Pocket, the popular DVR-like service that allows readers to save web articles and videos to enjoy later in the browser, or in apps for iOS, Android, and the Mac, has announced a new service -- for publishers. Following up on a recent Pocket blog that showed how long stories could live on inside Pocket's system -- far longer than they might otherwise stay in the spotlight on the web. That's similar to how a recorded TV episode might get watched more often, and over a longer time period, than it's original TV schedule would allow. Pocket was interested in seeing how much more often, over what exact periods, and other data. And they figured publishers might be as well.
I had a chance to meet and discuss the new partner program with Pocket's founder, Nate Weiner, and editorial director, Mark Armstrong. They showed me iMore's data -- totally anonymized -- loaded into Pocket's publisher system, and the kinds of things it could tell us. And it was really interesting.
Right now, when a reader saves an article to Pocket, it disappears from a publishers radar. That reader could never look at it again, look at it a hundred time, and come back to over the course of a day, or a month, and none of that registers. It's dark matter.
Why should a publisher care? Well, in iMore's case we want to delight our readers. That's our one and only editorial goal. If we can inform, engage, and entertain you, we've done our job. But different readers get value out of different types of articles. Some articles get a lot more comments than others, some get shared more on social networks than others, some generate more email feedback than others, and so on. What if some types of articles didn't seem to register with our readers in comments or even on Twitter or Facebook, but did get saved and referred back to a lot in Pocket? Those could be providing a different but just as important kind of value for you.
Some TV shows might not have a high first-run rating, but do have a high frequency of digital recording. Those might be worth paying attention to. Especially FOX. Especially shows like Firefly! But I digress...
At launch, Pocket is working with a small group of publishers in order to test and polish the system. The information they're providing includes content performance metrics (how many readers saved an article, how many later opened it again, how long it continued to be opened for, etc.), custom footers for saved content (like a link to additional content, or to social networks), a "save to Pocket" button with counter, similar to Twitter and Facebook, and support for sites with paywalls (like some newspapers).
Sure, right now it sounds like our data being once again used to analyze and measure us, and that's fine and fair. As a publisher as well as a reader, I'll benefit from knowing more about what readers love to read, and hopefully create more of it. Readers will benefit from getting content that hopefully means more to them, and Pocket will benefit from readers wanting to save even more of that content.
Also, though Pocket hasn't made any announcements and wouldn't speak to any future plans, my previous career was in advanced analytics, and this type of insight, once surfaced, could potentially be used for much more interesting, much more intelligent things that would make for much better reader experience.
iMore is already up and running with the program. If you're a publisher and you want to know more about it, check out their blog post.