Read-it-later app Pocket experiments with ‘high quality’ sponsored articles

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Pocket has established itself over the years as one of the best read-it-later apps available, and with 22 million avid readers now on board the company behind it is finally getting serious about generating some coin.

This means sponsored posts are coming to your carefully curated feed, a prospect extreme Pocket users will likely welcome with all the warmth of an Icelandic winter.

But just hold on a moment. Keen to keep its users on side, Pocket is promising to be “very thoughtful” in its approach to adding sponsored content, pointing out that the changes will be “slow and small.” At least, to begin with.

Offering further words of reassurance, Pocket boss Nate Weiner says in a blog post announcing the money-making move that the app “is a place for high-quality content and sponsored posts are no exception to this. Our aim is that these posts, and the content within them, will feel natural to your Pocket experience, and will also be things you’re interested in reading and watching to boot.”

Users can tap to hide any of the clearly marked paid-for posts that appear in their feed, and the team is actively encouraging feedback from users on how it might improve its ad system over the coming weeks and months.

In addition, the company promises none of the sponsors will ever have access to any of your Pocket-related activities.

Clearly keen not to scare off users or have them grumbling in disappointment at the prospect of ads turning up in their feed, Weiner insists the Pocket team is “hyper-focused” on making sure the changes don’t feel disruptive or adversely affect the overall app experience. You got that? It’ll probably be OK.

However, if the sponsored ads do turn out to be intrusive or just plain annoying, you can always lose them by switching to Pocket’s premium service for $5 a month or $45 a year. You’ll get a bunch of extra features for that money, too, including personal backup of all your saved articles and webpages (so it won’t matter if they change or disappear online), suggested tags for quick organization, and the ability to sort search results by relevance or date saved.

San Francisco-based Pocket started life in 2007 as Read It Later before rebranding four years ago. In 2015, its more than 20 million users saved nearly 800 million articles using the app, equal to about 25 saves a second. Top topics for the year included the Apple Watch, Star Wars, climate change, ISIS, and the presidential election.

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