Tuesday, June 7th, 2011
52

"Read It Later": Republishing is Theft

Yesterday Apple introduced a new version of Safari, along with a ton of other stuff, and it has something they call Reader. Some time back, we'd all heard that Apple was getting into the game, with what people were calling "Reading List," which would let you "collect webpages." This language was suspicious and largely wrong. What Reader does is pop up a nice, easy-readin' overlay over the website you're "at," allowing you to read without distraction—and also to print it or to email it to a friend. It deals with pagination really well; it looks great, and it makes sense.

Its sensible structure is, at least in part, I imagine, because Apple has lawyers. And because big companies are risk adverse, and they know what theft is.

And it does make things read real nice.

Other services in this new and crowded space are sensibly unthreatened by Apple's rollout. There's a lot of words on the Internet, so there's room for a lot of tools to read. But not all these tools operate the same.

There's Readability, which passes something along: "70% of all membership fees go directly to the publishers and content creators in your reading list," they say. People like this: "the best part is that Readability divides up the lion's share of your monthly fee and gives it to the publishers whose content you're reading. So you get ad-free clean reading from all over the web, while the content can still be self funding."

The big jump in thinking there is "self funding." $3.50 each month, divided among everyone on everyone's "reading list"… that's not a replacement for advertising-supported publishing. (Readability is still small, as well—the bulk is not there for actual income at this time.)

Readability wants to attract publishers with an appeal to their self-interest: "You can actively promote this revenue channel with our embeddable reading button"!

But it's not actually a "revenue channel," except at great bulk (if you had three million readers via Readability, that'd be income, and great for writers). As it stands, it's a reduction-in-revenue channel.

Yet it's far more attractive than other options.

There's Flipboard, which sucks content into an iPad magazine form. Flipboard is much-loved and quite handsome. I like it! They have information for publishers too: "What does Flipboard Pages do for me?" their FAQ asks. Well:

Flipboard has attracted a valuable and high-growth audience of social influencers and enthusiastic readers with one of the most popular apps on the iPad. We believe this more beautiful, more readable layout will increase your viewership and cause more people to retweet, share and like your content. Ultimately, we’d like to help you monetize your content better with the addition of stylish, print magazine-like full-page ads.

You? You get paid in Tweets, baby.

Then there's Instapaper, the darling of reading services. (Another product I quite like!) It was pointed out early on that Instapaper is, at best, copyright infringement.

Instapaper costs $4.99 for app use, and it's a "a regular business run by a regular person, so it earns income to cover its costs." None of those costs are fees to republish in full content published elsewhere, which is exactly what Instapaper does. They do however provide an "opt-out" for publishers: "To opt out, have your site’s legal owner or copyright agent click here to contact Instapaper with the internet domain names of the site(s) you wish to opt out of text-parser compatibility. Please provide contact information for identity verification, including a daytime office phone number."

They note that no "major publishers" (whatever those are) have yet opted out.

If you become a publisher who opts out of such things, you have foolishly become a Prince Rogers Nelson, serving C&Ds daily, leaving empty embedded YouTube posts all over the digital world. That'd be dumb! Why not make readers happy? Why not sacrifice some of the money that is coming to writers so readers can be happy? I guess?

If you complained every single time someone decided that an RSS feed was somehow an invitation to republish in full on the web or elsewhere, you'd never have the time to actually help create the material that these people then republish with their own fees and ads. But being put in this situation is particularly cruel, it feels like, to sites that are attempting to prioritize paying writers—something that is a struggle! (And a struggle that will be won, but only after a long time coming.)

I would say that all of these publishers are awesome in many ways at heart! They love reading! They want people reading! And shouldn't use of these tools be a gift from publishers to eager readers? But also it's true that some of the proprietors of these services don't care about the finances of the creation of writing at all. They don't want to see "all that junk": they're hostile; they say things like they don't see why they should feel personally responsible for someone else's ad impressions. They just want to reaaaad and be free, man. But they are responsible, if they want people to make words for them. I hope at least they're downloading someone else's mp3s to listen to while they're reading.

51 Comments / Post A Comment

dudek (#3,694)

This is an interesting article, but how is this different than an RSS feed? I love the awl and read it through RSS. The Awl publishes it's entire content onto RSS so I get to read just the text without ads.

So why does the Awl not truncate it's RSS feed to force readers to read the content on the page.

That said, I completely understand how this is basically stealing content.

finn (#940)

FWIW, the way I use Instapaper means The Awl (or your publication of choice) will receive at least the same amount of ad revenue as before I used such tools, assuming ad revenue is based on impressions (is it?). My Awl reading process often goes like this:

* Open up The Awl homepage. Open up a whole bunch of articles in tabs. (With ads!)
* Read the short articles. Click the links.
* Hit the "read later" button on longer articles to send them over to Instapaper.
* Read articles later on my phone, usually on the subway.

Indeed this often results in ads loading not once, but twice, because if I think an article will have an interesting discussion in the comments, I will then load that page up again to read them. (All of these tools filter out the comments sections as well.) So The Awl is still getting my ad impressions. This would not be the case if I was reading their full, non-truncated feed in Google Reader or NetNewsWire. As @dudek notes, The Awl already publishes every article on the site with no ads right here: http://feeds2.feedburner.com/TheAwl

One possible negative effect of using Instapaper vis a vis advertisers: obviously this sort of behavior affects metrics like time spent on site, etc.

jfruh (#713)

@finn One possible negative effect of using Instapaper vis a vis advertisers: obviously this sort of behavior affects metrics like time spent on site, etc.

These are the sorts of metrics that advertisers are quite keen on when you get into a higher-level CPM (like, beyond just Google & other remnants), alas!

(Also, sometimes I send Awl articles straight to Instapaper from NetNewsWire? I'M A BAD PERSON.)

ogradybt (#3,914)

I really hope this gets sorted out before the going rate for journalists falls below $0.20 CPM. Thanks for publishing so much high-quality content, The Awl! After reading this I reminded myself to whitelist this domain on my adblocking software.

jolie (#16)

@ogradybt But? Most of us (?) (Or is it just me? Oh God, panic attack….) aren't paid.

deepomega (#1,720)

@jolie I got paid per exclamation point for the recipe I wrote.

jolie (#16)

Paging Matt Langer, Matt Langer to the White People's Thing Courtesy Phone.

I get that it's theft…

But didn't a TV exec basically make the same claim about DVRs being theft since you could easily skip commercials? IIRC, he was pretty much laughed off the face of the earth.

What's the way out though? These services are incredibly useful. I read a lot more now that I can do it when I can, rather than when I happen to find an article or when it's on the front page of some site.*

*though duh, obviously I can click a link later but there's something about the convenience in having a single aggregated list ready to go.

Moff (#28)

@forget it i quit: There is not a way out. Mark 2:21-22.

SeanP (#4,058)

@forget it i quit: sorry, but I don't get that it's theft. Organizations that produce websites are putting that content out there for free, for people to use as they wish. This is what the web is. Don't like it? Don't publish on the web, or put your stuff behind a paywall. Seriously, this is like posting content on a handbill and then complaining that people took a picture of the handbill to look at later. Instapaper, is the name implies, is more or less an electronic version of a printed document. Do people think that I'm "stealing" if I print off, saw, an Awl article, and read it later?

The reader's ability to reformat, timeshift, space-shift, and otherwise manipulate content is the web's reason for being. If a publisher doesn't like that, then why is he or she using the web as a medium? You are perfectly welcome to try to make money by inserting ads into your content. I am not, however, obligated to pay attention to them or even to download them. Again, don't like that? Go behind a paywall.

Magazine Design (#13,649)

Wow — what a slippery slope this phenomenon presents for publishers of original web content. Printed matter used to be protected by copyright law, at least in theory, but it seems the web has created an open season on magazine publishers and other content creators. Have we really gone down this road? Is web content truly "free" — both monetarily and in terms of ownership? Perhaps the irony of the authority-deficient web is that there's no one enforcing intellectual property rights. Shouldn't one's original ideas carry certain rights, as in many other aspects of society and business? This seems very distinct from the radio station model, whereby stations promote music, driving sales for record labels while simultaneously generating advertising revenue for the stations. This whole topic raises so many intriguing questions that will need to be sorted out before the web sinks into intellectual anarchy.

deepomega (#1,720)

@Magazine Design: Well note the gray area here – Instapaper et al are not claiming to have written anything on TheAwl. They provide attribution and an opt out and that's more than, say, that person whose recipe was ripped off by a magazine a few months back.

djbsquared (#4,729)

Actually, reader already exists in Safari on OS X. Reader was announced as being added to iOS (for your iPhone or iPad).

Reading List was also announced. Functionally it is almost identical to Instapaper. You can "save" an article on Safari on your computer, iPhone, or iPad and read it later on the others. We do not know if it supports offline reading, which is one of the many wonders of Instapaper.

See here for slightly more informed commenting on Instapaper v. Reading List: http://www.marco.org/2011/06/06/safari-reader-and-instapaper

Harold Harldrotta (#11,523)

what the hell ?!
I'm usually a big fan of this blog
and have recommended and forwarded links to friends on multiple occasions

machine based hyper text transfer is HOW THE INTERNET WORKS !!

the 1's and 0's in the form of XML [including these letters I'm typing]

transfer from one computer to a server to another computer

which is REPUBLISHING them

and it is not illegal it is the modern world of the 21st century

it is the INTERNET

you're basically saying the information super highway is "BAD THING"
because it allows for networked content to be copied from one computer another
that's not a bug, it's a feature!

shall we break our looms like the luddites of old?

and yes I read your blog with RSS and Safari Reader
so I dont have to click on / be distracted by stupid / redundant / obtrusive advertising

The whole city of Sao Paulo 11 million people, [ btw ten times the residency of Manhattan]
removed all the ad's and billboards
look how clean it is !!
http://weburbanist.com/2010/03/06/clean-city-sao-paulo-scrubbed-of-outdoor-ads/

I dont want your Ad's
and will support any service to delete or block them from me
thank you very much

for those running firefox here's adblock
http://adblockplus.org/en/

@Harold Harldrotta Fans of this site read it intact, click on Ad's to support it.

A (sorta) HAIKU BY THE WAHHHMBULANCE-CHASING IDIOT WHO DOESN'T UNDERSTAND THE ECONOMICS OF PUBLISHING

"I dont want your Ad's
and will support any service to delete or block them from me
thank you very much"

SeanP (#4,058)

@Maura Johnston who's really "wahhmbulance chasing" here? HH is correct – the internet is designed to allow the reader to control what he's looking at – not the publisher. If the publisher doesn't like that… well, is there no paper? Print your magazine (and charge for it). Or go behind a paywall. But there should be no understanding on the part of publishers that I agreed to look at their ads in exchange for reading their material… because I didn't agree to that. And frankly, the economics of publishing are not my problem. If you post your material in a public place, you're allowing people to read it. You can't force them to look at any accompanying advertising material, however.

dudek (#3,694)

@Harold Harldrotta Yeah, ads suck, but how do you expect content creators to get paid? Would you be willing to pay a subscription at a rate high enough to replace ads?

And granted, I use these services so I don't have to see ads, but I know that means less ad revenue which is a bad thing for writers.

jfruh (#713)

I was looking at the Readability FAQ and trying to figure out how to translate how it pays publishers into the CPM-speak that we understand, and … you can't? Readers pay a flat fee and you get a portion of that fee based on what portion of their reading they spend on your stuff. In pratice, the more varied their readership, the less you get — even if in absolute terms they read more of your stuff than someone who only uses Readability for a few sites, if one of those sites is yours. You end up rooting for people to read less! I begin to understand how a wary cable network feels, negotiating with Netflix?

In practice, very very few people actually use Readability, since it's not that different from the beloved Instapaper (beloved by me too!), which is free beyond the initial cost of the app. I signed up as a publisher with Readability six months ago, and I have a pretty decent traffic to my site, and in all that time I've gotten one (1) impression via the service. Since Readability doesn't pay out until you've earned $50, I'm not really worried about getting anything from them anytime soon.

I'm Richard Stallman irl.

Pete Clark@twitter (#13,651)

This article is a load of poorly written nonsense. Services like Instapaper are as guilty of copyright infringement as the stationery store that sells paper for your printer.

Hirham (#1,709)

@Pete Clark@twitter Explain how. Instapaper makes money by passing on the writing of others; it pays them nothing.

SeanP (#4,058)

@Hirham neither does my printer. When I print an article, am I guilty of theft?

Elaine (#13,652)

In the year of using Instapaper on my iPhone I've become a reading maniac. Not a skimmer or scanner, but a big old fashion' READER.

90% of news websites have horrible reading layouts. Vile ads dance in our face. Besides, who wants to read while sitting at a machine you've been working at all day? On the mobile side, there are maybe two apps total designed for iPhone or iPad produced by content providers that don't look gross.

Basically, Instapaper has made me literate again. I've resubscribed to NYTimes weekend, added print subscriptions of literary mags and am buying books on Audible monthly. It's enabled me to find more stuff I wanna read, on your website and lots of others that have stuff I actually care to spend time with.

If you're publishing content to the web in 2011 and you don't have an app or any way for me to read with my butt on the subway other than a print stylesheet (you don't have a print stylesheet?) and no media queries to make text just a little bit legible on a mobile device, then you are just a little bit silly.

Off I go to the public library to check out some novels. I don't plan on paying a dime to the authors for reading. Kinda jerky, right?

Moff (#28)

@Elaine: I don't think anyone is arguing that Instapaper et al. aren't great for readers.

Also, libraries tend to be big supporters of print publishers and, by extension, writers—by virtue of buying lots of books, which are only ever in the possession of a single reader at a time. (In the case of brand-new content, libraries help drive author revenue by ordering extra copies of books if demand rises significantly, and by making materials available in limited quantities; if you absolutely have to read a new hardcover the week it's released, you're probably going to have to buy it.) They also promote writers and reading with events and activities, and provide a way for people to test-drive authors whose works they might purchase later. So your analogy is not super analogous.

Elaine (#13,652)

@Moff

It's true about the library analogy (except for the part where I get to test-drive authors — Instapaper totally lets me do that).

I'm saying that readers get into reading via Instapaper and that could be great for writers / publishing industry as a whole, as I think it has made me more of a $$ paying consumer of media.

What I see is that Instapaper is plugging the gaps that websites like this one have in a landscape where people don't want to read at their desk when they have a little pocket reader-thingy. The Awl and all sorts of sites like it could do a few simple things (like using CSS media queries for handheld, or their own reading stylesheet for traditional browsing) to prevent people from even thinking that such things as Instapaper should need to exist.

Point being, it's not that Instapaper is so great, it's that websites are so damn bad. Don't want us to use Read Later on our iPhones? Fine. Just throw us a bone here, it's not like I can even subscribe to this thing in print or buy an app or whatever.

jfruh (#713)

@Elaine The Awl actually has a great mobile stylesheet! Have you looked at it?

The genius thing about Instapaper (which, I should emphasize, is something I use and enjoy!) is not that it just provides a cleaner layout for reading; it provides a way to read something later. In the process, the ads are stripped out.

collier (#13,548)

@Elaine Seriously, most newspaper sites are so cluttered and badly organized that ARGH SENSORY OVERLOAD MY EYES THEY ARE BROKEN.

I don't mind ads in principle — many niche sites that have advertisers who likely share a demo with the site, I'm down with that. First in mind, Mod Cloth and ShanaLogic ads on CuteOverload. I was pleased to discover both of those via their CO ads.

But most big online publications? All the ads are currently one of three things: 1) lower your bills/check your credit/refi your mortgage, 2) omg what if you die? [pic of ostensibly sobbing adolescent clutching tombstone] buy some insurance you asshole, and 3) AMAZING SECRET TEETH WHITENER BY A MOM / One trick for a flat belly U R FAT CLICK HERE.

If only big online publishers could figure out how to do a site layout that doesn't suck, and isn't a seizure-inducing pastiche of headlines and slideshows and 400 tiny bullet lists and LIKE/SHARE/RSS/REDDIT/TWEET/SEND/SHARE/VOMIT/KILL ME oh god it hurts, AND if someone could figure out how to make online ad buys more appealing to decent advertisers and LESS appealing to SpamCo, Inc…

mae (#6,538)

Before publishers freak out about losing revenue to the text parsers, they should perhaps pause and remember that the vast majority of their users are too stupid to figure out that these tools exist, much less use them. A dent in profits, maybe. Also what about when I just want to save things I like for later? As in, after I read them once and they're so good or informative or whatever that I want to make sure they don't disappear from my life. I do that quite a bit with Awl posts, honestly.

As a reader and general decent web citizen, I'm mildly annoyed at sites that put breaks in their RSS feeds and more often than not I just don't read further. Because, you know, I'm making a statement. Apparently I hate looking at advertising more than I hate not being paid to write sometimes?

KarenUhOh (#19)

Jeez. Who the hell was ever silly enough to think [s]he could make a living off ideas, tastefully arranged?

amuselouche (#448)

Wouldn't Instapaper be more analogous to a VCR (which is legal "time-shifting" use under copyright case law)? Granted with a VCR the ads remain, but you can skip them over very easily. Also the way I use Instapaper involves a visit to the main site – while I get that the decreased time on the site itself has an effect on some ad metrics, I'm not sure it would be enough to show infringement. Interesting though.

@amuselouche It's funny you mention that you visit the main site to add things to Instapaper. I just realized tonight that my current reading workflow is to view articles/headlines/snippets in Feedly on my phone and then sometimes click on the Read It Later button to read later in the subway.

Your comment made me realize I haven't actually visited Mashable for example in nearly a month. Yet I've read a few posts a week.

amuselouche (#448)

@forget it i quit. Heh, well, I will be the first to admit that I may be using Instapaper like the Luddite that I am (frankly, I am amazed that I used Instapaper at all). I mainly use it through Longreads or Google Reader both of which require a click through (unless I am just doing it wrong which is 100% possible). My understanding of Feedly is that it is basically a stylized RSS? If so, it's possible that there are permissions/opt-outs involved, but if not and it is allowing you to use Instapaper or otherwise save articles for later without visiting the main site, it may have a pretty big infringement issue itself.

Regardless I will would like to state for the record that I will happily pay the Awl whatever it wants.*

*Cats. It wants cats.

amuselouche (#448)

@amuselouche Ha! Nevermind! I just tried using Instapaper by just clicking on the body of the article in Google Reader (which had truly NEVER occurred to me before) and it totally worked. Yeah…they should definitely change that.

robertgspence (#2,004)

@amuselouche In fair use cases like the Sony VCR case, the effect on content producers'/authors'/publishers' profitability is one of the 4 main considerations. Given the extensive web metrics available, I think it's pretty easy to say Instapaper et al cost authors/publishers advertising revenue, which is often the primary source of revenue. Transforming mediums is also not among the greatest fair use defenses, especially when that transformation is centered around killing the revenue source. Instapaper also makes money on others' content, which never helps a defense either.

amuselouche (#448)

@Spence All true – although all of that was pretty much the case for the Betamax in the Sony case as well and the court still decided that the time-shifting of television shows through VCRs was a significant non-infringing use. You are definitely right though that the more Instapaper moves people away from ad revenue and the more money they make off of their service, the weaker their case will be. Right now it seems like they are small enough that content providers have found that the marketing potential out-weighs the effect on ad revenues (especially since Instapaper allows providers to opt out of the service), but who knows how long that will last.

So, am I to conclude that the New York Times's publication of a 6,848-word piece on getting high at Disneyworld is evidence pro or contra the death of publishing?

Anarcissie (#3,748)

I am kind of surprised to hear that people sometimes get paid for writing. I mean writing writing, not the kind of blather that appears in the Times, or advertising, or industrial-technical writing. I'm a good writer in a variety of modes and the most I ever got was $50 for a poem written in my teens, that is, back in the early Middle Ages when things were different anyway. I'm talking about stories, essays, reasoned opinion about politics, that sort of thing. (I've made piles of money from technical writing as a sideline to computer programming, because I'm one of the few programmers who can or will write readable English. But that's not what we're talking about here.) The HuffPo uproar confirmed my suspicions that people simply do not get paid for writing unless, of course, they Know Somebody, or they're mighty lucky. There are thousands, maybe millions of people already writing for nothing and publishing their material on the Net, and often they're better than the official authors. With that kind of supply – demand ratio, price is going to fall to zero. Has fallen to zero. Very rapidly.

So all the excitement here about someone abstracting stuff off the Net into readers, thereby depriving the site of advertising revenue, which is somehow supposed to filter back to the actual writers, strikes me as even more remote from reality than the excitement about how downloading MP3s deprives Sony and Warner Brothers of money which would otherwise somehow trickle down to the musicians. For most musicians, as for most writers, it doesn't happen that way. The money — almost all of it — goes to capitalists, lawyers, and other con men. A very few artists win the lottery, and the others — as far as the publishing industry goes — labor in vain.

Musicians can give performances and sell downloads. I don't know what authors can do, but I strongly suspect that the old method of allowing someone else to act as a choke point for your works and hoping to get a few crumbs from his table is not going to work any more. I know I won't buy anything again that doesn't go straight to the author or composer. I myself am planning a site which will be copylefted, and we'll see what happens.

SeanP (#4,058)

@Anarcissie excellent. Shorter: Attention publishers and writers: the world doesn't owe you a living.

Look, I think the Awl is a very good web magazine (or whatever the Awl is). I'd be willing to pay to subscribe to it. But I'm simply not willing to look at ads.

Moff (#28)

@SeanP and Anarcissie: Sure, sure. You're not wrong at all. That doesn't mean there's no problem, though.

The problem — specifically where the Awl is concerned (and totally ignoring the larger issue of how much havoc this paradigm shift is wreaking on our culture, and whether it stops with just writers writing for free*) — isn't really whether people are willing to produce quality writing for free. The problem is whether people are willing to edit it for free, where "edit" means not to copyedit but to gather and select and format and provide a larger context for it.

I mean: Clearly there are people willing to write for the Awl, and other sites, for little or no pay. There is empirical evidence of it, and of the quality of their work!

But Balk and Choire are quite arguably far more essential to the overall tone of the site, to making it the very good web magazine you've come to view as a reliable source of reading material. And should that hypothetical day arise (maybe it won't!) when they can't make any money doing this (and of course, by that I mean: "when they are no longer making the not-that-much money doing this that they haven't been making very long"), then what?

I guess you can have a whole bunch of independent amateur bloggers producing content like the Awl's and hope that, via social media and shit, a system shakes out whereby such content is automatedly aggregated by virtue of input from the masses. Or I guess you can have web magazines run by people in their spare time, and maybe they love it so much that there's no significant decline in quality. I don't think I'd gamble on either of those possibilities, but they are possible.

*HINT: IT PROBABLY DOESN'T.

Baroness (#273)

@Anarcissie I mean writing writing, not the kind of blather that appears in the Times

The NYTimes has its famous flaws, but it is not mere blather, it is still the best newspaper in America.

I know I won't buy anything again that doesn't go straight to the author or composer.

So you'll never buy a book or a record again ? Yes, that will really broaden your cultural horizons, limiting yourself like that to self-published works. That will help your quixotic cause. Uh, give me a break. I'll agree publishing and more direly music are in bad ways as cultural industries, but they also employ vast armies of people -editors and designers etc.- to get that book into bookstores. Most authors, at least ninety-five percent, aren't very good to begin with. Giving such specific primacy to authors alone, and ignoring that 100 people have jobs because his or her terrible book is being published, seems kind of pointless. Yes, the system sucks, but it's what we have right now. Very very few authors get rich from publishing with an established house, just as most musicians see little money from their labels. But what the publishers and labels can do is get your name out there, give you legitamacy. "Straight to the author" – even if the author is fucking terrible? Because if most published authors are bad, believe me, the self-published are far far worse. Good luck with your project of only buying content from the author or composer!

Baroness (#273)

@SeanP : Attention publishers and writers: the world doesn't owe you a living.

And no true writer/artist/musician has ever thought "the world owes them a living". Sorry, I just really hate that resentful expression toawrds artists. It's true there's an awful lot of subsidized amateurs out there. They won't last, they will get resepectable jobs. Most artists give up or forgo a lot- money, a steady salary, health insurance, a pension, bourgeois respectability. Peace of mind. The financial stability to start a family. They do it because they have to. Time weeds out the poseurs. But no real artist thinks the world owes them a living. Real artists fight for their living every day.

joeclark (#651)

Instapaper does not “make money” on every article it saves and presents. Arment makes money when you buy the app once for $4.99.

Instapaper is nothing more than a text-only Web browser, analogous to Lynx (which I use every day) but with fewer features. I have used Lynx's mail-a-Web-page article for a decade and a half to save Web pages (500MB worth). There is no difference between what Instapaper does and what Safari on your iPod Touch does when you load a page inside the coverage area of a wifi hotspot, go somewhere without a net connection, and read the page.

There is no clause within the HTTP specification that requires reading of an article concurrent or immediately after its loading. Deferred reading is such an accepted feature of the Web that entire blogging platforms and plugins are built on it (e.g., the caching model of Movable Type and the WP-Super-Cache plugin for WordPress). Nor is there a requirement to load everything on a page; not only can you turn off Flash, you can turn off images, scripts, and actually a bit more beyond that.

The Web is fundamentally about suggested usages: We suggest this HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. You may opt out of any of those at will.

The Readability subscription feature is merely an option. The Readability bookmarklet works fine without it.

Alternate visual presentations of Web sites have been used for over a decade for accessibility and other purposes. Opera is particularly replete with alternate browser stylesheets.

Read-later features are not “copyright infringement”; they are Web browsers.

shudder (#5,913)

@joeclark

Exactly.

Sabin Hinton (#8,850)

There seem to be two camps here: those who understand the underlying technology of the internet and the world wide web and those who think that taking a photo of someone is the equivalent of stealing their soul.

I certainly understand the need to gain revenue from advertising online, and I actually don't begrudge it. But I also don't begrudge telemarketers (much!) and I'll actually listen to some guy at Best Buy try to sell me the latest and greatest iThingy (but not the epically dishonest protection plan) because I understand the fundamentals of making money, which is- I can't sell you stuff you don't know about.

Now if the author of this article can honestly say that she or he doesn't skip the commercials on TiVo or actually listens to some guy who is trying to sell you cds or bean pies, or expensive-looking watches on the side of the street, then I'll honestly consider the argument that others not reading ads is theft.

As all advertising, I read it as a courtesy to the idea of a robust market – and it doesn't offend me to read about something, even an advertisement, that interests me – but I'll be damned if I'm guilted into the same out of some sense that I'm depriving an artist/journalist/blogger of their revenue.

Full disclosure, I understand the technobabble these guys are spouting, but I have two methods of browsing the web – when I'm at work, I RSS. When I'm on my own time and able to contribute to the community, I go to the website itself – with the caveat that sometimes I forget about websites completely. I'm a nightmare for advertisers, because I don't use shortcuts, I clear my history at every turn, and I type in the websites all the time (no bookmarks)! It means that when I go to a site, of course, I really want to go to a site.

It should be noted that the "Read it later" feature is different than the "Reader" feature that you mention in your article. Reader – which has been available in the current version of Safari for some time – does as you say it does and will reorganize a page that you visit with only the article text. Note you have to visit the original page first.

The new feature "Read it later" is little more than an organized bookmark menu that is synced through iCloud to devices. Clicking on a link in "Read it Later" brings you to the original article (and you have to go to the original article to save it to the list) and not to a "Reader" version of the page (or a republished version). Though once you get to the article it is one button click to then view it in Reader.

And don't worry you can have this little piece of "investigative" information for free.

Anarcissie (#3,748)

I shouldn't really criticize the Times since I haven't read it (except for chance articles referred elsewhere, such as the faux-druggie link given above) in many, many years. I remember when I gave it up: the paper was discussing methods of extruding the homeless from the Columbus Circle area in the Times's own special mode of insufferable bourgeois entitlement. I realized if I wanted to keep my temper I would have to abjure the Times. I heard about Judith Miller, though.

As for publishers (whether of words, music, art, or whatever), the fact is that in the case of anything published on the Internet the material cost of publication has already been almost entirely paid in advance by the audience. This means that the publisher is, or will soon be, economically unnecessary. The response of publishers to this situation has been rent-seeking through the creation of artificial monopolies using force (the government). I see no reason to support that sort of thing when I can pay authors, composers, editors, arrangers, and so on directly. I don't agree that self-published authors are particularly bad*, but if I do become concerned with quality, there is a huge body of work composed from the dawn of historical time until almost the present — the black hole of modern copyright — which is available to me for free, or at most a couple of dollars at Strand, and which is far more variegated than the ever-narrower scope of contemporary publication.

* Look at http://www.sitasingstheblues.com and tell me it's bad.

@dudek I get most of my links via Twitter, either directly or from pages that I originally went to via Twitter. Tweets are ephemeral, and there are a lot of them. I need to capture those links, read what I can now, read the rest later.

If I'm on my laptop I, like commenter finn, open each link in a new tab, read the short ones now, the longer ones later. Just regular web surfing, no one gets hurt.

But if I'm on my iPad or my phone, I can't open 40 browser tabs. So I throw the longer reads to Instapaper to read later.

With Instapaper I'll [usually] eventually read your content. Without Instapaper, I'd just say "I don't have time to read this now, so I guess I'm SOL", and never read it at all. Which do you prefer?

Josué@twitter (#15,692)

From the Instapaper website: "Link your Readability account to support the sites that you save pages from. Instapaper will automatically report the articles you save to Readability to credit their publishers."

I don't know how many people use this apparently underpublicised feature, but it's a little disingenuous to say that Readability is "far more attractive" than Instapaper – the two services can operate in tandem to support publishers a little.

(In my personal experience, if a website has a few respectful and taseful advertisements and the text is thoughtfully designed, I'll happily read it right there. I'll head for Instapaper and Readable when the text is horribly jammed toghether and there are numerous distracting, pulsating banners fighting for my attention.)

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