The time we used to spend sitting on the train on our way to work in the morning, reading the trusty local rag, has changed. Now, we whip out the iPhone, Android or iPad and catch up on all the blogs and online articles we found but didn't have time to read the day before. On the way home, we do the same for those bits we found at work.
According to Read It Later, the app that lets users tag content on their computer to be, well, read later, mobile devices are helping people avoid the constant barrage of information and relegate reading back to the most comfortable time slots and locations of the day.
"Printed media used to allow us to read in the places we found most comfortable," the company writes on its blog. "Unfortunately, as news and media moves online, it moves us away from these places and into our desk chairs. Even worse, consuming content is no longer on our own schedule. The flood of content disrupts us all day as if we have a maniacal paperboy throwing new editions on our doorstep every 15 seconds."
According to Read It Later, those users with iPhones and iPads are shifting their reading times back to the most comfortable times - during breakfast, the morning commute, the commute back home and the very end of the day. The first graph the company offers is when users encounter content, according to when they tag it in Read It Later.
The graph of computer users (that is, desktops - you remember those, right?) isn't much different. It follows the same general arc. iPhone users, however, show the greatest difference.
There are obvious spikes at the times previously mentioned - breakfast, the commutes, and the end of the day. iPad users, on the other hand, are primarily a prime-time group.
Perhaps Mark Zuckerberg wasn't so far off when he quipped that the iPad isn't mobile?
Read It Later suggests that "When a reader is given a choice about how to consume their content, a major shift in behavior occurs. They no longer consume the majority of their content during the day, on their computer. Instead they shift that content to prime time and onto a device better suited for consumption."
Fine. So, if you have a mobile device, you likely read content on a different schedule than if you don't. What does this really mean? How does it affect the 24 hour news cycle? Although the focus has increasingly been put on real-time information and getting there first, could user behavior shift media back to a focus on quality rather than speed and quantity? I know that when I tag something in my Read It Later queue, it isn't because it's breaking - it's because it sounds like an intelligent, in-depth piece that I want to take time to digest and it's exactly that type of time-shifting of media consumption that, on a larger scale, could help assure the quality of online content.