The Readability pages may be very elegant, but unfortunately they don’t explain exactly how the system works until you press the ‘sign up’ button. Many people won’t make it that far. When you do click it, you find out that $5.00 is the minimum ‘pool’ amount that you can disburse to your content providers each month. But that can go higher. Maybe $50, if you’re doing a lot of reading for a profitable business. Then Readability tracks what you read, and sends a proportionate micro-share of your monthly fund to the content provider of each article you read on your device — while keeping 30% itself for transfer fees, admin, rights-tracking, servers, and software development. Readability might even be able to make some money selling aggregated anonymous reader data to publishers, although I haven’t dug into their privacy terms to find out. But, on the whole, such a system seems fair. If it takes off, and Instapaper also adopts it, then it could create a viable content payment ecosystem.
I’d love to see it add a slider on which you could decide how much you want to pay the content publisher, and how much should be paid directly to the author of the article. I think that’s something I’d even like to see ethical newspaper and magazine publishers flagging on the article itself — “for every dollar we get for this article in voluntary microfees, 35 cents is diverted directly to the author”. However, given the senile newspaper industry’s attitude to its creatives, and to ethics in general, that may be unlikely. More likely is that they sue companies such as Readability/Instapaper out of existence, once they start making money from ad-stripping. Then the newspapers will launch their own ‘meta payment’ service for the bundling and delivery of reader-selected ad-stripped content.