Interview: Arc90’s Richard Ziade Explains Why Readability Is Now A Whole Lot More Than Just Javascript [Exclusive]

Interview: Arc90’s Richard Ziade Explains Why Readability Is Now A Whole Lot More Than Just Javascript [Exclusive]

Readability is an excellent bit of Javascript that strips online content down to its barest and most readable elements, and was borrowed wholesale last year by Apple for the new Safari Reader option in Safari 5.

Late last month, it became even more excellent by relaunching itself as a reading platform in its own right. Launching aside a native iOS app powered by Marco Arment’s excellent Instapaper, Readability is now more than a snip of Javascript code but instead a monthly subscription service that pays 70% of its collected fees directly to the writers and publishers being read.

We reached out to Arc90’s Richard Ziade for a quick chat about what Readability’s new change in scope would mean not just for existing users, but for publishers of web content looking to get paid.

Cult of Mac: In your recent announcement, you said that Readability will soon be an iOS app that leverage’s Marco Arment’s existing Instapaper technology. How will Readability differ from Instapaper?

Richard Ziade: Readability differs in that it really is trying to be a reading platform that spans across web browsers, mobile phones (via a web client) and iOS. Most importantly, it differs in that it has a support mechanism baked in!

Cult of Mac: How did the partnership with Marco Arment come about?

I’ve been a fan of Instapaper for a long time and it turns out he’s based in New York, so I just reached out to him.

CoM: Is there any reason for an end user to keep both apps installed if they both use Instapaper tech? Will Instapaper be phased out?

Ziade: You can use either application. I’m not sure you’d need both though. No, Instapaper is definitely not being phased out. I’m sure Marco has exciting plans for Instapaper.

CoM: Many of publishers’ existing concerns when it comes to products like Readability, Safari Reader or Instapaper is that these maximize the user’s experience at the expense of stripping the monetization mechanism from a site. Readability’s new focus seems to address many of these concerns by requiring a subscription and sharing 70% of all fees directly with content publishers. Is Readability’s new money-sharing scheme an attempt to head off future legal clashes?

Ziade: No. The conversations with publishers to date have been incredibly positive and constructive.

CoM: Can you go into a bit more detail about how Readability will share its fees with content publishers?

Ziade: Once a subscriber pegs some content for reading now or later, a percentage of their fee will be earmarked for the owner of the domain that hosts that article. At the end of each month, we take a look at a subscriber’s activity and earmark according to how much you consume from a particular domain. If 10% of your clicks are to CultofMac, then you get 10% of the 70% apportioned to publishers.

CoM: What happens if someone signs up to be a Readability partner only after their content has already been read by a lot of Readibility users? Will they be paid retroactively?

Ziade: Yes. They will be.

CoM: Outside of the new publishing system, what features and improvements in Readability do you think are going to make the biggest impact for end users?

Ziade: We’re excited about the sharing capabilities. You can share your reading list and share out a shortened url (rdd.me) that has the Readability capabilities baked into it.

CoM: When do you anticipate Readibility will go live on the App Store?

Ziade: Soon! Ultimately it’s in Apple’s hands.

For more information on Readability’s new profit-sharing model and their partnership with Instapaper, please read the official Arc90 blog. Keep tuned to Cult of Mac for news on when Readability’s official iOS app is released in the App Store.

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About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his girlfriend and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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