Ben made some great points in this article that got my attention. I’ve long been an user of Instapaper, but have also kept an account open with Readability and a keen eye on the directions they’ve been taking. And when the Readability iOS apps recently became available, I moved my remaining Instapaper items to Readability.
Hear me on this though: Instapaper is a fantastic app and platform, and Marco is a smart guy who makes good decisions (you only have to read his recent post on learning from competition to see that he’ll make a smart move in response to Readability’s offerings).
I moved to Readability for one reason — I greatly prefer the reading experience. Not just the superstar fonts from the superstar foundry, which has gotten the lion’s share of the attention. It’s also the thoughtful UI decisions, on the iOS apps as well as the web interface.
But Ben made me think my decision over again. The key point:
With Readability, who is the customer? Is the free user the customer? The VC helping fund it? Or is Readability itself the customer and the Publishers the ones paying Readability to do something they never asked Readability to do? (After all they take 30% before paying out to publishers.)
Having recently moved from Google’s products to Apple’s, how could I forget that I am loathe to use a free service where I am the commodity? I worry that the same things that bother me about Google, and Twitter as well, will become an issue with Readability. Ben links to an article that gives a little glimpse that the folks behind Readability may be in the same boat that the majority of the startup, web world has embraced:
Your support documents state that “premium supports the costs to run the service, continued development” and paying publishers. If all of your customers go with a free account, how does Readability intend to make money? We’re still navigating towards a plan in that respect. Right now, we just want to build a big and engaged community.
When a founder says the want to build a platform, then figure out how to monetize it, my neck hairs shoot up.
In this area, Marco has them beat. He’s self-funded, he’s in complete control, and most importantly, he’s a likeable guy. It all adds up to people like me preferring to support the little guy who’s willing to charge for his hard work from day one.
All that to say the jury is still out for me. I’m sticking with Readability for now, but I’m still watching both services. The reality is that we, the users, are in better shape because there is competition in this space.