Pocket on my iPad

In 2001, when I first became aware of blogging and RSS feeds, I used to speculate about magazines of the future, built of feeds which allowed you to select the reporters, reviewers and commenters that mattered to you. In recent years, I’ve used this as an example of how very dangerous and wrong predictions based on old models can be. Yet, when I read this piece by Hamish McKenzie, I realised that I might have actually been more prescient than I realised:

I haven’t got a focus group to prove this, but I would bet that anyone who uses reading apps such as Longform, Instapaper, Readability, and Pocket prefers those content delivery mechanisms to bundled magazines. These platforms allow readers to select and sort content in a way that works for them, from disparate sources, without having to deal with cumbersome digital magazine files and swathes of packaged content that simply isn’t relevant, or of interest.

That’s exactly how I operate right now. My morning iPad routine looks something like this:

  • Skim through my e-mails. Deal with the urgent ones.
  • Skim through my RSS reader. Push anything that looks interesting into Pocket.
  • Flip through Flipboard. Push anything that looks interesting into Pocket.

I’ll then leave the iPad and head to my Mac in the study to push on with other work. Come coffee break time, it’ll be back to the iPad and back into Pocket to read the longer pieces I was interested in.

What I’ve done is build a magazine for myself, selecting not the authors I find most interesting, but the actual pieces. I’m treating the web like a content buffet, where I select what I’m interested in, and create a personalised lean-back reading experience. Those magazines and newspapers I subscribe to in Newsstand take a back seat – they only get opened when I’ve finished with the Pocketed pieces.

Now I realise that I’m an atypical consumer of online information. But I also realise that I’m an early-to-mid stage adopter, and my behaviours tend to be reflected in the general online populace eventually. I wonder how long-term viable Newsstand actually is?