Ad-based models continue to erode, and the online subscription programs of many commercial publishers have yet to take off. For publishing to have a healthy future, we need to find better ways of paying for the content we value. Readability’s publisher payment plan was one such attempt—the first of many, we hope.

Why It Didn’t Work

Reading behavior on the Web is incredibly fragmented. Nobody reads from just 15 or 20 sites a month. People read from hundreds of sites a month, creating a vast long tail of publishers. And the great majority of those publishers never registered. Out of the millions—yes, millions—of domains that flowed through Readability, just over 2,000 registered to claim their money. As a result, most of the money we collected—over 90%—has gone unclaimed. As of today there’s nearly $150,000 in earmarked money sitting in a separate, untouched bank account.