Content shifting online — four ways to save it for later

With the proliferation of mobile tablets and smartphones, most of us are all too familiar with the idea that consuming Web content no longer necessitates sitting at a desk. And because the majority of us are required to spend much of our day with mundane tasks such as work or school, finding and saving interesting articles, videos, and podcasts for later has become commonplace.

This practice, known as “content shifting” has its roots in a related concept called “time shifting” — a fancy term for when TV consumers used their VCR to record programs for later viewing. Now, of course, more sophisticated time shifting tools (TiVo and other DVRs) are used to store programs in digital format.

But what are the dominant tools in the emerging content-shifting industry, which has been billed as the next big thing?  According to this informative blog post on the subject, four companies in particular are ones to watch: Instapaper, Read it Later, Evernote, and Boxee.

Instapaper is the maker of an iPad app (available on Apple’s iOS platform) that lets readers save clean versions of Web articles they want to read with one click. Though users can also read articles on their laptop or desktop computer through Instapaper.com, the company sees mobile tablets as changing the way people read Web content, and in effect, such devices are bringing about a “a fundamental shift to the publishing business”. Through low-cost apps, publishers can satisfy consumer demand for long-form digital content, and as such, they can make it easier to make money with less advertising.

Read it Later is a competitor to Instapaper, but it is available across both iOS and Google’s Android operating systems. According to Read it Later, mobile devices are not only affecting where we read, but also when we read.  Though we are constantly bombarded with online content, iPad users are increasingly content-shifting towards the end of the day. 

Evernote is the creator of Clearly, an article-saving service that is a browser extension for Chrome and Firefox. Clearly creates a cleaned-up article view that users can save to their Evernote account with one click. The article can then be read later via the Evernote app on a tablet or smartphone, as well as on the desktop.

Boxee ties the content-shifting concept to Internet TV. The service offers an iPad app and bookmarklet that allows users to save Web videos for later, whether on your TV or your iPad. So now when your friend asks if you’ve had time to see that cat video she sent you yesterday, you have no excuse.

Amy Schein

Amy Schein is an Industry Specialist at First Research, where she covers various aspects of the media industry. She earned her BS and MA in media studies at the University of Texas at Austin. Follow Amy on Twitter.

Read more articles by Amy Schein.

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