8 Ways to Find Something Worth Reading
Content Discovery is Dead; Long Live Content Discovery!
Last year I drowned myself in longform stories. I read hundreds of them, thousands of words at a time, just to curate 5 recommendations a week for Writrsbloc, a side project show pony I’ve trotted out before.
Lucky for you, all that searching for good reading taught me a thing or two.
First, social feeds are a mess. Unless you ruthlessly unfollow — I’m talking Old Testament scale culling — they are an infinite scroll of click-bait, auto-play drivel, most of which causes you to O.O and mumble something to the effect of ‘well, can’t pick your family (or, apparently, your presidential nominees).’ As a result, it’s really, really hard to consistently find super inspired, super compelling reading. That’s why I invested a ton of time last year into discovering the content discoverers. I know what you’re thinking. Meta.
Second, the struggle is super real. Nobody has content discovery pegged, and even fewer have the business model figured out. There’s a ton of variations on a theme, with most solutions acting as filters, curators, or aggregators.
This means the road to content discovery is littered with startup bodies, some dead-as-a-doornail dead, others in a perilous state of zombie animation. Take, for example, the volatility of Q4 2015: We lost both Zite and Prismatic, Flipora shape-shifted into Rover, and Circa, months after Matt Gilligan typed its final words, was reanimated by some trick of M&A wizardry.
But don’t worry. Not every content discovery tool is in need of a crash cart. There’s still plenty of solutions alive and kickin’, and there will be more that join the proverbial party. Here’s the 8 tools I always found most useful. Consider it the only listicle you should read this year.
A few days ago, This. founder Andrew Golis drew a bunch of dots to explain why social media is broken. I can’t draw near as well as he can, so I’ll let you read the punchline for yourself. In a nutshell, This. limits users to sharing one link per day. That’s it. That’s the jist. You get one share, and you better make it good.
In a world where content gold is buried all around us, This. is a metal detector. I’ve been a user since This. was invite only (enter pang of nostalgia), and it continues to bring me back, both as a contributor and a reader. It’s not a one-stop shop, but This. is packed full of quality. It’s where I go to dig up the diamonds in the rough. Plus, if you can’t make it by the site on a given day, no worries. They’ll email you the top 5 links each day.
“We believe that media discovery on most social media sites is getting worse at the same time as the quality of media on the web in general is getting much much better.” -Andrew Golis
Every now and then, an app comes along that just makes sense. I’m bullish on Nuzzel, but at this point who isn’t? Chris Sacca has called for Twitter to outright acquire it (to be fair, he’s invested in Nuzzel, but he’s also right). Others have essentially crowned it Twitter’s missing feature.
Nuzzel creates a filtered feed based on the most popular links shared by friends (and friends of friends, which is extra fun). When six different people tweet the same story, you’re going to know about it, regardless of whether you’re hanging out on Twitter at the right time. If you don’t use it already, you should. So that’s that.
“We want to be the company who helps everybody on the internet get connected to the content that they really need to know about, just the really important stuff.” -Jonathan Abrams
“You take the link, and you put it in your pocket.” Saying that to people, slowly, with a sly, self-aware grin, never gets old. Not ever. Pocket’s long been known as the Internet’s save-for-later button, but this past year they launched their very own Recommended section. It’s a tightly filtered feed based on some alchemy of what’s popular and presumably what you’ve Pocketed before. Take it for a spin.
“What we’re missing is a channel where great content doesn’t have an expiration date. One that catches the best stories before they fly on by.” -Nate Weiner
So the legend goes like this: Before Longreads was Longreads, it was #longreads. That’s right. Forget mobile first. Forget email first. Longreads was hashtag first. And now? Well, it’s a fine collection of longread recommendations and the occasional purveyor of original content (yes, you read that right. Original content. People still do that.). Their Twitter stream is always worth a stop when you’re itching for something to read. If you really get hooked, they’re happy to sign you up as a card-carrying monthly member.
“There is this assumption that people need more content. In reality what they need is different things and better recommendations. And, no, readers don’t want to be swamped.” -Mark Armstrong
I do not know if the folks at Longreads are friends with the folks at Longform, but in my naivety I like to imagine so, because they both love the same thing — supporting excellent longform content — and they both do one hell of a job. Longform curates, you guessed it, longform reading recommendations, but it also publishes a no-joke podcast of the same name that’s had world-class guests like Ira Glass and Ta-Nehisi Coates. Come for the links, stay for the audio.
“Filtering the internet at the 2,000 word mark removes almost all of the bullshit.” -Aaron Lammer & max linsky
What is there to say about Dave Pell’s NextDraft that Dave Pell hasn’t already said? Every day this man reads 70+ news sources and uses, that’s right, his brain to pick the top ten things you need to know about the world. To top it off, he manages a dollop of witty commentary and snark. Everybody needs a little snark. You need snark. I need snark. Give Dave Pell your email, and he’ll send you some snark.
“I am the algorithm.” -Dave Pell
Charged is a weekly roundup of accessible and hand-picked tech news. It’s a fine way to keep up on high-level trends and the happenings of brand-name tech companies. It began as a weekly newsletter, but is now available in a daily format, too (assuming you’re into that sort of thing [I’m not, as it were]).
“I started [Charged] because I felt it was difficult for the average person to keep up with tech and since I spend a lot of time reading about it myself, I thought I could help cut through the noise for people.” -Owen Williams
8. Product Hunt
Just kidding. But real talk: Is it just me, or shouldn’t PH be in on this game? A daily leaderboard of the web’s best stories and articles seems like a natural fit for their community — I can say that because I’m a part of it, at least most days. It would certainly pair better with PH’s rapid pulse and drive more real-time engagement than the Books section (although I’m a huge believer in Books, don’t get me wrong; much ❤ to Ben Tossell). At this point, what’s another experiment in content discovery? Make it happen, Ryan Hoover.
Happy Reading! -Lucas
Don’t see your favorite content discovery tool on the list? Tweet @urbnist and we’ll get that sorted out, lickety-split. Maybe we can, together, compile the world’s most longform list of longform content discoverers. That’d be a real gas, wouldn’t it?