Shop More: Reading and advertising
Photo by Salvis Are.

Instapaper has long been one of my favorite apps and online services, giving me a nifty way to tuck away items I want to read later. That save-for-future feature is handy enough, but Instapaper’s greatest service is how it puts content front and center. Instapaper examines a web page, finds the bit with the article, and strips the rest away—all the logos, ads, and surrounding design—so that I can just focus on the text in relative calm.

Readability does something similar, letting you click a button in your browser to instantly reformat the current page in a gloriously pristine and uncluttered display.

Trouble is, the act of liberating this content also chips away at its funding: the ads that support most content-driven sites. Content we want to read deserves our financial support, not just our eyeballs. But ugh: what to do when the ads become unbearable? Readability just introduced a novel revenue system to try to have it both ways. Pay a monthly fee to Readability (whatever you like, but $5 is suggested) and the company will distribute 70 percent of your payment to the various websites whose pages you read with Readability:

As a Readability subscriber, you’ll be a part of something bigger: a sustainable publishing ecosystem. Here’s how it works: every time you use Readability on a particular article, a portion of your subscription fees go right to the content creators. You get a fantastic reading experience. Publishers and writers get compensated for the content you enjoy. Everyone reads happily ever after.

I don’t know that this will revolutionize the online content game, but I very much like the spirit of the gesture. Set your own monthly budget for what ad-free online content is worth to you and then invisibly pay out that amount to the sites you read. If you care for content enough to coax it into the most pleasing visual format, after all, then you should probably care enough to throw a little coin behind that content, too. I’ve ponied up my $5/month, and I’m curious to see where it all goes.

(Also worth noting: Instapaper’s Marco Arment is tweaking Instapaper to talk to Readability in order to give your favorite sites “credit” and steer the appropriate portion of your Readability fee their way. He also built a custom-branded version of Instapaper to act as Readability’s iPhone/iPad app. Great to see these two worthy services working together. Smart people unite!)

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