If you are unfamiliar, Readability started with the idea to collect user subscription fees. Of that money, 70% would be dispensed to the online authors being read by their users and Readability would collect a 30% service fee. They may have been motivated by pure intentions, but in reality the business boiled down to Readability acting as an agent for, and collecting money on behalf of, those authors. They did so without the author’s knowledge, and worse, required that the authors join Readability in order to collect any money. Imagine if Apple were to grab source code from around the web and sell it in their Mac App Store without the owner’s permission or awareness. It was questionable at best and should have been better considered.
Today, Readability ended that practice. Richard Ziade on the Readability Blog:
Today, we’re announcing the end of one of those: As of June 30, 2012, Readability will no longer accept reader fees.
Ziade goes on to detail what will be done with the collected money remaining in their bank account:
If you registered as a publisher with Readability, we’ll be sending you any remaining money your site has earned by July 31, 2012, regardless of amount.
If you haven’t already registered your domain with Readability, you have until July 15, 2012 to do so. We’d love to give that money to every domain in our logs automatically, but we need to verify site ownership to keep others from claiming your money. Readability’s publisher registration process includes some important steps that help us do that. Publishers can register here.
But what happens after that? What if we’re not able to get every dollar back into every deserving writer’s hands? We’re going to do the next best thing we can think of. All remaining money that was put aside to be claimed by domain owners will be given to non-profit organizations that speak to the spirit of supporting reading and writing.
They haven’t won over many people with this announcement, despite their capitulation of the service fee business model. To recap, Readability collected money on the behalf of authors without consent, are holding that money until said authors sign up and give personal information to prove ownership, and will give the money away if not claimed. What a scumbag move.
One word: Instapaper.