Some new data & further thoughts on my save & read it later habits

Pocket Matter partnership

One of the things I like about the internet (as opposed to hating it) is the opportunity to engage in meaningful discussions with really smart people and walk away more educated from those interactions. Earlier this week, I blogged about my save-and-read-it-later habits based on data from Pocket, which is my de facto TiVo for the web. My conclusion looking at the data was that I am reading a lot less than I thought (only about a third of what I was saving) and promised to work harder to get through more articles.

This prompted a response from Pocket CEO Nate Weiner and his editorial director, Mark Armstrong, who said that I have to look at it as a glass half full, not glass half empty. In his blog post in response to my post, Mark wrote:

“There is a misperception that Pocket should be treated like an email inbox, in which you have to go back to every single story or video that you’ve saved. Pocket works best if your ‘net consumption’ is better than what it would’ve been without save for later. My open rate is probably abysmal, because I am a digital hoarder. But I end up consuming exponentially more/better stories in a given day than I would have without Pocket.”

Fair point — and not much of a disagreement. Further analysis of my data by Weiner resulted in him telling me that

“Looking at the open rate is a bad personal metric. Because achieving 100 percent isn’t the right goal. The right goal is having a way to read the best content that you can find and that is what Pocket enables you to do. You should be looking at like: Holy crap, I read 20 articles in Pocket a week that I would have missed otherwise!”

nate weinerNate said that the average length of an article I read in Pocket was 1,554 words, which works out to about “120,000 words a month in Pocket, which is the equivalent of two full novels worth of articles every month!” Nate went on to argue that if I save 45 articles a week, that is about 70,000 words or about a book every week. In other words, I should stop focusing on what I don’t read and instead on be focused on what I do read — and that is the purpose of Pocket.

“Pocket isn’t here to help you get through everything, it’s here to help you get through, and not miss, the ones that matter. And based on the crazy high amount you’re reading, I’d argue that it’s doing a pretty good job.”

Ironically, all this reading is cutting into my book reading time — I just checked my Amazon book buying habits and realized that I am buying roughly half as many books as I used to.

So far in 2013, I have acquired 24 books and 17 ebooks and e-singles. In comparison, in 2012, I bought 34 books and 14 ebooks and e-singles. In 2011, I acquired 16 books and 19 ebooks. I typically read a book a week, mostly when commuting or sitting in between meetings or simply when I want to fall asleep. The increased reading on Pocket shows that my appetite for books is being whetted augmented by other types of content. Conclusion: there is only so much time in the day and so many ways to fractionalize one’s attention.

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