Read It Later, The “Takeout Bag” Of Content, Gives Long-Form Writing A Boost


By Rachel Kaufman Comment

If you’ve dreamed of turning out long-form essays or investigative pieces—exactly the type of writing that “nobody reads” these days, take hope.

First, the problem: According to and Longreads founder Mark Armstrong, the average half-life of a URL is three hours. In other words, after three hours, a link shortened by and shared on Twitter is going to receive half the clicks it will ever get.

In comes Read It Later, which Armstrong describes as a “time-shifting app” (and in a sense, it is).

Armstrong writes: “Time-shifting could be the ‘takeout bag’—or the dinner plate, or the refrigerator. You get the idea. The simple logic is this: Give a user the opportunity to save something, and they will have access to it for a longer period of time, increasing the odds over time that they will eventually consume it. This will occur at the time and place of their choosing…Not only that, but once they consume it, they will share it at the time they complete it, and they will have effectively extended the half-life of that particular URL on Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr. It’s a new long tail for the post-SEO world.”

And they’re extending the half-life by a long shot: Read It Later users keep content an average of 96 hours in their queue before marking it read. That’s a 32x increase from that piece of content’s original impact.

He finishes: “This, the digital equivalent of a takeout bag, may just help us rethink how we value content on the web. And for publishers, it can help us rethink what we create.”

What do you think?