The greatest thing the internet has given us is the ability to access information. But when it comes to reading for pleasure, the limited and poor language it comes in, the amount of pop-ups and video ads it’s enveloped by, and now whether or not it’s real or fake, means a lot of it is still far from digestible or enjoyable.
In 2018, you may have noticed one of the ways many publishers began trying to address some of these issues was by throwing up paywalls. The old gateway-subscription model is a great way to support independent journalism and give readers high-quality ad-free articles and stories, but to the fleeting visitor who’s just looking to get their fix while on the Tube (i.e. most people), it can be somewhat deterring.
Modern content consumers are a different breed from those of yesteryear who come from an age when information was scarce and not abundant. Today, people are less likely to be avid supporters of one major media house like Bloomberg or The New Yorker and are much more inclined to be independent curators and critics of a wide and diverse variety of sources.
The world is a big and everchanging place. People want a range of stories from a mix of viewpoints, in a slew of styles and array of formats. Most importantly, though, they want it while not having their attention stolen by ads, while having the choice to make a financial commitment or investment, and, as social media knows all too well, they want it all to be accessible and available in the time it takes to pull out your phone and load up a new tab.
It sounds a lot to ask. But in 2019, high-quality, convenient, engaging, and reliable information is more accessible than ever — given you know where to look.
Leave spending hours scraping your Twitter feed and scouring Reddit for your reading material back in 2018, and create better content consumption habits with these three tips.
The best storytelling in the world
You know Longreads is going to be good before reading a word, simply because it’s part of the Automattic/Wordpress.com family. But chances are anything I read online in the last year that’s worth remembering was found or available on Longreads.
Founded in 2009, Longreads was born out of a Twitter hashtag that blew up as people clearly had a desire for more long-form investigative reporting. Today the site curates the best long-form content from all over the web as well as creating its own via donations and its team or writers and editors.
Some of my favourite and the most popular articles of last year include an account of a geographer’s journey to an undocumented island off the coast of Hati that he believed to be the most crowded in the world, and The 2-year-old Instagram influencers who make more than you.
New and classic non-fiction and fiction
Curated by the University of Pittsburgh’s writing program, Longform was founded a little later than Longreads and is similar in that it links to long-form essays around the web. It’s unique appeal though comes from that it also curates classic stories, fiction, and has some pretty inventive collections such as ‘The Longform Guide to Sad Retired Athletes’ and ‘The Longform Guide to Addiction’.
Longform has lost a little steam with it’s app being rejected from the Apple store and likely with its founders being torn between other businesses and projects. Some also say it’s not what it used to be, with more of its recent picks being lifted from mainstream journalism and less obscure gems.
But even if you just use it for its random article button, it never fails to churn up an interesting read — for instance, the rise and fall of the East German weightlifter who took the highest documented quantity of steroids in his quest for gold.
One place to keep it all
Tabs are useless. Bookmarks don’t work. And so rather than adding another place where you can go to find even more great reporting to the list, better to include a way you can save and organise the stuff you’re already not reading.
Evernote is the more well known for being a note-taking app. But along with many other things, it also makes one of the best read-it-later apps. Using the browser extension, with just a click, you can save an article or link to Evernote and have it immediately available offline and fully searchable by tags, categories, and text across all your devices.
What makes this so great is that if you build up a good archive of material, next time you want something to read, instead of battling sketchy wifi and ads on Twitter, you can just go to Evernote and throw in a keyword of your fancy. The result: much less time faffing around and much more time spent reading.
Joseph Pennington is a freelance writer and long-term traveller from the North of England. Connect with him on LinkedIn and find more articles on work, technology, spirituality, and everything in between.