Get Smarter, Well-Versed, and Intelligent: Using Read-It-Later Services to Achieve Higher Quantity and Quality of Reading

iPad on Newspaper
Photo by Matthew Guay on Unsplash

We read a lot now. Despite our ever decreasing attention spans modern humans are constantly reading at all times; there are news articles, emails, books, signs, everything. A great many of us read throughout the day, every day.

How much of it though, actually helps us grow and provide meaning? Do the words that we read lead us to a more richer life?

It is a shame that a large number of people get all their reading of news, entertainment, and learning from social media. We’ve seen recently how social media algorithms can change our brains and influence the way we think by providing us with a constant, curated stream of content for our consumption.

The Internet is a marvelous place for collecting knowledge and information; but the deluge of information to be sifted through by oneself can be overwhelming. In this post I will outline a basic method for curating your own web articles using Read-It-Later services for you to read at your own time, so no matter how busy you are, you won’t miss out on all the things you’d like to read.

There’s nothing worse than reading something good, then forgetting where you’ve read it. Or, stumbling across a great article that you’d love to read, because you have no time you had to let it slide past. Then when you want to search for the said article it’s nowhere to be found.

Contents:

Setting It All Up

You will need two things: Feedly and Pocket.

Feedly

feedly

Feedly is a news aggregator service that allows you to discover, collect, and read articles from RSS sources. Since the death of the massively popular Google Reader service, I have found that Feedly is the next best thing. Available on iOS, Android, and web browser flavors, Feedly is a great tool for learners to follow the blogs, magazines, and publications that they care about.

Feedly is a freemium service, meaning you can use it ad-supported for free, forever. For USD84.00 a year Feedly Pro gives you upgraded annotations, search parameters, and unlimited search feeds.

Download their apps or navigate to feedly.com. Create an account; I recommend signing in with your Google Account for ease of entry.

feedly

Once you’re in, curate your interests. Feedly makes it easy for first-timers by displaying categories on the feed search immediately after signing you in. Use the search bar, or click on the “Explore the Web” section to discover interesting blogs or sites you might not have heard of yet.

feedly2

Clicking on each hashtag button yields publications related to that hashtag. Simply click on “follow”. You might be prompted to create your “first feed.” Feeds are how you’ll categorize your interests in Feedly. In the following example I just used the suggested feed names for my first follow.

feedly3

Repeat this with as many feeds or sources you want! In the end, your Feedly would look somewhat like this when you click on the “Today” tab at the top left:

feedly4

Pocket

Pocket

A big name in the world of Read-It-Later services, Pocket has permanently carved itself a space in the market by providing a solid reading experience, convenient apps and an ability to send things to it from virtually anywhere. Essentially how it works is that you send links to your “Pocket”, and then it is stored there for your consumption later on.

What makes Pocket a better option for collecting the content you wish to read later (as compared to bookmarking links on your browser) is that it’s available on a lot of platforms. There’s a dedicated Chrome App that syncs in the background, so if you’re, say, out for lunch, stumble upon an intriguing article, just save it to your Pocket, and it’ll be readily cached for reading on your computer at your desk.

pocket1

Like Feedly, Pocket too uses a freemium subscription model. For USD5.00 per month Pocket allows you to use their service without ads, some extra fonts, auto Dark Mode, and enhanced search features (useful for researchers).

Download their apps (iOS, Android), or in a web browser (I’m using Chrome), navigate to pocket.com. Sign up, and you’ll be directed to your list. For now, it’s still empty.

pocket2

Using It In Action

My workflow for this has only four steps:

  1. Skim and save
  2. Filter
  3. Read
  4. Archive

Skim and save

I don’t like to leave my bed so early after waking up (who doesn’t) so I do most of my skimming first thing in the morning. Pulling up my phone I browse through my Feedly.

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By long pressing on an article title, I can immediately save it to Pocket. Note: if long-pressing merely uses Feedly’s built-in Read Later function, you have to open the article, tap on the three dots at the top right (more options), and tap on Pocket. After connecting the two services together, long-pressing any article from now on saves it to Pocket.

Anything that seems remotely interesting, I’ll save it. I try not to spend too long at this; 15 mins max. By the time I’m done usually I’ll have saved about 30-40 articles.

Filter

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Later on in the day when I get some down time, I get to trimming the amount of articles in my Pocket. This is done on my desktop or phone; either methods are OK.

I don’t read everything I save; some articles are just irrelevant from the given title. Filtering also gives me a chance to think twice about what I consume as reading material; will this benefit me? Will this waste my time? What do I hope to learn from this?

Read

All the above steps would be for naught if I didn’t get to reading!

I read any time I can; standing in line at the bank, queueing up for food, etc.

Archive

That’s it! Once done with the article, just tap or click that tick. It will be removed from all your devices with Pocket installed.

Personalize

Of course, as someone who is determined to make the most out of technology to live a more fulfilling life, I’m never satisfied at just that. What I listed above was just the basic workflow for curating your reading material. Read-It-Later apps like Pocket offer great flexibility, and with some effort in setting up workflows you can really get a lot of things done with them, like:

  • Collecting research material with Evernote
  • Assisting in content marketing work with Buffer
  • Saving important articles for later use

Alternative to Feedly – Reeder

I’ve always been a fan of swipe gestures more than tap-and-hold gestures for mobile devices. As multitouch screens became more capable it seemed natural and more flowy to me to do the former compared to the latter.

Reeder (only available on iOS) addresses that that issue for me. Rather than presenting your feed in a magazine-like card format, it displays an elegant, orderly feed in beautiful typography. You’re allowed to customize the gestures you use to interact with your feed; the default is swipe left to add to favorites and swipe right to mark as read/unread.

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Tapping on an article title opens it in a new pane, and it is such a delight to the eyes for reading. Its clean and uncluttered interface will please many of you whom, like me, prefer more minimalistic app designs. Swiping left on the opened article opens it in a Safari View Controller page, displaying the article in its web format. I keep it on Reader View at all times to keep my reading experience clean; you can do so by holding the “Reader View” icon at the top of the navbar.

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I have my Reeder gesture swipe left to “Save to Instapaper.” You can change this by tapping the top-left arrow to bring you all the way to the “Accounts” pane, then hitting the “settings” gear icon on the top left. Then go to “General“, scroll down to “Article List“, and change the option for “Slide Left To” or “Slide Right To.” Skimming and saving just got a lot faster.

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Alternative to Pocket – Instapaper

You might have wondered why I save to Instapaper (iOS, Android), when I recommended Pocket earlier in the article.

instapaper1

I recommend Pocket to people who have never used Read-It-Later services before, mainly because it’s better at parsing media like images or videos. Some articles saved in Instapaper have their images stripped out, and Pocket just simply does a better job at collecting videos. Moreover Pocket has a great weekly email digest on the best reads of the week, and a great “Recommended” section for you to browse.

Despite all of Instapaper’s shortcomings, I still vastly prefer it over Pocket because of the way it handles text to me feels better. As someone who really loves long-form reading, Instapaper offers a better experience; you have more fonts to choose from (compared to Pocket’s 2 choices for free, and another 4 for premium), a not-so-dark mode that’s easier for me to read (white text over true black is not very legible to my astigmatism-laden eyes), and iBooks-style page scrolling.

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It also comes with a built-in article length count that estimates how long it will take for you to finish reading the piece. Sorting my articles by length of time and then picking one to read in the time I have is one thing that keeps me coming back to Instapaper from Pocket.

Oh, and also the sneaky ads that Pocket slips in my feed are just mildly infuriating.

Like Pocket, Instapaper has its own recommended feed, but it’s called the “Browse” section. It’s pretty good, but Pocket’s Recommended tab is updated a bit more frequently.

Making the most out of your Read-It-Later service

Supercharge your daily reading workflow with other services.

Never miss an important article with #mustread

I got this from Taylor Martin. Using IFTTT (which is a service that warrants its own article one day) Martin sets it up so that whenever he tags an item on Pocket with the tag mustread, a task appears on his Todoist in project “mustread.”

To make sure he clears out the mustread project by the end of the day, he set up a recurring task to check mustread every evening at 10pm.

This is great for those whose livelihoods depend on fast information delivery, like writers, reporters, or journalists.

Check out the video where he details his workflow and the IFTTT integration.

Collect important information for easy retrieval later on

All the knowledge in the world won’t help you if you have no way of retrieving it on demand.

Both Pocket and Instapaper have sharing options that allow you to get saved items out of the respective services and into others. Sending items to Evernote is a good use of this feature. With Evernote’s stellar search tools, digging through the pile of articles you’ve read becomes a whole lot easier.

You can also set IFTTT recipes to automatically send items you’ve archived in Pocket or Instapaper into a notebook in Evernote. With Instapaper, you can set it within the Instapaper itself to connect to Evernote to receive articles you’ve liked.

Social curation and sharing

To grow their userbase, many brands carry out content marketing to establish themselves as an authority on the subject their brands are involved with. It builds trust with users, and with trust comes purchasing decisions made by their users or customers. Nowadays customers follow brands based on an expectation that they will receive quality content in return.

Curation is part of content marketing strategy. Simply put, it’s the act of sifting through an immense volume of content on the web, gathering the best ones and then presenting them back to your audience in a meaningful and organised format.

By setting up relevant search terms in Feedly about your preferred subject and going through your reading workflow, you are able to curate a large number of content efficiently in this manner. Services like Buffer or Hootsuite can further help you share out the content you’ve curated by putting them in your scheduled queue to be sent out on social media platforms.

A sample workflow that I use for the company I work goes somewhat like this: I start off in Feedly and save whatever seems interesting for the day. After filtering and reading, I “like” some articles on Instapaper, which triggers the IFTTT recipe that I’ve set up to send it into a note titled “Curation List” in Evernote. At the end of the day when I’m ready to schedule everything into Buffer, I bring up the Curation List, copypasta it into my scheduling queue, then call it a night.

Closing Words

Read-It-Later services are a great tool for web users to catch up on the topics they are passionate about. In our multi-device lifestyle, a single place to collect unread materials for later reading, storing, or sharing becomes all the more important. Using services like Feedly and Pocket/Instapaper in tandem can yield effective results for people who wish to read more content that will increase their knowledge, improve their outlook, and make themselves more creative in the pursuit of a fulfilling life.

Happy reading!

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