Blog Post

ReadItLater aims to be content shifting king

ReadItLater founder Nate Weiner

ReadItLater, the mobile and web app that allows you to save webpages to read later, has taken on $2.5 million in new venture capital. The company is using the funds to make the shift from “quiet giant” app developer to full-fledged tech startup, founder Nate Weiner said in an interview Tuesday.

Since ReadItLater’s inception in August 2007, its growth has been quiet but strong. ReadItLater is now available on iPhone (s AAPL), iPad, Android (s GOOG), Firefox browser, and the web, and has an API on which third-party developers have created versions of the app for other platforms. ReadItLater now has 3.5 million registered users — double the user base of its competitor Instapaper — and is integrated into more than 250 applications. It’s the top paid news app on Android, and is one of the top ten paid news apps on iOS.

All that growth has not gone unrecognized: Weiner has been approached three separate times this year with acquisition offers for ReadItLater. He ultimately rebuffed those offers because the bidders seemed to view ReadItLater as a feature, not a product in its own right. Earlier this summer, Weiner decided it was time to take on outside funding to double down on his vision. “My idea is more along the concept of using it as a platform for shifting content, no matter where you are. What Dropbox does for files and what Evernote does for documents, we can do for web content,” he said. “It became clear to me that if I want to get ReadItLater to where I truly believe it should be, I can’t do it on my own.”

To that end, ReadItLater has now taken on a series A round worth $2.5 million from Foundation Capital, Baseline Ventures, Google Ventures and Founder Collective. The company, which was run solely by Weiner until earlier this year, now has five full-time employees and expects to add three more by year’s end.

ReadItLater offers paid and free versions of its app, and has thus been able to be profitable for most of its history. Now that its taken on funding and more employees, though, the company is starting to burn cash to focus on growth. “When it was just me it was more of a lifestyle business, but going forward having just a paid to free app doesn’t really make sense for what we want to do,” Weiner said. “We are certainly going to play around with different revenue models now.”

The content shifting space is certainly heating up. Earlier this summer, Apple debuted a feature that allows web users to bookmark webpages for later across different devices, and last week Scribd rolled out its Float reading app that has a read later feature. Weiner said he is not phased by the new competition, since he believes that being an independent business is crucial to true content shifting success. “The issue is that Apple can’t solve this problem, Mozilla can’t solve this problem,” he said. “Say you have a Samsung TV, an Android phone, a Mozilla browser on your laptop, and an iPad. To be able to content shift successfully you have to do it ubiquitously among all the platforms.”

4 Responses to “ReadItLater aims to be content shifting king”

  1. You can’t be the “content shifting king” when you don’t have auto-syncing working between some of your devices. It’s been a known issue for a while and yet nothing has been done. Focus on the small things or you’ll end up having people switching to competitors even though they originally chose your service. I did.

    I agree with other do commentors that see ReadItLater as a feature. Thinking it’s a product will probably only make it’s function as a feature worse. Too bad.

  2. I have used, and liked, Read It Later, but for me I find Evernote an all around more valuable tool that does almost everything RIL does, plus a whole lot more. In a field where critical mass is key to long term viability I wonder where RIL will fit in.

    • I use Evernote and Readitlater (the latter more regularly than the former, admittedly). They seem to do completely separate things really well, and I wouldn’t even conceive of using Evernote to archive web pages for future perusal.

      This is what interests me:

      “My idea is more along the concept of using it as a platform for shifting content, no matter where you are.”

      I’m very curious, because I’m with the bidders who thought of Readitlater as more of a feature rather than a product. Really, it does everything I need it to do. Where would they go from here? Social? No thanks, I don’t want other people’s bookmarks, and I also don’t want to have to download a native app. I read content using a browser, so concentrate on that space. I mean, God knows their website for users is Spartan, but do they really need $2.5 mill to spruce it up? Or am I just naive about the costs involved in developing a better website? To me it feels they’ve already kind of solved the problem. Now they have to form better partnerships for integration.

      • Actually Evernote is an excellent web clipper. You can save either the whole page or just the url. I liked RIL but find it much easier to save everything to one place.