Hypocr-eadability

That portmanteau doesn't really work, does it?

I've been out of the loop for a bit, but this story just irks me. Richard Ziade, of Readability, posted an Open Letter to Apple about the App Store's new subscription policy.

If you haven't heard, Apple announced a new subscription policy for Apps on iOS. If you break it down, it basically says if you offer a subscription service, you now have to offer the subscription for the same (or lower) price through Apple's In-App Purchase system. That's great for users, but content providers will have to abide by the App Store's 30% rule. Any App or In-App Purchase gives you 70%, and Apple 30%.

Here's the rub: There are a lot of "subscription" services that are not newspapers and magazines. I think Apple was pushing this rule on "print" subscriptions, not EVERY subscription. But no one knows yet.

What I do know is that Readability is a fantastic service. For a small monthly fee, it allows you to see websites without the ads, backgrounds, and distracting design. It gives you a page of dark text on a light background. Readability installs as a bookmarklet and it saves web pages as plain text. It also follows those annoying "next page" links that some sites make you click through to read the article. Those links are completely arbitrary and are only there so the site can get more page views. But I digress. Readablility follows those links and gives you the whole article on one page.

Now that I'm done gushing about it, I'm going to break it down for you. Readability cuts the ads (and therefore the revenue) from sites. In exchange for that, they send the site's owner a cut of their subscription fee. According to their home page,

70% of all membership fees go directly to the people who make the content.

Great. So for a 30% service fee, Readability takes your content and makes it available to their users in a convenient and portable format. That sounds reasonable.

The problem I have is that now, Mr. Ziade says that Apple

smacks of greed

for taking a 30% service fee to take your content and make it available to their users in a convenient and portable format.

See what I did there? Both Readability and Apple take a 30% cut for their service. Readability thinks 30% is OK for them, but not for Apple. But Readability doesn't have a 100-million-user online store to support, or 300 retail locations to staff, or an expectation of new products on a yearly cycle. Readability copies and pastes text. iPads don't design themselves. (Yet.)

Don't get me wrong, I love Readability. I use it. Apple uses the code in it's own Safari browser (just hit Cmd-Shft-R). It's good stuff. I use it daily. But don't get all high and mighty on the world because someone wants to make a little money off of your hard work. Isn't that what you do every day? How many blogs lose CPM advertising because of you? How many PPC ads are not clicked on? (CPM is an amount per 1000 page views, PPC is a pay-per-click ad)

More to the point, you are a text service! Lose all the stress and make a kick-ass web app! There is no reason to make a native app when you can make an HTML5 web app that can do anything your native app can, without all the App Store hassle. And it will work on every tablet and smartphone platform! You're working too hard!

Now that my exclamation points are all out of the way, I do want to point out that Readability did suggest that they would accept giving Apple a 30% cut if Apple, in return, gave 70% of that 30% back to the publishers that Readability gives 70% to. But that seems like a lot of math.