Read It Later’s Secret: Our Users Love Video, Too

By Mark Armstrong and Matt Koidin

Video saves in Read It Later are up 138%, and YouTube is our most-saved domain; The median length of a video saved in Read It Later is nearly 30 minutes

As our name implies, Read It Later launched in 2007 as an app for quickly and easily saving articles on the web to “read them later.”

But here’s another fact about our more than 4 million users: They also love video.

As video consumption has exploded on the web, and as content has become more multimedia-rich, we realized early on that our users weren’t just saving articles to read—they were saving their favorite video clips from YouTube, Vimeo, and beyond. Even the articles weren’t just text anymore—they’re a mix of writing, images and embedded video.

To meet this demand, Read It Later quietly began supporting in-app video streaming in 2010. In the past year alone, video saves using Read It Later have grown by 138 percent, and YouTube is now the No. 1 most-saved domain in all of Read It Later.

We’re also seeing new evidence that our app is helping people consume longer video than what’s been traditionally embraced on the web: In an analysis of Read It Later’s top 1,000 saved videos, the median length was nearly 30 minutes.

We’ve supported our community as their uses for the app have expanded. Here’s a quick look at how video consumption has changed over the past year and a half:

Read It Later Video Saves

The Most Popular Video Sites inside Read It Later

We mentioned YouTube is No. 1, but here are the other video sites and what percentage of total saves they have. It’s important to note that Read It Later currently only offers optimized viewing for YouTube and Vimeo, so this likely has an effect on how the other sites stack up. In the meantime, we’re working hard to expand our support for all the video sites you like to use.

Read It Later Video Saves

Video Loyalty

Which sites have the highest percentage of returning users? Here, you’ll see video “return rates” are strong with all the sites. College Humor and have the best showing, followed by Comedy Central, Hulu and Vevo:

Read It Later Video Saves

Breadth of Topics & Categories

If you take a look at the most-saved videos on @ReadItLaterTop, you’ll see a pretty broad mix of what’s popular with users. The list includes both quick viral hits, like this totally awesome 1-minute video of Lionel Richie’s “Hello” spliced together from classic movies

And this 14-minute documentary about an American advertising producer who works in Shanghai:

‘Keep It Short’? Not Always

It’s been widely accepted that video on the web should “keep it short,” but that might be changing in a time-shifted world. When we looked at the 1,000 most popular videos from July through December, 32 percent of the Top 1,000 videos were over 5 minutes long, and the median length was 29 min., 33 seconds.

So, in an era of TED Talks, Khan Academy and university courses, we’re seeing evidence that users will embrace longform video if given the tools to do so in a way that fits with their daily lives. Of course, with 68 percent of videos saved under 5 minutes, short-form still rules: As our Most-Saved Videos list shows (see below), users love to save everything from music videos to animation, movie trailers, news clips and more. Shorter clips also represent the vast majority of video content produced for the web.

No matter what you prefer, Read It Later is committed to making it easier for you to consume all your favorite content, whether it’s through a beautiful reading experience or the ability to watch video seamlessly. And we’ll continue working to help users enjoy it anywhere, on any device.

Most popular videos saved on Read It Later*:

1. “Somebody That I Used to Know” (4:25): The band Walk off the Earth’s inventive music video covering Gotye
2. “Address Is Approximate” (2:43): Animated short film about a robot dreaming of the West Coast
3. “Star Wars Uncut: Director’s Cut” (2 hours): Casey Pugh’s crowdsourced remake of the original “Star Wars: A New Hope”
4. “23 and 1/2 hours: What is the single best thing we can do for our health?” (9:19): A whiteboard-animated presentation by @docmikeevans
5. “The Joy of Books” (1:51): Stop-motion animated film of what happens inside a bookstore at night.

Longest videos saved during the same time period:

1. “10 Hours of Darth Vader Breathing” (via Tosh.0, naturally)
2. “Chris Hedges: The American Empire is Over” (Interview, C-SPAN, 2 hrs., 54 min.)
3. “Star Wars Uncut: Director’s Cut” (2 hours, 4 min.)
4. “Richard Feynman: No Ordinary Genius” (BBC Horizon documentary on the theoretical physicist, 1993, 1 hr., 35 min.)
5. “UNLIKE U: Tranwriting in Berlin” (Documentary, 1 hr., 30 min.)

*Read It Later data includes content saved July-December 2011