The web is awash with information. Much of this information does not fit our tastes, interests, values, or worldview.
Much of it is redundant — 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 does hit the mark for us.
There is so much of this great content that it’s almost impossible for us to take it all in at the time we encounter it. That’s where a read later service like Pocket can step in.
What is a Read Later Service?
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 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 a filterable interface that you can easily access 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 extra benefits for a small yearly fee.
Saving to Pocket
Once you create your account, 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.
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, which you can access in your web browser. Just go to the Pocket website and log in to your account.
The interface is intuitive and straightforward. 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 collected.
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.
Pocket includes the original web address of the resource and a “View Original” button 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 browser 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 read it properly. So, you can quickly save it via your Pocket app and read it later on your computer or another device.
And, I often see an interesting article while I’m working on my computer. Since I don’t have time to read it straight away, I’ll hit the Pocket button. Then, as I eat my lunch or while getting ready to go to sleep, I’ll open Pocket on my phone and read the article there.
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.
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. I use advertising to generate revenue 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 who rely on advertising.
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 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 content 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 articles via social media and email. These shares generally divert to the original article on the publisher’s website.
Thus, a publisher may well get more recognition, gain more followers, and, over time, generate more revenue if a visitor saves an article than they would if the same visitor exits a site with some vague intention of returning later.
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.