Pocket Rolls Out New Site Subscription Partners: Is This A Better Way Forward For Mobile Magazines?

Pocket announced its revamped Site Subscription feature along with launch partner Matter earlier this week, and today it’s adding two new partner publications, including The New York Review of Books and the Virginia Quarterly Review (VQR). Both publications will now offer paid subscribers the ability to save articles for Pocket and access them for later reading. Pocket’s strategy here is to be an easy, inexpensive way to give publications access to a mobile channel, but this is a system that could easily become a means through which publishers avoid some of the downsides of iPad magazine apps while still reaching subscribers wherever they read.

In an interview with Pocket Editorial Director Mark Armstrong, he explained that this new effort to reach out to publishers and work with them to provide a way to get readers their content is a way to make sure the app’s users have the broadest access even in those instances when that content lives behind a paywall. The system is simple: subscribers to participating publications can enter their credentials in their Pocket app’s settings on iOS or Android, and then whenever they send articles from those sources to the service, they’ll be available to read in full later on. Often, even if you’re signed on and have access to material that requires a subscription on the web, sending it to a save-for-later service will block access, so this is a way of getting around that.

“What we’re hearing, especially from independent publishers… you might have a publisher that doesn’t necessarily have the resources or bandwidth to invest in apps across all these platforms right out of the gate,” Armstrong said, describing why many publishers seem eager to get on board. “Because Pocket has become such an important tool for saving articles and video, it just seems like such a natural complement that we can help add to their mobile experience.”

While Armstrong says that for now the focus is on securing more publisher partners and ensuring that Pocket has as wide a reach as possible in its core function as a read-it-later service, I think it could become an excellent delivery method for content that doesn’t necessarily need, and likely won’t succeed in a dedicated magazine app. MG Siegler pointed out earlier this week why magazine apps like the soon-to-be-shuttered The Daily are missing the mark: huge app file sizes, an outdated monthly content delivery model, and a lack of the kind of link-based connectivity that’s present on the web are mostly to blame.

Providing access through smart, optimized mobile tools like Pocket is a good way to address not only issues of cost and effort with developing standalone mobile solutions, but it also gets around those limitations pointed out by MG. Apple’s Newsstand is one way to do this when done correctly (as with Instapaper founder Marco Arment’s The Magazine), but provided Pocket achieves wide enough reach, this could be another good route for publishers who want to reach mobile, in a way readers find convenient, practical and enjoyable.