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Updated: Readability Adds Its Voice To The Apple Subscription Outcry

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One more app publisher is adding its voice to those decidedly against Apple’s new subscription rules for App Store apps: Readability — which creates apps and web services that let users have pared-down, text-based versions of online articles to make reading them easier — has written an open letter to Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) today, attacking the company for a “new policy [that] smacks of greed.”

The letter, written by Readability’s founder Rich Ziade, says that his iPhone and iPad apps are based on a 30/70 split with original content publishers, the same revenue split that Apple would be applying to transactions now made mandatory through its in-app purchasing system. Like other publishers before him, he says such a split would make the business model impracticable.

“If we implemented In App purchasing, your 30 percent cut drastically undermines a key premise of how Readability works,” notes Ziade in the letter.

The rejection of the Readability app is particularly ironic, since last year Apple incorporated the company’s technology into its own Safari Reader button, which appears alongside URLs in the latest version of the web browser and gives users the option to view the page in a pared-down, ad-free format.

Readability only started to introduce its subscription at the beginning of February: $5 per month, $3.50 of which would go to the original content publishers. It announced its iPad and iPhone apps at the same time that it had launched subscriptions; those apps link up with what a user is reading online.

And that online activity is where Readability will focus its energies in the near term. While Readability’s iOS apps may have been put on ice for now, Ziade says the company will now focus its mobile efforts on developing its services for the mobile web:

“Since we re-launched [with subscriptions] we’ve already seen a significant amount of usage across a wide range of browsers, operating systems and devices via the Readability web interface – for both mobile and desktop,” he writes. “Looking ahead, we plan to redouble our efforts to deliver the best possible reading app using the latest best-of-breed web technology.”

One caveat for Zaide and Readability is that the company seems happy to follow Apple’s new terms if Apple itself says it will split its returns 30/70 in favor of publishers as well (!).

We have contacted Zaide to ask if he has heard any more from Apple since the rejection last Friday, and publishing the letter today; how many subscribers the company currently has; and whether the company has plans to publish apps for other app stores, such as Android (which also has imposed a subscription service, but at what appears to be a more favorable rate for publishers, of 10 percent.) We will update as we hear more.

Update: Zaide has been in touch to say that Readability has not been in contact with Apple since it published its letter. Zaide might consider the Android app store in future, but “for now, we’re going to focus on delivering a great app for the web, both for mobile devices and otherwise,” he said.

The company does not share subscription numbers at this point. “I will say that the sign-ups have exceeded our expectations.” said Zaide in an email.

One Response to “Updated: Readability Adds Its Voice To The Apple Subscription Outcry”

  1. Hi Ingrid – There are a growing number of alternative platforms and certain developers are starting to consider these – Apple is no longer the only option. App publishers’ decisions of where they showcase their apps could be influenced by factors like a less restrictive approval processes, more generous revenue sharing arrangements, and a more consultative approach to marketing. – Joe from

    “Ultimately, developers are trying to get in front of as many users as possible, but there are growing numbers of users gravitating to other platforms, and these platforms could offer more low-hanging fruit in terms of reaching more users and monetizing their apps.”