Saturday, October 21

Morocco’s FollowLetter: an alternative to Google Reader for newsletter lovers?

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by Aline Mayard, September 25, 2013

Trying to collect and read news during the day is often an essential part of work, and yet it can also be massively distracting; an email, tweet, or newsletter can lure us away from efficiency. As we fear that any given piece of news may be lost in the pile of incoming information, staying focused is hard even for the most driven among us.

One solution is saving content for later; some media sites like TechCrunch and Twitter enable you to do exactly that, although they still require you to return to their site to read the news. Other services like Pocket let you save content from any website on one multii-device platform (its sleek ad-free design makes it a personal favorite).

Yet some- especially after the death of Google Reader- are even turning back to newsletters as a means of aggregating the valuable news of the day and saving it to read later. Yet newsletters, which conveniently put everything back into your inbox, can again make e-mail distracting and can quickly clutter an inbox. What’s a good solution?

What about e-mails and newsletters?

In the Arab world, 22 year-old Moroccan freelancer Ossama Benalloucha decided to tackle this problem by offering one of the first ‘slow-reading’ solution in the region:FollowLetter. This “social inbox for newsletters” let you read all your newsletters in one dedicated inbox, share them, and discover new newsletters.

To subscribe to a newsletter through FollowLetter, you have to use a dedicated FollowLetter e-mail address. Therefore, to start using the service, you have to change the registered e-mail address for each newsletter you subscribe to. It’s certainly a bit time-consuming, but after that, a click will suffice to subscribe to newsletter through the discover page, and you may save time on a daily basis.

Slow-reading: taking your time to save time

FollowLetter is working to improve both e-mail management and newsletter management. By uncluttering your inbox, it helps you stay focus on the right e-mails, and by putting aside your newsletters, it allows you to look at them only when you’re ready, and not be distracted by them when you’re in the middle of something else.

This is what slow-reading, a new branch of the slow movement, is all about: wait for the right time to read, and take your time to enjoy reading, and reap the benefits of the increase in your productivity.

Could the Arab world lead this movement?

With FollowLetter, Benalloucha wanted to find a solution to his inbox overload, as well as “show that in the Middle East, there are more than clones, there are also new projects.”

The young Moroccan is counting on his revenues as a freelancer developer to bootstrap his project until he can generate revenues from selling to publishers the possibility to send interactive newsletters.

The idea is good and Benalloucha is certainly ambitious, but at the end of the day, the service’s success will depend on user experience. One thing’s for sure, though: the demand is there, insists Benalloucha, claiming that already 550 people are on the waiting list. It’s a good start but will word-of-mouth and social media presence be enough to spread the word globally, like Benalloucha believes?

We’ll know more in a month when the site’s beta version goes live. In the meantime, you canregister to be notified of the launch.

Personally, I’ve been trying to follow slow-reading’s principles: forcing myself to wait 20 minutes before checking my inbox, and using Pocket to save my readings for the night. I am indeed feeling more focused and less stressed – also, I actually remember what I read! I will definitely try FollowLetter.

What about you? Will you switch to slow-reading? Do you have any tips or services that you would recommend to better manage your online activities?

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