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My save to read it later habits, visualized as an infographic

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A couple of weeks ago one of my friends who happens to work in the technology business quipped that these days people simply save things to Pocket (the save to read it later service) and rarely go back to reading stuff. His comments reminded me of the TiVo problem — I would save a lot of shows on my TiVo digital video recorder but never really watched them.

But since this wasn’t the first time I had heard the same refrain, so last week when Nate Weiner and Mark Armstrong of Pocket stopped by at our offices, I put the question to them — what percent of Pocket readers actually come back to the Pocket to read the stuff? Nate replied :

It really depends on the site/type of content. We see ranges from 10 percent up to 70 percent depending on the source. The overall average is close to half. The key is to think of it like a Netflix queue. You are never overwhelmed or concerned about the number of items in your Netflix queue. You just keep putting things in there because you know that when you have the time to view something, you can guarantee you’ll have something great in there that you’ve been meaning to check out. If you view Pocket as a todo list then you better hope you have a LOT of free time :) The thing you have to remember is that the overwhelming majority of things that people save are items they haven’t read or looked at before saving — that’s kind of the point of saving for later right? So while you often save great things, it’s likely that there will still be a reasonable percentage of things that by the time you return you are no longer interested in or in some cases, the content had a shiny attractive headline but it wasn’t worth the read once you came back. [emphasis is ours, not Weiner’s]

Pocket Device Lineup Anyway, I asked the Pocket folks to send me my own data. A quick glance at the numbers made me realize that I was only reading about a third of what I was saving. I normally use Pocket to save stuff I find on the web for curating later, and I hit save after I have had a chance to skim (if not read) the whole piece. Here are the highlights:

  • I save about 45 articles a week and about 200 articles a month.
  • On an average I open 31 percent of the pieces of information I save.
  • I save a lot of content from The New York Times, the New Yorker and HypeBeast. Medium is the newest source of reading material on my Pocket.
  • Tweetbot is my favorite source of reading material.
  • I use the web to read a lot — obviously because I have a Retina Display MacBook Pro and that makes reading better. Most of the time I use Safari, though Chrome usage is going up.

Still, this was some interesting data and I wondered if I could make it visually interesting. I emailed Stew Langille, co-founder and chief executive officer of San Francisco-based visual creative goods marketplace, Visually, wondering if he had some tips for me. He said to sign up for Visually and try it out. So that is what I did.

Langille’s startup allows anyone (from individual bloggers to big companies) to create a project, upload their data and have designers help them build infographics or other interactive graphical visualizations. It took me mere minutes to create a project and in a few hours I was working with a designer, who shared with me her design aesthetic and created the following graphic that highlights my Pocket usage behavior. But before I share the graphic, let me just say that Visually has built one of the best creative project workflows that keeps in mind that most people who need creative elements in their work life aren’t that creatives. OmMalik_Pocket_Infographic_11379_521

12 Responses to “My save to read it later habits, visualized as an infographic”

  1. Whether you read saved articles or not probably depends on how disciplined you are. I save a lot of articles to Pocket. And I read all of them, although there might be some weeks delay when I am very busy.

  2. Mark Armstrong

    (Mark from Pocket here)

    Om, great post and enjoyed discussing this with you. I followed up with a few of my own thoughts below:

    I personally don’t think we should worry so much about our “open rates” for what we save to Pocket—just whether the act of saving for later is improving our consumption habits overall.

    My personal experience is that I save A LOT of articles and videos, and then I go back to a relatively small portion of them. But overall I’m reading a lot more than I did without Pocket.

    • Mark

      Thanks for the thoughtful response. Also, I appreciate the encouragement and no, I am not despondent, just realizing that not everything that gets saved is consumed. That said, I do agree — Pocket has made me read more and it is one service that I am happy to pay for. Ace product!

  3. tylerfonda

    In addition to what you’ve mentioned above, saving for later is a dopamine hit for the intellectually curious. You feel good when you save something for later. The other bit is that there is a treasure trove of great stuff buried in your queue which would be great to read if you weren’t distracted by finding the next thing to read.

    Pocket and specifically your case highlights how the Internet is amazing at discovery and terrible at allowing you to consume your discoveries (unless of course they are social objects). We ought to break the model of discovery and consumption on digital devices (particularly for long form content).

    We built Blackstrap so that you could disconnect and read the gems in your Pocket queue. I was finally able to read Peter Thiel’s CS183 class notes because I printed them into a book.

    • “Pocket and specifically your case highlights how the Internet is amazing at discovery and terrible at allowing you to consume your discoveries (unless of course they are social objects).”

      Those are good points — thought I don’t think it is the Internet. It is also not about new software. It is about our inability to control attention and our short coming as a species to be easily distracted.

  4. Lexi Lewtan

    Om, I’m curious how this data translates into a personal goal for you. Do you hope to read more? Be distracted less? Efficiently search & remember everything?

  5. My proportion is similar – varying by how much pressure I have to catch up with the blogs I contribute to. Some days I set aside only a few interesting stories/topics and use them all. Some days, I’m drawn to a dozen tales – and end up using a couple.

    A lot reflects the “slow news day” vs “exciting stuff happening” syndromes.

    I set myself an upper number and generally once a week I look and see how much I have stored as draft topics in WordPress. If it’s too high I start with the oldest and try to cut away at least a third to half of everything.