A trade journal of a still-emerging field, written by Adam Tinworth.

Some interesting figures on the length of popular long articles saved into read later app Pocket:

In the Top 500 most-saved articles from the first half of 2015, we found that the average article length is 3,190 words, which would take over 15 minutes to read.

Now, you’d expect that the most popular articles in pocket would skew long – the longer the article, the more likely you are to save it for a moment when you can take your sweet time reading it. But the “peaks” are interesting:

Pocket's most saved

You’d expect the high end to be low, because the number of articles produced at that length is low. Equally, short articles are generally less worth saving. Bit 2k to 5k is a smaller category of article than 1k to 2k, and yet far more are saved.

An interesting suggestion there that we should be going a bit more in-depth with articles than we do at the moment. (1k to 2k is the “classic” feature length everywhere I’ve worked).

Interesting [announcement from Quartz editor Kevin Delaney, explaining why the business site is about to get serious about video:

We’re now entering into video production, with a small team of experienced digital video journalists experimenting ambitiously with new formats, techniques, and distribution.

That final word – distribution – is key. That suggests that Quartz will be pushing its video onto Facebook and YouTube as much as trying to drag people to the site to watch it. And they’re not just thinking about computer and mobile use, either:

[…] the over-the-top video disruption means unprecedented opportunities for upstart media players to distribute their content to users’ television sets and computers.

Pays for plays

The question, of course, is monetisation. Delaney explicitly says that the video production team won’t have to worry about that at first:

We’re liberating them for an initial period from ad inventory requirements and preconceptions about what they produce should look like.

However, they do have a revenue agenda:

We believe that respecting our users and their time means not placing 15- or 30-second pre-rolls in front of videos. We’d prefer to do the hard work of tackling the creative and business challenges of inventing non-preroll forms of sponsorship that maximize both user satisfaction and revenue.

In other words: “Go away, experiment, and when you figure out what works, we’ll figure out how to monetise it.”

It’s a good approach – I’ve seen some terrible video produced simply because there was money on the table from advertisers that needed video inventory. This way the product will lead the revenue.

IMG 0460

A couple of days ago, Amazon updated its Kindle iOS app to bring Bookerly – the font that came to the Fire tablets a few months ago – and a much improved type handling experience:

[…] the new app finally gives the boot to the hideous absolute justification of text that the Kindle’s been rocking since 2007. The new layout engine justifies text more like print typesetting. Even if you max out the font size on the new Kindle app, it will keep the spacing between words even, intelligently hyphenating words and spreading them between lines as need may be.

(It’s interesting to note that a significant number of commenters who wrote about this treated this as if it was new, rather than the second stage of a roll-out that started with the Fire tablets in January. Even a quick Google of the name Bookerly would have cleared that up for them…)

It’s a significant, but not dramatic upgrade, that really begins to suggest that Amazon does actually care about the typography of its Kindle devices – especially with the suggestion that these improvements are coming to the E Ink devices later in the summer:

Amazon just told me that the Bookerly font will be made available on Kindle ereaders later this year.

And quite possibly in the near future:

Marco Arment makes an interesting point – Amazon is still deeply dictatorial in its choices on the Kindle. Can’t the reader have more choice?

I’m glad they appear to care, but I hope they take this further. There’s no good reason why justification needs to be forced on readers who can already customize the font, size, margins, and line spacing to make reading easier or more pleasant for them. If justification can’t be removed completely, make it an option.

Let’s hope this is a first stage in a continual process of software evolution, now Kindle hardware development seems to be slowing down.

Slide template recode

John Gruber commenting on re/Code’s acquisition by Vox Media:

My take is that if you’re going to go indie, you need to stay lean and mean. You don’t have to stay as lean and mean as I have — I have no employees, and to date, no one else has ever written a word for Daring Fireball. In fact, a one-person show might be too lean to get off the ground today. But then again, there’s Ben Thompson and Stratechery.

This is one of the lessons the traditional media world seems to be struggling to assimilate (and it’s worth remembering that Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher are very much of the traditional media world): the thing that used to give advantage – size and resources – is not necessarily as useful as it once was. We throw money at launches, but then burden them with overheads that the nascent business can’t support.

Gruber notes that Re/Code had 44 full-time employees – that’s bigger than the vast majority of magazines published even in the good times.

Stratechery – the one-person lean start-up mentioned – is well worth checking out. I’m a happy subscriber.

Aral balkan

A little follow-up on the idea that a Brighton-based tech company is quitting the UK, because of the current government’s proposals. An unusual number of people got in contact to suggest that calling a tech company was a little premature.

The organisation, led by Aral Balkan, best known currently as a compelling speaker on privacy on the tech conference circuit, raised over $100,000 late last year to launch everything from a social network to a mobile phone. It has yet to ship the promised pre-alpha to the backers, and one in particular has found the announcement of the overseas move to be enough:

I could wait. Maybe Heartbeat will really be awesome and the wait will have been worth it. But how can they possibly get a phone ready before 2017 with their small team? Especially if they plan to design and build the hardware and operating system from scratch? And if they want to get a bigger team they’ll need to fund-raise again, which means less time for development. I don’t think it’s going to happen. And I don’t want to wait to find out what will happen.

(It’s worth noting that the move has been explained on Aral’s personal site, but not on the blog).

For the outside, this looks like a mix of unrealistic deadline promises from, given their very small team, with matching unrealistic optimism from the backers.

Aral has responded quickly:

The mobile problem:

Last year, mobile constituted 60% of time spent on digital, up from 53% in 2013, according to ComScore. Yes, this mobile explosion is helping goose traffic at media sites. But they’re failing to monetize it quickly enough, resulting in a widening gap between mobile readers and revenue. At The New York Times, for instance, more than half its digital audience comes from mobile, yet just 10% of its digital-ad revenue is attributed to these devices.

Worth remembering as we think about Facebook’s new initiative. The mobile shift is happening so fast, publishing technology and business models are struggling to keep up. But that very speed means we have to get on top of this quickly.

This is such a good move:

The excuses for accidental tweeting from a professional account just get fewer and fewer. If you’re not using some form of posting management tool for a branded account, you’re just putting yourself on the fast track to ridicule.

(But remember, the most skilled users know that organisations don’t tweet, people do…)