Readability Focuses On Free, Aiming to Enlarge Its Platform

Rich Ziade

You might not be a readability user, but chances are if you’re a tablet owner, you’re relying on their technology everyday.

“It’s a very popular tool,” says Rich Ziade, founder partner of Readability, about the text parsing tool the company developed under the Apache license. “When you’re on an device from Apple or Amazon and you click through to the article view, that’s Readability you’re using.”

Does he regret that his small startup won’t ever benefit from licensing fees these large tech giants could easily afford to pay? “I try not to dwell on the past,” said Mr. Ziade with a wry chuckle. “I think we’re still at the beginning of this movement towards a more readable web.” 

The movement, as Mr. Ziade sees it, is one that favors long form content, strives to make reading on the web as pleasurable as possible, and rewards publishers for the content they create, no matter where and when it is consumed. Readability currently splits subscription fees 70-30 with publishers who sign up for their platform.

“We’re working on what I like to call the “slow” web.” Mr. Ziade said. “I see Marco Arment as one of the pioneers of this movement. The Atavist is another. It’s a kind of counter-culture to the high speed pace of internet publishing.”

Readability has always had a premium and free version, but wasn’t seeing the kind of growth it needed to get to scale. So now its foregrounding its free service and hoping that after users get familiar with Readability they will upgrade to premium and pay a subscription fee.

Mr. Ziade says Readability receives 5-10 requests from developers each week interested in using their API and has a big announcement coming tomorrow night with their first prominent developer partnerships. “Apple and Amazon are building these walled gardens on their platforms that they tell publishers will help them finally monetize. We want to do the same thing, but work on the open web.” Readability Focuses On Free, Aiming to Enlarge Its Platform