Second, to differentiate its product from the plethora of available read-later browser companions and mobile apps, Readability spiced up its offering with a unique “support the publishers” spin that, as we detailed, allows users to pay for Readability and give 70% of their subscriptions back to the websites they read.
Their new app is certainly gorgeous, but this second point really rubs me the wrong way — and it’s not Viticci’s fault. The thing is that when Readability launched I loved this idea of paying writers and it panned out for me to the tune of $20-25 a month. Not great, but heck it bought me a few burgers.
So let’s lay our cards on the table, here’s my Readability stats:
As you can see in June of 2011 the service basically died for me. Maybe it’s because I have been outspoken about their business model/practices, maybe not. I have talked to a few others and they too have seen the same decline, so I don’t think it is just me.
I included my Feedburner stats in the table so that you can see this is not due to a decline in my readership — the page views show growth as well. This decline has strictly been (from what I see) do to a decline in the usage of the Readability paid service itself. Perhaps these new iOS apps will change that, but I wouldn’t count on it.
Once you give users a free option, they have little reason to upgrade. So while the “pay your favorite writers” mantra is awesome and easy to get behind, so far it hasn’t panned out from what I have seen and I hold little hope that this will change.1
A few have noted that since Instapaper stopped their integration with Readability they stopped paying Readability. If that is the case then I think it says a lot more about Readability and the lack of passion users have for it, than it says about anything else. ↩