Readability, the web and mobile app that lets users organize and read stripped-down versions of web stories, today announced in a blog post that it will end its controversial reader fees program, designed to compensate publishers on the platform for their content. Starting June 30, Readability will no longer accept reader fees.
The payment program, introduced early last year, collected $5 monthly fees from users (then-known as “premium” members) who, in exchange, would receive access to paid features such as a “Read Later” button. The program continued after Readability switched over from a “premium” to a “subscriber” option that made payments optional. Readability originally intended to distribute the funds it collected to the publishers and other online content providers featured on its platform. The program was CEO Rich Ziade’s answer to existing options, such as paywalls and tollbooths, that did little to help publishers monetize content.
However, Ziade writes, “Reading behavior on the Web is incredibly fragmented. Nobody reads from just 15 or 20 sites a month. People read from hundreds of sites a month, creating a vast long tail of publishers.” And, according to Ziade, the vast majority of that tail of publishers never registered with the service in order to claim those fees. Ziade says more than 90% of content providers have left their share of reader fees unclaimed, which leaves $150,000 to date that Readability will now begin distributing to registered publishers thorugh the end of July. Publishers who never registered have till mid-July to do so, and Readability says it will donate any remaining funds to literature-minded nonprofits.