top trends of 2011 with one that's perfect for the holidays. Just as the frantic, real-time nature of the social Web hit fever pitch, the market trends this year made way for "content shifting." It's the simple idea of saving your articles, videos and podcasts for later.We wind down the
With the rise of the smartphone and tablet, all kinds of content can be saved until after work or school. Content shifting helps us concentrate on the tasks at hand. It also reformats it for more enjoyable experiences. Now that the Web is no longer limited to our desks, content shifting allows new media to take their rightful place on the couch.
The Rise of Leisure Devices
Podcasting has been the content-shifted future of radio since the early days of the iPod. But its growth was limited by the barriers of regularly syncing via USB. The era of the smartphone and tablet has freed users from that constraint.
The tablet in particular has made leisure reading and viewing of Web content a reality. Sales of the iPad have smashed expectations. Amazon's Kindle Fire, which is specialized for leisure content, has found mass appeal as well.
We've seen some great studies from Google and BBC.com this year showing that consumers love the tactile, personal tablet experience. They use tablets as leisure devices, allowing them to separate the fun stuff from the work stuff they do on their PCs.
Apple & Amazon's End-to-End Content
iOS 5, Lion and iCloud, Apple proposes a vision of content shifting that happens unconsciously. Music, videos, documents and bookmarks are all just there when users look for them, no matter which device they're on.The big end-to-end consumer tech companies have tried to keep this all under their umbrellas. With
Apple added a feature called Reading List to its Safari browser, which lets users create temporary bookmarks for Web articles. It also expanded Safari's Reader mode to the mobile versions. Safari Reader pops up a clean version of an article, without navigation or ads, to make reading on the Web more sane. The combination of Reading List and Reader mode makes for a basic but pleasant content-shifted reading experience.
None of it works perfectly, of course, but Apple would like it to.
iPad Is A Product, Kindle Is A Service
For Apple, content is more like a feature. Apple's in the device business, and it offers content to support users of its devices. The iPhone, the iPad, the iPod and the Mac are the products. Amazon does things the other way around. Amazon's new Kindle Fire tablet rounds out its line of inexpensive, less powerful devices that give users access to Kindle content, which is where Amazon makes its money.
Kindle is a service, not a product. The devices are just windows into Amazon's store of content, which is streamed or whisper-synced down to them. Amazon uses its powerful cloud to keep the latest content on each Kindle device, and even on iOS and Android devices running the Kindle app. For Kindle books and magazines, content shifting is as simple as syncing your page number.
Content Shifting In the Consumer Cloud
There's still plenty of room for content shifting solutions from Web companies that aren't tied to particular platforms.
Evernote, a company working on many different problems in the consumer cloud, has built Clearly, an article-saving service. It's a browser extension for Chrome and Firefox that creates a cleaned-up article view, similar to Safari Reader mode, but it also allows saving of the clean version to one's 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.
Instapaper has an established presence in the iTunes App Store as a dedicated read-later service. Using a browser bookmarklet or connecting to the many RSS readers and Twitter clients that allow fast link saving to Instapaper, readers can save clean versions of Web articles they want to read with just one click.
interview with Instapaper creator Marco Arment for his perspective on how content shifting is changing reading.When you launch the Instapaper app, it caches the articles, so you can even read offline. This is a solution to the attention problems posed by the real-time Web. If you see an article you want to read, you don't have to be distracted. Just send to Instapaper and get back to work. Check out our
There's also Read It Later, an Instapaper competitor that's going for cross-platform presence rather than focus on two devices. Its creator used Read It Later data to publish a fascinating blog post at the beginning of the year demonstrating the content shifting trend. It compared desktop, smartphone and tablet users' reading habits, and the iPad users are clearly shifting their content to the evening, with a little bit of reading over breakfast.
Content shifting of articles is happening, and it's getting started with Web-based video, too. The Internet TV service Boxee offers an iPad app and bookmarklet that allows saving of Web videos for later, whether on your TV or your iPad (if you've got the gadgets). It takes a bit of work to get it going, but Richard MacManus wrote a how-to guide for content-shifting video with Boxee.
Some of the sharpest minds in the industry are thinking about content shifting, and we had some great interviews about it from this year. Tech investor extraordinaire Fred Wilson talked about content shifting at our 2Way Summit this year. We discussed the iPad and the future of reading with Instapaper's Marco Arment. And we talked to Jori Lallo, creator of a link-saving service called Kippt, about the practice of saving Web links on your digital bookshelf.
Do you use any content shifting services? Share your workflows and playflows in the comments.