Thoughts On The Readability Debacle

A lot of talk has been sweeping the web lately in response to Apple’s new terms regarding iOS in-app subscriptions.

The basic way it works is this:

  • Apple now requires all applications with subscriptions be handled via an in-app purchases
  • This means all applications must adhere to the 70 / 30 rule, giving Apple 30% of the revenue of purchases
  • If your application does not meet the guidelines, or tries to circumvent them, they app will be rejected (or later pulled)

News today came from the maker of the Readability app, letting users know their latest update had been rejected because they voilated the new terms of service.

The big problem for Readability is they already give 70% of their revenue to the people who write the content that is viewed on their application.

Going from a 70 / 30 model where Readability only takes a 30% cut, to one where they are required to give Apple 30% does sound pretty harsh, up front. How will they make any money? The more you dig in, though, the more it makes sense.

Apple is giving Readability access to millions upon millions of users, free advertising, and the potential to make a lot of money. Personally, I think they should put in a change to their model where it works with the iOS terms of service. I don’t think end-users would be too miffed to a small change, especially if the change means they can access the site in a native iOS app.

My favorite, though, was this line from The Brooks Review:

If you want to jump on Tommy’s trampoline then you are going to have to be friends with Tommy and that means going to his stupid birthday parties and playing by his rules — but its a freaking trampoline so its worth it.

Basically, if you want to use their services, you have to play by their rules. But, I’d guess that often, playing by their rules has the bigger reward in the long run.



Ian Hines

The Brooks Review

Readability Blog