The web is awash with information. Much of this information does not fit our individual tastes, interests, values, or worldview. Much of it is superfluous – at least to us – or just plain nonsense. But, there is also a vast amount of pertinent, interesting, compelling, uplifting, inspiring, and educational content that really does hit the mark for us. In fact, there is so much of this great content that it’s well-nigh impossible for us to take it all in at the time we actually encounter it. That’s where a read later service like Pocket can step in.
What is a Read Later Service?
Simply put, a read later service allows you to save interesting content you come across on the web into one place so that you can …. well, read it later. Unlike just bookmarking a page in your browser, a read later service saves an entire copy of the content you mark, be it text, video, images, or a combination of these. And, it presents these saved items in an easily accessible and filterable interface that you can read on different devices whenever you want to.
There are a number of these services available. But, in this report, I’ll be reviewing a read later service called “Pocket”.
What is Pocket?
Like other read later services, Pocket gives you the ability to choose content that you come across when browsing or researching online and save it to read at another time.
To get started, you can go to getpocket.com and sign up for an account. You can sign up using a Google account if you have one. Or, you can create a standalone account with your email address if you prefer.
Pocket is free and fully functional as is. However, should you want a little more, there is also a premium version that unlocks some extra benefits for a small yearly fee.
Saving to Pocket
Once your account is created, you can start saving items to your list. There are various ways to save, depending on what device you are using. (I discuss dedicated Pocket apps in more detail below).
On a computer, the easiest way to save items is by installing the Pocket browser extension. Once installed, you can hit the Pocket icon in your browser toolbar when on a site you want to save and the job will be done.
You can also add items from within the Pocket interface if you prefer.
Exploring the Pocket Interface on a Computer
All of your saved items are available via the Pocket interface on your computer. The interface is simple and intuitive. A left side menu allows you to see all the items you’ve saved via “My List” or filter them via item type. And, you can use tags to help you find topics that you’ve saved.
Your saved items can be presented either as a grid or a list, depending on your personal preference.
Once you’ve read or viewed an item, you can archive it or delete it. You can also favourite it to make it easier to go back to later.
And, as a bonus, you can discover even more interesting stuff to save and read later via the “Recommended” and “Explore” tabs at the top of the interface. The “Recommended” section learns your likes and, over time, should get better at predicting things you might want to see.
Reading Your Saved Items on Your Computer
Once saved, Pocket strips out superfluous content and presents it in an easily readable format. Images pertinent to the story are included as are videos. And, links are left intact. The original web address of the resource and a “View Original” button are normally included at the top of saved items.
You can personalise the appearance of the reader by changing the background colour and choosing a preferred font type and font size.
There are also dedicated Pocket apps for Android, iPhone and iPad. The Pocket user experience will be a little different depending on which of these devices you’re using. But, as with the computer version, the apps let you save, sort, find new content, and – of course – read your saved items whenever you like.
These apps extend the functionality of the service even further. For example, you might come across an interesting article on your phone while waiting in a checkout queue but not have enough time to properly read it. So, you can quickly save it via your Pocket app and read it later on your computer or another device.
And, there is even a Pocket app for the Kobo eReader. The app allows you to download and read your saved Pocket items right on your Kobo.
Once you incorporate Pocket into your normal browsing routine, it really can help you get more out of the web. Of course, you may not end up reading everything that you save. But, over time, by saving stuff for later, you’ll likely learn more from and get more enjoyment out of surfing the Interwebs.
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Aside: Impact on Website Publishers
Read later services such as Pocket generally remove non-essential elements - including advertisements - from articles. While this may be great for users, industry commentators have pointed out that read later services may thus deprive publishers of vital advertising revenue.
I certainly understand these concerns. While I do not include any display advertising on this blog, I do use advertising over at Hoax-Slayer. And without these advertisements, it would not be viable to keep Hoax-Slayer online. Unfortunately, the increased use of ad-blockers is having a significant impact on publishers and making it increasingly difficult for small publishers to stay afloat.
So, at face value, it might seem that read later services are making the situation even worse for site publishers.
But, there’s more to the picture.
Even though a read only service strips out ads, it still quite effectively promotes the publisher's content.
Moreover, if visitors did not have time to read or interact with an item when they actually saw it, chances are they will not go back later.
So even though visitors won’t be able to see or click on ads in material that they’ve saved via a read later service, publishers do still get recognition for their websites and brands. And, this is very important for online success.
Moreover, people can use the recommend function in their read later service to promote an item they like. They can also share the items via social media and email. These shares generally divert to the original item on the publisher's website.
Thus, a publisher may well get more recognition, gain more followers, and - ultimately - generate more revenue if a visitor saves an article than if the same visitor exits a site with some vague intention of returning later.