I have a worrying feeling that Instapaper isn’t the future of magazines; it’s a short, brief possible now of magazines, for those of us who understand it.
Yesterday evening I started reading this Wired article, which I found via the Instapaper front page. I got home to find it was also in the print edition of Wired UK, but of course I’ll finish it on the phone, on the way to or from work. I also read far more on the Guardian in Instapaper than in its own app. Generally, I seem to be able to find more than I can manage during weekdays from my delicious network and other recommendations.
Meanwhile, every publisher seems to want to get their icon onto my phone (and, if and when I get one, an iPad). The Times are pushing their app on video screens in the Tube; Wired and Popular Science are just two of many magazines which hope to bring not just interactivity and a nice experience, but that promised land of a sustainable business model.
But, but; does that mean that each of them ends up in a silo, or a glass box, with the web sites turning into vestigal stubs, paginated into unusability? If that happens, where does that leave my Read Later bookmarklet? And are those of us who do graze on articles and reviews and, yes, blog posts, no matter where they come from (and with less concern for who published them than whether they’re interesting) just too small a tribe to be on publisher’s radar?
I hope I’m being overly alarmist here. I hope the app fad dies down, and that the focus returns to good simple texts on generally available web sites. Still, I’m a little worried.