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Summary:

Tools like Pocket help you manage a flood of online content by zapping it into a personal box to view later on. The company showed the stories and videos that we’re storing the most — but the tech-heavy nature of its Top 10 lists suggest these tools still await widespread adoption.

Services like Pocket and Instapaper, which offer a one-click way to sock away internet content, are soaring in popularity. Pocket reports that 7.4 million users saved 240 million articles and videos in 2012 alone, and that 10.4 items are saved to Pocket every second. What were the most popular?

“Obama’s Way” by Michael Lewis in Vanity Fair came first followed by “The Busy Trap” in the New York Times and a series of techy-articles on topics like hacking and Apple. On the video front, Psy’s “Gangnam Style” — of course — led the way followed by an eclectic mix of clips about investing, body language and activism. You can see both top ten lists here.

While view-it-later services are undeniably popular, Pocket’s report raises two questions. First, how many people actually read that Michael Lewis article later rather than read-it-never? In my case, I put several items a week into my Instapaper folder but rarely get around to retrieving them (unless they’re for research). Pocket offers a graphic that suggests many people do in fact open the stuff they store but the chart doesn’t take account of multiple opens by the same person:

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The other question about Pocket’s findings turns on the tech-heavy subjects of the top 10-list. While pieces like “The inside story of the death of Palm and webOS” (#6, Chris Ziegler of The Verge) are popular among techies, such fare is too esoteric for most folks. My family and friends don’t read articles like that but prefer instead more universal subjects like food, travel, philosophy or sports. Does this mean Pocket’s growth will be mostly limited to computer types?

Probably not. These type of services are so useful that they are likely to enjoy widespread adoption soon. Meanwhile, publishers like BuzzFeed are making them even easier to use by adding “read it later” buttons right on their stories:

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Finally, the popularity of “view-it-later” tools will continue to grow as products like Amazon’s Kindle add buttons of their own. For an easy-to-read overview of to use these Pocket and similar products, see my colleague Laura Owen’s helpful explanation here.

(Image by CREATISTA via Shutterstock)

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  1. I think the value of a service like Pocket goes beyond just “reading it later”. Let me give you an example. Rather than individually saving articles for later consumption, I do it wholesale for my favorite websites using ifttt and RSS feeds. Basically, ifttt turns Pocket into an offline version of Google Reader by enabling the auto download and tagging of a website’s RSS feed. This way, when you are offline (e.g. on an airplane) you have all of your websites available for reading (fed by RSS via ifttt into Pocket). The power of Pocket is about taking the Internet offline as much as it is about reading it later.

    I can’t wait for these services to get better and help enable a broader set of offline interactions with various web services. (Gogobot sure could use an offline site for those traveling internationally.)

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