give you permission to do various things, such as reuse and distribute the content. Let's find out more about it and how to use it. Read More , meaning they can be republished at no cost.

Aeon

Aeon

Since 2012, Aeon has been publishing what it calls “some of the most profound and provocative thinking on the web”. Its aim is to ask the large questions, and to offer new perspectives on common topics. Its “Essays” are written by many world-leading authorities. 

Brain Pickings

Brain Pickings

Insatiable reader, Maria Popova, began Brain Pickings in 2006 as a weekly email to her friends. It’s now an immensely popular site, though still ran solely by Maria. Within its many articles you’ll find plenty of “knowledge, insight, information, inspiration” over a huge number of topics. Each one is aiming to give us a somewhat deeper glance at life.

Roads and Kingdoms

Roads and Kingdoms

Roads and Kingdoms is a relatively new “independent journal of food, politics, travel and culture”. Its dispatches, photos, and interviews shine light on many areas of the world you would otherwise never know existed. The interests and experiences of its many writers make for exciting, daily reading.

Harpers

Harpers

Harper’s Magazine has been publishing insightful, often challenging, narrative journalism and essays since 1850. Winston Churchill and Theodore Roosevelt both felt Harper’s Magazine worthy of their words. Its focus is on “fine writing Improve Your Writing With Expresso, The Style Checker Improve Your Writing With Expresso, The Style Checker Meet Expresso. It will change the way you blog – for the better. Read More and original thought”, spanning society, politics, culture, and the environment, makes this one of the great intellectual spaces on the web.

Quartz

Quartz

Quartz is a mobile-focused digital magazine. Their content is all crafted for perfect display on mobile and tablet, without the need to dumb-down. Born from the ashes of the financial crisis, its focus is generally on the world economy, aimed largely at world business leaders. This being said, its content is often incredibly hard-hitting.

FarnhamStreet

Farnham Street

The FarnhamStreet blog consistently produces brain-food across a wide spectrum of interests, from science to philosophy. These aren’t necessarily related to current affairs, but are sure to force you to stop and think. They also have an incredible weekly newsletter that I’d urge you to sign up to.

OZY

OZY

OZY promises to only publish “original content, focused not simply on where the world is but, more importantly, where the world is going”. They do this by thinking big, and by “challenging the assumptions” of traditional media. Boasting writers such as Bill Gates and Bill Clinton, many of OZY’s stories have been months ahead of the general media.

The Atlantic

The Atlantic

Founded in 1857, The Atlantic offers cultural and literary commentary on foreign affairs, politics, and cultural trends. It’s been the springboard for many great journalists’ careers, as well as a megaphone for new writers. Its content is almost always of a moderate stance, containing more than a hint of insightfulness.

Vice

Vice

Over the past couple of years, Vice has seen explosive growth in its popularity. Known for consistently creating hard daring, controversial writing and video, the site has become home to many who want an alternative view on what’s happening in the world.

Arts and Letters Daily

Arts and Letters Daily

Arts and Letters Daily covers topics relating to all forms of “art”, from art history and aesthetics to linguistics and music. This is a curated collection of quality articles from around the web, meaning you don’t need to go scouring to find them yourself.

Highline

Highline

Highline is a lesser-known section of The Huffington post. Its aim is to offer a “new digital home for an old journalistic tradition. Think of it as a magazine that only runs cover stories — big, ambitious pieces intended to change the way you see the world or influence the course of policy”.

If Everyone Knew

If Everyone Knew

If you’re on the lookout for stories that are much less read, If Everyone Knew should be your first port of call. This is a curation of stories that are not receiving the media attention they deserve. The focus is primarily on articles that, if everyone knew about them, would cause an uproar. This site deserves more visitors.

Intelligent Life

Intelligent Life

Intelligent Life is a magazine run by The Economist, thereby keeping to its high journalistic standards. This is a culture and lifestyle magazine covering anything “as long as it’s interesting”. It’s all about “crisp prose, dry wit and free thinking. But rather than covering politics and economics, it is about life in general and making the most of your time off”.

Interactive Narratives

Interactive Narratives

For multimedia storytelling, it doesn’t come much better than Interactive Narratives. This site aims to find and promote the best online visual storytelling it can find. The aim is to not just focus in what’s being said in a piece, but how it’s said, whether that be through photography, design, video, prose, animation, etc.

Longform

Longform

The well known curatorial site, brings the best long-form content (usually over 3,000-4,000 words) to your screen. This can be on any topic under the sun. And with easy ways to send articles directly to your Pocket, or Instapaper (find out how to become a power user Become an Instapaper Power User With These 6 Cool Features Become an Instapaper Power User With These 6 Cool Features Despite an impressive adoption rate, a plethora of Instapaper features often remain unexplored. Let’s take a look at a few of them. Read More ) account, finding quality reading for later couldn’t be easier.

The New Yorker

New Yorker

The New Yorker’s commentary on “politics, international affairs, popular culture and the arts” along with “fiction, poetry, humor, and cartoons” is often among the best you’ll find online. Every day, dispatches are published from the site’s many contributors, along with the content from the weekly print edition.

Newsweek

Newsweek

The high quality journalism that Newsweek consistently brings is much welcomed. Its analysis on global issues and current affairs have kept this a popular publication for over 80 years. Its daily articles are still of such a quality.

Politico

Politico

Politico was set up with a single aim: “to prove there’s a robust and profitable future for tough, fair and fun coverage of politics and government”. Their breaking stories, insightful commentary, and incessant need to make real, considered change in politics makes for some great reading.

ProPublica

ProPublica

ProPublica’s tagline is “Journalism in the Public Interest”. This is precisely what they do. Each article published by this non-profit newsroom focuses on important, moral stories. They do this by “producing journalism that shines a light on exploitation of the weak by the strong and on the failures of those with power to vindicate the trust placed in them”.

Reddit Best Of

Reddit Best Of

Join the Best Of Reddit community to see a never-ending list of quality content that this group of almost 5000 members have found. The stories here are almost exclusively moving and forceful. They are pieces of content you’re not likely to come across otherwise, so subscribing is definitely recommended. If you’re new to Reddit, our Reddit user guide How To Use Reddit Like an Old Pro How To Use Reddit Like an Old Pro There are plenty of online communities which can be found on the Internet - Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and YouTube are easily the most popular and recognizable ones. However, there are plenty of other gems online... Read More will help you get started.

Reveal News

Reveal

Reveal News is home to some of the best investigative reporting I’ve ever seen. It’s through this kind of reporting that Reveal is attempting to “spark action, improve lives and protect our democracy”. It’s here that you’ll find revelations of government fraud, taxpayer misspending, human rights violations, and much more.

This American Life

This American Life

This American Life, though not written content, is an immensely popular public radio show for a reason. It has received a huge number of broadcasting awards due to the quality of its content. Each episode usually has a theme, often revolving around journalism. These themes aim to shed light onto the American life, in all its manifestations.

Open Culture

Open Culture

Open Culture is aimed at the lifelong learning community. These are people who are constantly striving to expand their knowledge in many areas. In their own words, “web 2.0 has given us great amounts of intelligent audio and video. It’s all free. It’s all enriching. But it’s also scattered across the web, and not easy to find. Our whole mission is to centralize this content”.

Nautilus

Nautilus

Nautilus chooses one scientific topic each month, and reports on this topic from a number of perspectives over the coming weeks. In a world where one scientific study can change public opinion, it’s always valuable to understand that there are many sides to each story, even when it comes to science.

Maptia

Maptia

Maptia is a site focused on storytelling though beautiful writing, and stunning photography. There are several sections to the site, each having its own goals and themes. Stories that inspire us to get out there and make the most of our time on Earth is one example. Stories that foster empathy and understanding for other cultures is another.

If That’s Not Enough

The above are just a cross section of some of the more intellectually stimulating sites on the net. There are, of course, countless others. A few of those include:

If 2016 is the year we can begin to ditch the simplistic, biased content, and welcome more nuanced and thoughtful pieces; these are the sites that will lead us there.

Which other thought-provoking sites would you add to the list? And which of the above do you most enjoy reading?

  1. Angela Randall
    December 13, 2015 at 8:12 am

    Seriously brilliant list Rob. I knew about several of these, but the new additions to my reading list are most welcome.

    • Rob Nightingale
      December 15, 2015 at 9:56 am

      Thanks Angela! :)

  2. Rob Nightingale
    November 25, 2015 at 12:46 pm

    Pleased you found the list useful, Charles! There were quite a few left leaning sites here, but Ted left a comment (above) with some more Conservative options you might want to check out.

  3. Alex Kurtev
    November 23, 2015 at 5:46 am

    Thank you for this amazing list, Rob. Actually I'm a reader of Farnam Street for over an year now and I was constantly looking to find much more sites like it. Unfortunately I was able to find just 1 or 2 sites at a time and thought myself I will have to rely on some article curating sites to dig the best content I can find. Now, with your list I will have more than enough great articles to read in the coming year/s ;)

    Thank you again for the great piece, it was a pleasure reading it and finding all those great new sources of inspiration.

    • Rob Nightingale
      November 25, 2015 at 12:42 pm

      Pleased you found the list useful, Alex! You'll be spoilt for choice with these.

  4. DonGateley
    November 19, 2015 at 11:21 pm

    Amazing list! Thank you. If it is a bit left leaning as accused so much the better because so am I.

    I created a folder pinned to my Bookmarks Toolbar with links to all of these. The name I gave the folder is Smart. :-)

    • Rob Nightingale
      November 25, 2015 at 12:43 pm

      Thanks for the comment, Don... I guess many are a bit left leaning, but not all. I don't see that as a bad thing either ;)

  5. Colonel Angus
    November 19, 2015 at 12:27 pm

    "...ditch the simplistic, biased content..."

    There is no unbiased content. The sites you list seem to lean left, while there are plenty of others with a right bent. I just want a good story, and rely on my own BS filter to sort out the facts from opinion presented as facts.

    • Rob Nightingale
      November 25, 2015 at 12:44 pm

      I believe "less biased" may be a better term, then? Many of these sites, particuarly The Conversation, are extremely unbiased compared to virtually any other sites out there- this partcular example is written by academics who're usually reporting on evidence based stories, explaining how the conventional media is misrepresenting good science in a bad way...

  6. Ted Joy
    November 19, 2015 at 6:01 am

    I've probably checked out most of the sites at one time or another and while two or three of them are well-written, for the most part they are the usual leftist blather.

    I'm not going to try to suggest you read conservative sites but you might want to try the realclear family of websites -- there are close to a dozen of them.

    If you start at realclearbooks.com you can easily find your way to the others.

    They offer a consistently good mix of liberal and conservative and everything else.

    Another good site is http://www.aldaily.com

    • Rob Nightingale
      November 25, 2015 at 12:45 pm

      Thanks for the links, Ted! I'm checking these out now.

  7. Charles Carter
    November 18, 2015 at 11:52 pm

    Thanks! I was aware of several of these but you've given me more to explore.

    A little on finding least biased reporting, at the risk of opening a can of worms. I get most of my news from NPR, don't care at all for Fox News. For sites on current affairs I'd say Politico provides the most balance in ideological bias, but each writer is different. There is clear liberal bias and grandstanding going on with ProPublica, tho I think overall they do very good meaningful reporting. The Atlantic is also excellent though somewhat left-leaning.
    For many of the great sites mentioned, these are simply not an issue.

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