Sustaining a publishing business on the Internet can be a tricky, as many readers expect content for free and adopt tools to strip out advertising. In an attempt to move things forward, two stand-out services—Readability and Instapaper—have announced plans for a new service that makes it easy for readers to compensate their favorite sites.
If you’ve never heard of Readability, it’s a service that strips away everything from a Webpage except for the content you want to read. It’s a lot like the increasingly popular Instapaper (which is probably why our own Dan Frakes liked it in his review), except it works in your desktop browser on the current page you’re reading. A point of contention, however, has been that some of the content Readability (and Instapaper) strips away includes ads—one of the few online revenue sources available to publishers.
This is why the new Readability Project is so interesting. It’s a service that allows you to pay a monthly fee of your choosing to Readability, which is then dispersed between the sites you visit based on the number of articles you read. The minimum payment is $5 per month, but you can pay more if you want (for what it’s worth, I’ve already signed up at $10 to test the waters). “You get a fantastic reading experience,” Readability’s site explains. “Publishers and writers get compensated for the content you enjoy.”
Marco Arment, the developer of Instapaper, announced on his blog that his app will soon gain the option to send your reading logs to your Readability account to participate in the “publishing ecosystem” that the service is building. He also revealed that Instapaper will power a separate, new, and official Readability client, which is due out soon for iPhone and iPad.
Readability is using a 70/30 split for divvying up its fees—70 percent goes to publishers, while 30 percent goes toward keeping the lights on and building better Readability features.
The idea behind the Readability Project is very similar to what the now-defunct Contenture service was based on. However, the approach has a lot more runway this time since it's two popular and entrenched services, not an obscure startup company, that are taking the reigns. If the Readability Project takes off, it’ll be great news for visitors who want to keep reading good content, and publishers who want to keep creating it.