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Read It Later turning bookmarks into news pages

Read It Later is launching a service called digest that turns your saved bookmarks into a constantly updating news page that's sorted by topic.

Read It Later's new trick is one that long-time users with little time to waste are likely to enjoy. The bookmarking service, which was designed to help people organize and view bookmarks from multiple computers, is launching (in beta) a "digest" that will convert a person's bookmarks into a news page that's sorted by category.

A few years ago this could have been considered a simple exercise in machine tagging. Where Digest does things a bit differently is to automatically create these categories based on what people are saving, so say you never bookmarked stories about business or world travel--they're just not going to show up as categories. However, if either of those things are topics you wish to turn into categories, the tool lets you create your own filters by keyword.

Read It Later digest will take all your RIL bookmarks and put them on a news page that's sorted by topic. Users can even make their own topics by keyword. Screenshot by Josh Lowensohn/CNET

What this means for Read It Later users is that their bookmarks will go from list form to a news page that can be more easily parsed, depending on what kind of content that you feel like consuming. This includes videos, which get sorted out separately from written content. In the future, there will also be "smart templates" that will present content differently depending on where it's from and what it is, giving items like videos and images more prominence--the same way a news site would.

For users of the bookmarking service, both frequent and sporadic, this should be a welcome addition. As Read It Later creator Nate Weiner explained to me in an e-mail, "The order in which you saved things is not necessarily the order you want to read them." That issue continues to be one of the main weaknesses of personal bookmarking sites, which is where social bookmarking services like Delicious have seen success. When people save a bookmark to these places, they can see if--and how many--others have also saved it, which adds an extra element of filtering and promotion.

To that end, Weiner is adding sharing to digests that will let people open up their pages for others to view. Right now, there's not a way to subscribe to these pages like people can do on Twitter and Tumblr, but it's a big change from the standard version of Read It Later, which only lets readers share their bookmarks with a somewhat-vanilla RSS feed.

Digest is going to be a free feature to all Read It Later users while it's in beta. Weiner said he plans to make it into a more fully baked product within the next few weeks at a cost yet to be determined. In the meantime, those interested can sign up here to test out the feature.