Bye bye long-text articles and hello multimedia? The popular article-saving app Read In Later, which had been equated a few years ago with Longform.org or @longreads as a saviour of long-form journalism, has been rebranded and relaunched as "Pocket," focusing on video and image content as well as text.
As TechCrunch explains, Pocket allows users to save content from the web and has a mission “similar to Dropbox’s,” enabling you to save content on any of your devices, then access it on all of them. It also allows you to read articles offline, a function that its founder, Nate Weiner, previously suggested could be useful for allowing readers to save magazine-length articles during a busy day, and come back and read them later.
But now, as Read It Later relaunches as Pocket, it specifies in its official press release that, rather than long-form text, “40 percent of items saved are not articles” and that YouTube is the apps biggest single source of content. The company has shared this information before. The Next Web noted in an article earlier this month, based on a company announcement, that video saving on Pocket/Read It Later had increased by 138% during the past year. In an article for Nieman Lab at the end of last year, Joshua Benton also noted, far from just being used jut for long-form text, the majority of articles being saved with Read It Later/Pocket were fewer than 500 words.
Pocket/Read It Later’s Mark Armstrong and Matt Koidin were quoted by The Next Web earlier this month: “As video consumption has exploded on the Web, and as content has become more multimedia-rich, we realized early on that our users weren’t just saving articles to read—they were saving their favorite video clips from YouTube, Vimeo, and beyond.”
Now, with its new focus on video and visual content, Pocket adapts to these user habits. The change may boost its success, which is already great. According to the official press release announcing its launch, it has grown from 2.5 to 4.5 million users during the past year. However, The Next Web writes that “despite being the most popular ‘read later’ application on the market, it has often lost in the ‘coolness’ department to competitor Instapaper and more recently, Readability.” Now, Pocket is separating itself from the competition, firstly with a clean, new redesign, but more importantly by focusing on content in different formats.
The new design may help it spread this popularity further. The Next Web compares Pocket for iPad to a clean, magazine format, and writes “Pocket is beautiful, minimalist and most importantly, it works as advertised… elegantly.” A reviewer for The Verge writes “For anyone looking to jump into this category of apps for the first time, I can strongly recommend Pocket, where even a week ago I would've hesitated sending a friend to Read It Later.”
Pocket’s launch is also significant from a paid content point of view. Unlike the old version, which charged $2.99 for premium, ad-free access, Pocket is now entirely free. According to the press release, Read It Later was “the number one paid news app for Android and Kindle Fire.” So why is it no longer charging? In an email to Poynter Weiner suggested that the one-off fee that Read It Later used to charge put a barrier in front of first-time app downloaders, without effectively monetizing long-term users, of which there are quite a lot.
"Having a user pay $2.99 up-front once and then use the app for four years doesn’t make a lot of sense,” says Weiner, quoted by Poynter. However, Weiner is still not entirely clear about the apps’ new business model, although he is firm that there is one: “We’ve been planning a move to a new strategy and this is just the first step in that process. We understand that there is the stigma of the Silicon Valley startup with the business plan of 'We’ll figure it out later', and that is not who we are. We’re simply executing the first part of a well planned process,” he tells The Next Web.