Reading news from most online news sites feels a bit like sifting through mounds of stuff that you don’t care about to the one gem of content that you to. Publishers do this on purpose. In what amounts to content cross-selling they try to force your eyes in front of as much “related” content as they can to urge you to stay on their site longer, view more pages, and (hopefully for them) click on more ads.
This results in pages that look a bit like this (ads removed with adblock and the real article content highlighted):
Still with me? Yeah, it’s kinda long, with only a small fraction of the page focused on the squeezed and small article text with the rest urging you on to other bits of content you aren’t interested in, or on the comments of bored and opinionated readers. But, we can make this experience better. In fact, a simple add-on for Chrome, Firefox and Safari users (or a bookmarklet for other browsers) can reformat that page into this:
And that’s the power of Readability. It’s free to use in your browser, and a souped up version with read-later support costs $5.00 (with 70% of that going to the content author’s you read). The mobile version is slightly clunky compared to Instapaper however (see below). Go and give it a try, and say good-bye to cross-selling content.
You can also pick up Instapaper, which is more focused on iOS devices and will send the article you’re reading to your iOS reformatted to read it later. It operates on your PC only as a bookmarklet, and does a marginally worse job of parsing pages than Readibility. It costs a one-time fee of $4.99 for the iPhone/iPod/iPad app. It’s web-reading view is much clunkier than Readability’s.
You can enter your premium Readability account details into Instantpaper to make sure the author’s you read will still get their cut of stuff you send to your mobile (if you choose to go beyond the very usable free version of Readability). I use both, Instapaper when I have a long article or a short-story I want to read later from my iPad — and Readability when I come across a news story in my browser. It works out as an awesome way to stay focused on what I want to read.