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Safari Reader: Apple’s weapon of mass destruction

June 7, 2010
By

Steve Jobs gave his usual keynote address at WWDC today. The iPhone took center stage, as expected. But there was another announcement that web publishers should take note of and should dread: Safari 5.

The release of Safari 5 does not bode well for web publishers. Specifically, the inclusion of a feature called “Safari Reader” may ultimately prove financially devastating for many web publishers.

Here’s how Apple describes it on their site:

Safari Reader removes annoying ads and other visual distractions from online articles. So you get the whole story and nothing but the story. It works like this: As you browse the web, Safari detects if you’re on a web page with an article. Click the Reader icon in the Smart Address Field, and the article appears instantly in one continuous, clutter-free view. You see every page of the article — whether two or twenty. Onscreen controls let you email, print, and zoom. Change the size of the text, and Safari remembers it the next time you view an article in Safari Reader.”

I highlighted the two worst parts of the description:

1. No ads.

2. Multi-page articles are now essentially one page.

The End of the Web Advertising Business Model?
This is absolutely disastrous for web publishers! As if people using ad-blocker extensions in Firefox isn’t bad enough, now Apple has made it so that an extension isn’t even necessary. Now the ad blocker is built into the browser and, to add insult to injury, users don’t even need to click to view multi-page articles.

Why are multi-page articles so important? Many web publishers get paid based on the number of ad impressions they generate (usually it’s cost per thousand ad impressions). This means that long articles are broken up into multiple pages so that a certain number of ad impressions can be generated per page view. Safari Reader only loads the ads on the first page of an article. The ads found on subsequent pages do not load in Safari Reader, only the content of the article loads.

Safari Reader attacks the ability of publisher’s to monetize their content.

Apple has essentially destroyed the web publishing model completely with the release of Safari 5. This is the equivalent of dropping a nuclear bomb on the entire web economy. It’s a weapon of potential mass destruction for web publishers. Publishers now have absolutely no control over how their content is displayed in a browser and if the content can even be monetized in a significant way or not.

Good! I Hate Ads Anyway!
I know that some people out there will be cheering Apple on and are probably thinking “Good! I hate those damn ads! I’m glad Apple gave me an easy way to get rid of them! And now I don’t even have to click to read entire articles!”

Fair enough but don’t bitch when the content sites you love to read go out of business for lack of revenue, or have to resort to a subscription model to try make enough money to survive.

Make no mistake; this kind of built-in browser feature is going to hurt web publishers like hell financially. It’s already difficult enough for publishers to make money in this awful economy. Many publishers have laid off staff and/or shut down sites, and this is just going to make things even worse.

Safari Reader in Other Browsers
The issue here isn’t just Safari 5 though, Safari Reader is a harbinger of things to come.

Watch for Firefox and Internet Explorer (and perhaps even Chrome) to copy this feature soon. It will proliferate throughout all browsers and it’s going to eat away at what little is left of the ad-based web business model.

Yes, I know that there are extensions for various browsers that already contain some of the functionality of Safari Reader. But this time it’s built-in. It requires absolutely no effort or knowledge on the part of a user to install an extension or even to turn the feature on. One click on the “Reader” button and ads are completely gone. And, unlike some extensions, there is no way for the user to “white-list” the site.

An article on my Linux blog as it was meant to be seen.

The same article in Safari Reader. So much for an advertising based business model.

Publishers will have to consider themselves lucky if they manage to get any ad impressions when Safari users hit the first page of the article. After that the entire thing will load up in Safari Reader  with no more ad impressions.

The Arrogance of Apple
We all know that Apple is an arrogant company. They’ve proven it many times in the past. And I say this as someone that owns an iPad, iPhone, iMac, etc. I’m not an Apple basher. But this really takes the cake. To build a feature like this into their browser and then arrogantly dismiss web advertising as “…visual distractions…” shows a serious insensitivity to the business model of web publishers.

I suspect that most publishers are not yet aware of what the consequences of Safari Reader might be over time. But when they figure things out, Apple is probably going to catch hell for doing this. I doubt they will care though, I suspect that there’s another reason that they did this.

And it involves one of their biggest rivals…

Google Versus Apple: Publishers Caught in the Crossfire?
I have to wonder if this is just a way to attack Google, one of Apple’s chief rivals. Google is deeply dependent on advertising and Safari Reader removes all ads, including Google Adsense. Did Apple decide to do this to screw with Google? Is the entire web publishing model being put on the chopping block just so Apple can undercut the revenue of one of its chief rivals?

If I were Google, I’d consider a lawsuit against Apple for this. What kind of business will Google have if ad blockers are deliberately built into browsers like this? Where is most of Google’s revenue going to come from?

A government inquiry into Safari Reader might also be a good idea. I’m not big on the government being involved in business but I think somebody needs to start asking some questions about why Apple put this feature into Safari. No other major browser has a feature like this built into it (yet). It could be construed as a malicious act on Apple’s part, since it deliberately designed its browser to purge advertising and reformat content.

It really is a direct attack on the web economy on Apple’s part and I think it simply cannot go unanswered by companies like Google, and by web publishers who are so dependent on advertising to pay their bills. Apple is playing some serious dirty pool here, under the guise of giving Safari users a new feature.

Final Thoughts
Aside from the consequences to the web publishing economy, I suspect there may be some consequences for Apple itself. It’s going to generate a lot of ill will for the company, once word gets out about it.

Apple had been looked on as some sort of savior for media companies with its iPad device. I doubt many companies will appreciate Apple destroying their ad-based web publishing businesses while simultaneously trying to get them to create apps and content for the iPad.

Or perhaps that’s part of Apple’s plan? To drive publishers to financial dependency on Apple’s devices, where Apple totally controls the advertising experience and the revenue sharing?

Currently ads cannot be blocked in iPhone or iPad apps. Will Apple also build an “iPhone app ad blocker” so that users can also block Apple’s own “iAds” platform? I doubt very much that we’ll see anything like that. It wouldn’t be in Apple’s self-interest.

For my part, I have decided to hold off on buying any more of Apple’s products. While I enjoy them, it’s hard for me to support a company that has decided to attack web publishers this way. I earn a lot of my living right now writing for my blogs and Safari Reader essentially removes my ability to monetize my blogs. It basically takes my content and puts it out there for free, in a different format than I intended when I wrote it.

I wonder how Steve Jobs feels about people pirating his company’s software? My guess is that he doesn’t like it very much. Goodness knows he didn’t seem to like a lost iPhone prototype showing up on a blog. But he apparently feels it’s perfectly okay for his browser to strip away a web publisher’s advertising and change how their content is displayed, without the publisher’s consent.

That, my friends, is hubris on an epic scale; and hubris always comes back to haunt those guilty of it.

Always.

What’s your take on Safari Reader? Is it a way for Apple to get at Google? Tell me in the comments.


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102 Responses to Safari Reader: Apple’s weapon of mass destruction

  1. Dominik on August 19, 2011 at 3:40 am

    The Safari Reader, from a user perspective, is a relief. Not only b/c of ads but also b/c of bad webdesign. It really makes certain websites readable for the first time.

    I am curious about whether we’ll see less web advertising in the future. I doubt it, but after all who knows.

  2. Nathan on August 19, 2011 at 3:09 am

    @ Jim:

    I agree with David, irrelevant and intrusive ads make the internet feel like you are driving over pot holes all the time – makes for a bumpy uncomfortable ride. I think, Jim, simply being apologetic is not very constructive. David is one of your readers, and finds it irritating to click (unnecessarily) three pages (for this article) – as I do also. Yes, of course we can read something else, but we’ve engaged in your article and discussion. Simply telling your readers to walk away (after encouraging them to discuss the issue) is hardly a useful or high quality response.

    Ultimately, the user will decide and inform the market and not listen to someone like you preaching about why we shouldn’t block your (irrelevant and annoying) ads. Ot is well documented that we site visitors are fairly adept at tuning out the ads (except you have one that talks loudly). No one really clicks them any more.

    Website ads are simply corporate graffiti. If someone came and spray painted your wall, you’d think it unsightly in much the same way. The ads are just a kind of legitimate site vandalism – tagging your wall to try and impress people, but ultimately, as David mentions, ruins the web experience in the same way that a graffiti and urine stained elevator is unpleasant to ride in too.

    The reader feature in Safari, may just empower the user to speed up the process and get rid of bad ads altogether.

  3. pootpoot on August 18, 2011 at 8:39 pm

    “Devastating, absolutely disastrous, destroyed completely, dropping a nuclear bomb, weapon of potential mass destruction …”

    You forgot to liken the Safari Reader to the holocaust. Duh.

  4. Dominik on March 12, 2011 at 4:18 am

    From a web user’s perspective… the reason why I use (and greatly appreciate) tools like Safari Reader is not primarily ads (though I don’t particularly care for them either). It is BAD WEB DESIGN.

    There are so many websites with fixed widths and bad typography that opening them in the reader is really making them legible for the first time. This is in many cases a salvation of sorts for me.

  5. Nathan on December 5, 2010 at 11:43 pm

    Covering the page with ads is only one web publishing model out of many – and one that makes for an extremely poor user experience. The reasons for this are at least twofold:

    1) Pages covered in adds (especially flashing ones) and requiring multiple page clicks are pretty vulgar to look at and extremely hard to read, as well as fatiguing.

    2) The viewer has essentially ‘paid’ to view content despite the fact that the content has no quality control. The article or content could be poorly or well written and the audience has no choice in the payment for this.

    The general web user experience is lowered by both of these points: Lousy ‘design’ and no quality control for content.

    Personally I think this payment system, as others are pointing out here, is on its last legs as we move to a more quality based models.

  6. Simone on September 28, 2010 at 11:46 am

    Dear Jim Lynch,
    learn how to WEB DESIGN and your users won’t use Reader.
    About the 99% of good web designers have studied book design to make the web a better place. Web is not “chaos and colors”. Your website is chaos and colors. And it is NOT WORKING.
    So, instead of make the arrogant, you’d be better learning some design principles.

  7. Jan Schjetne on July 5, 2010 at 7:14 am

    Wow this site is really hard to read. Maybe you should take a hint from Reader and make your typography choices a whole lot easier to read? Just because you have ads on your site doesn’t mean it has to be butt ugly. I’d have never a paragraph of read this article if it hadn’t been for Safari Reader.

    How about text ads mixed in with your content? That won’t be stripped out by Reader, will it?

    But yeah, make your website easier to read and you’ll find that Safari Reader is not at all a problem for you. All I can see now is ads and unreadable text blocks. And it ain’t pretty. Loosen up your line heights and give the text some room to breathe. If your ads have to be shoved up in the text to be noticed chances are your ads aren’t relevant to your readers.

  8. Munjeet on July 1, 2010 at 8:27 am

    The styling used in Reader by default does not suit modern tastes, so I have modified this and made it available for others to download at http://www.munjeet.com/comment/apple-safari-reader/

    Installing this custom style mod for Safari 5′s Reader feature will give a far more readable plain white background, cool grey Helvetica or sans-serif font with basic styling to support headlines tables and a clean scrollbar amongst others. Instructions on how to install and screenshots can be found at http://www.munjeet.com/comment/apple-safari-reader/

    Feedback welcome :happy:

  9. Dave on June 25, 2010 at 4:29 pm

    Maybe you need a business model that doesn’t rely on annoying users.

    Also, you prominently feature the RSS feed for your blog at the top of this page. An RSS feed separates the content from the presentation, the same way Safari Reader does, but RSS goes one further by allowing people to read your content without even visiting your site (horrors!).

    But if you really do think this is going to kill your ability to make money, I suggest you use your analytics for this site to track the ad clickthroughs coming from Safari, and compare those numbers post-SR to what you got pre-SR, and then start drawing conclusions instead of this ridiculousness.

  10. Matthew Cornell on June 23, 2010 at 10:52 am

    I see your points, and at the same time, using Safari Reader is a delight. See the readability arguments above. It’s pulling me from Firefox, which says a lot. Now if only I can get it to be the default… (BTW, one of the absolute worst, most invasive, most hideous UI feature is one that you’ve enabled here – those Vibrant popups. When I see them I usually just close the tab immediately and move on. It’s a clear example of what’s possible vs. what’s usable. Ick!)

  11. Scott on June 22, 2010 at 4:21 pm

    The only reason a story is broken up into pages is to get more ad impressions. Its not for the user and thats what it needs to be about. Websites have too many tricks up their sleeve to get users to keep clicking when they should be able to just scroll down and read the whole article.

  12. Nathan on June 18, 2010 at 10:26 am

    I think that comes out of something very Apple and point to something very Apple. It comes out of looking at a common experience and imagining how it could be better, then enabling that improvement to user experience. That’s how Apple’s made every successful product in heir stable. Having “killed” web publishing, Apple has already created the perfect venue for any publication that wants to control how their written content is presented : an publication through an app or iBooks. These are now complete with ads.

  13. Fumo Mofu on June 15, 2010 at 5:23 pm

    Jim, I do not believe that this new feature will reduce the revenues from ads. In my experience, most people do not click on ads anyways; the people that do are either children or less intelligent people. Taking this into consideration, these types of people would not realize that there is a Reader function anyways. QED

  14. anthony on June 15, 2010 at 1:59 am

    Finally, someone is paying attention to us READERS — i.e., the CUSTOMERs of all of these horrible websites that are just one bloated billboard. Thanks APPLE for liberating us from the tyranny of these distractions and such.

    I’ve always hated the way that so many sites have manipulated their readers by placing a simple article over 5 or 10 pages — each one more obnoxious than the previous one with its bombardment by mindless advertising. This is just — at long last — a blow for us consumers of content.

  15. Richard McPike on June 14, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    Go ahead and make those hostile “link” ads black, they’re still just as bad. The problem with those VIbrant ads is that they lie to users. They look like links, but they’re advertising. They don’t offer anything of value, just bad deals and lame ads. You devalue the link model of the Internet by using ads that look like links but which are just you grubbing for more money. How do I know that a black link is an ad? For all I know, that might be how you format unvisited links, or visited links. In any case, the underline encourages me to mouse over them as they might be useful or interesting to me. But they are not.

    You say “others might find them useful.” I call BS on that. No one likes those ads. I challenge you to show any evidence that anyone likes those ads.

    Ads that make noise, ads that look like normal Internet elements (links) but are really something else, ads that fight for your attention — these things make the web worse. If you have to make the Web worse to make money, then something is wrong with your site.

  16. Brendan on June 14, 2010 at 3:21 pm

    Sounds like bloggers will need to come up with a business model besides “annoy your customers”. Oh no..

  17. Trevor on June 14, 2010 at 1:46 pm

    Personally, I think this is a fantastic feature. I’m so sick of seeing 20 page articles spread out over pages with 100 word paragraphs per page, just so that the website author can shove more ads down my throat. Advertising on the internet is getting out of hand, and it’s coming to the point where there’s more ads than real content.

    That being said, if you have something that the length warrants separate pages then go for it, I’ll gladly click through and read the article. if I have to hunt for the content because of all the ads tossed in the middle of text blocks, it’s simply not worth it.

  18. J. Mohn on June 14, 2010 at 12:56 pm

    90% of the Web is crap including your blog. Who would pay for a subscription for your blog ? Nobody.

    I don’t mind paying quality sites like the New York Times a monthly fee.

  19. Jim on June 14, 2010 at 9:42 am

    BTW everybody, the follow up to this column is up. Here’s the link:

    The Safari Reader Arms Race
    http://jimlynch.com/index.php/2010/06/14/the-safari-reader-arms-race-begins/

  20. Jim on June 14, 2010 at 9:41 am

    Hi Richard,

    Thanks for the feedback. Please note that the Vibrant ads are in black text. It’s quite easy to distinguish them from a regular link since the regular links are in blue. I respect that you don’t care for those links but others might find them useful or interesting. I tried to make sure that I implemented them in a way that made them less distracting then they usually are.

  21. Richard McPike on June 14, 2010 at 2:30 am

    I can understand the concern about the loss of ad revenue, but you lose me the second I mouse over a “link” in your article and am confronted with the filth that is a VIBRANT POP UP AD. An ad system that is so hostile and distracting that its very use causes me to discount the intellect or content of any writer (hi, Paul Thurott!) who uses it. Vibrant ads are just plain wrong. They’re a form of lying to your readers. They look like links (the average user won’t notice the double underline), but really they’re nasty little bits of hidden POP-UP-AND-GET-YOU-ADVERTISING.

    They’re as bad as auto-play Flash ads. They damage the Web by building a distrust of links in articles. Is it a link or is it a filthy, worthless POP UP ad? I won’t mouse over because I don’t want to be wrong.

    It’s okay to have ads on a page. It’s okay to take really long articles and break them up into reasonable page chunks (though posting this small post in three parts is money-grubing overkill). It is not okay to have ads that make noise. It is not okay to use Vibrant I-HATE-MY-READERS pop up ads. It is not okay to use Flash in any way, ever. It is not okay to have ads that are distracting or eyesores that fight with your content.

    Ads can be fine. It comes down to respecting your user and having a bit of taste. You don’t do either when you use Vibrant Ads, Flash ads, ads that make noise, or ads that dominate your page. Your site fails on many of these counts. You’re whining that Gruber has access to AdDeck, and thus doesn’t have to use as many ads as you do. That ignores the fact that he’s been writing for his site full time for longer than AdDeck has been around. He gets his readers, and his income, from being respectful, from never putting an ad between his readers and his content in an intrusive way, and never using cheap, user-hostile tricks like Vibrant Ads or Flash.

    You have a choice about whether or not to use those sorts of intrusive, hostile advertising tools.

    And now, readers have a choice, too. Sites that use ads reasonably, they can choose to read normally. Sites that are abusive and use things like Vibrant or Flash or ads that fight for the reader’s attention? Well, that’s what the magical Reader button is for. Thanks, Apple!

  22. JacktheMac on June 13, 2010 at 11:03 am

    My question to them is this: Are you willing to pay for it?
    Yes, and I do

    Will you ante up with a monthly subscription to get ad-free content?
    Of course

    Are you willing to pay a certain amount to read an article?
    Yes, if it is well written, informed and informative

    Or are you simply willing to be parasites and feed off the creative energy of other people without giving anything back?
    You elected to create this site, either as a method of disseminating your views or to make money. If the former, then the fact that people are reading it should be reward in itself. If the latter then I honestly don’t believe your views are sufficiently original or entertaining enough to survive without adverts. If your site withers when the adverts dry up that’s an appropriate Darwinian mechanism. For a lesson in how to balance superb content with sensible advertising, go to Dan Dilger’s site at roughlydrafted.com

    I’m sure you are a nice chap, and none of this is ad hominem, but I think Rob expressed matters succinctly in an earlier post; ‘What’s ironic here is that you’re whining about how Reader is rearranging your website, when it’s precisely sites like yours that caused the birth of Safari Reader in the first place’.

    Over and out. Good luck

  23. JacktheMac on June 13, 2010 at 8:24 am

    You wrote:
    ‘Sorry you don’t like my site. Nobody forced you to come and read my article. And no other publisher is forcing you to visit their site to read their content. It’s entirely voluntary on your part.’

    Exactly. No-one is forcing you to click the Reader button either. If you want ads you can have them. But if Reader sends a few websites to the wall for want of click revenue, so what ? They should have a more intelligent business model.

    ‘If I were Google, I’d consider a lawsuit against Apple for this. What kind of business will Google have if ad blockers are deliberately built into browsers like this? ‘ The suggestion that Google could bring action against Apple over Reader is farcical. Everyone has the right *not* to look at adverts. Are you saying it should be compulsory to allow viewing of ads on a page ? Because the next logical step would be banning of pop-up blockers. ‘Where is most of Google’s revenue going to come from? ‘ Tough luck Google – they should have thought of that before they became dependent on their monopoly of web advertising.

    Revealingly you write that Reader ‘purges’ advertising. Precisely the right word. It has connotations of the removal of something unpleasant and unhealthy.

    Obviously I’m a huge Apple fan, but I am very wary of the iAds they intend to utilise. But at least they won’t float across the screen, like an ad for Bing just did on your site, Jim.

    Finally you comment:
    ‘Can you imagine if Microsoft had done something like this? All hell would be breaking loose and a lot of Apple fans would be screaming about how “evil” Microsoft is, and how the government should do something about it.’

    No they wouldn’t. They would be delighted that MS had, for once, shown the way in improving the web experience for users.

  24. Dorian on June 12, 2010 at 10:47 pm

    One more thing:

    http://www.macstories.net/news/a-first-overview-and-roundup-of-safari-extensions/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+macstoriesnet+%28MacStories%29

    Bring up this website in Safari 5.

    Load the reader.

    There are ads in the reader. I see one for something called “Camtasia : Mac.”

    So…looks like you just need to hire the best and the brightest to redesign yer page to allow for ads in the reader.

    Remember – for every charm, there is a countercharm. If someone wants ads in the reader, they *will* be there. Enjoy…

  25. Dorian on June 12, 2010 at 10:31 pm

    “I earn a lot of my living right now writing for my blogs and Safari Reader essentially removes my ability to monetize my blogs.”

    Replace that with:

    “I earn a lot of my living right now making buggy whips and Ford essentially removes my ability to monetize my buggy whips.”

    The more things change, the more they stay the same.

    Time to get creative, and stay flexible.

    Sorry your business model is about to change, but…that’s progress. Time to get smarter, or get out.

    Good luck to you.

  26. Ropenstein on June 12, 2010 at 5:04 pm

    I notice this new feature of Safari does not work on all sites which host articles. Namely, it doesn’t seem to detect articles on WordPress based blog sites. This tells me that it is not a foolproof technology. It will only be a matter of time (I would guess a very brief time) before the site technologists determine how to defeat this feature, just as the DHTML and Flash ads defeated the old JavaScript popup windows. Build a better mousetrap, and the mice get smarter.

  27. rf on June 11, 2010 at 4:50 pm

    @ Scott Bryant:

    totally agree with you Scott

  28. rf on June 11, 2010 at 4:44 pm

    sorry, you didn’t earn a cent from my visit, i read your article on the main page (not with the reader) totally free of ads by blacklisting some tens of thousands of ad-pages directly in the os.

    i am not a fan of the reader by now, not because of its maybe impact on the ad-business, but because i usually want to see a page as intended by its author. a clutter of ads and a multipage-layout isn’t what i expect from a decent homepage.
    actually the reader doesn’t function very well on those horrible sites, where every second word is a link or when there are many images at the beginning of the page, so perhaps it’ll even help multiply those ugly pages (not talking about wikipedia by the way).

    i guess in the long run it wouldn’t matter using the reader or not because sooner or later the people who don’t care about the appearance of their page and just put as many ads as possible on it will have to look out for another way to pay their bills, because people just won’t visit.

    if ads would have had a proper appearance from the start nobody would have cared, but those eye-wrenching, homepage-crippling pop-wherevers and flashes just earned you all that ad-blockers.
    i still see the advertised links on the google searchpage and from time to time i click on them, if they seem to be what i am interested in. they are unobtrusive, in a clean from-top-to-bottom-layout and they fit fairly enough according to the search.

    ps:
    actually i have several private homepages running (not making any money from it and not wanting to) and i always wondered why people need to pay their traffic. i thought the times where you have to pay separately for your traffic are over (for like 10 years?). it’s not like you have a hundred million hits a month and dozens of terabytes of traffic. or am i wrong?

    pps:
    i do pay for my regular weekly newspaper subscription (offline and online), even though i am able to read it for free online.

  29. Scott Bryant on June 11, 2010 at 10:19 am

    Jim,

    I am a photojournalist at a small newspaper, and I try to follow the challenges currently going on in the publishing industry because it greatly affects what I do for a living.

    I can’t give you a new model for how publishers will produce viable businesses in the future. Too many variables. We’re really in the midst of a major paradigm shift in how our culture gathers and disseminates information.

    But I have an inkling that among the most important core values which lead to future success will be interactivity/participation and user experience. Criticizing Apple is pointless because they have an admirable business model. One of the historically consistent criticisms of Apple is the cost of their products, which is generally higher than competitors. Instead of going for market share, though, Apple guns for premium users. Then they make damn sure their products work as advertised. Apparently, enough people are more willing to pay more for a product that is a joy to use, and Apple’s bottom line confirms this.

    The old advertising model just doesn’t appear to be sustainable, although I think it can still play a part in generating future revenue – if done with the user in mind.

    Many of the key leaders in this new era will be programmers and graphic designers, in my opinion. Web entrepreneurs will either need to employ these types of people, or acquire the necessary knowledge in these areas to maximize user experience.

    You really hit on something with your last post – functionality. Advertisers are just as guilty as publishers in their gaffs. The ability to self-publish is a double-edged sword. It’s easier than ever to create a web site or an advertisement. But without the sound foundations of programming and graphic design, well, we get what so many are complaining about in their comments – endless muck. Without some knowledge of programming, you can’t add the functionality necessary to keep users coming back, nor distinguish any unique qualities you may have to offer. Nor create a constructive kind of interactivity.

    The fundamentals of good graphic design is pitifully ignored on most web sites. A good designer will create layers of information in a logical hierarchy, and can actually help direct the eye from one element to another without resorting to garish gimmicks. The majority of web sites are horrible from the standpoint of typography. Few people have extensive knowledge of typography, yet it has a powerful psychological effect on most everyone. All you have to do is google something as simple as “great web design” to see what the real experts have to suggest and to see examples.

    We’re in the midst of a process. Whining about the end of publishing as we know it is silly. It’s not good enough, anymore, to be a great writer, or photographer, etc. You have to constantly add to your skill set, and/or align yourself with others who share common goals and possess the knowledge you may lack. I mentioned programming and graphic design, but you can add an understanding of human nature to that list.

    It really is a brave new world, and those who listen and respond with creativity and persistence will come out on top.

  30. Jim on June 11, 2010 at 8:33 am

    Paulo Matos wrote:

    Most important thing on the web are not ads. I am thankful to Apple and you can be sure that I will use the feature besides being an obvious user of ad-blockers!

    That’s your choice but some would consider you a parasite for the use of an ad blocker. I will not pass judgement, I’ll leave that to others. But you do the sites you like a disservice when you totally block all advertising. Why not consider blocking ad cookies instead on the sites you like? Might be a better way to go.

    See my post above. I have added additional functionality to my blogs. Nobody needs Safari Reader to read articles the way they wish to read them. So I’ll put it in the hands of my readers and the functionality I added works in all browsers, not just Safari (which, let’s face it, is still an also-ran compared to Firefox and Chrome).

  31. Jim on June 11, 2010 at 8:27 am

    Morning all,

    Thanks again for all the feedback on the column. It gave me some good ideas. As you may have noticed, I have shifted some of the ads on the site around a bit.

    I have also added a Print and Email button, and also a poll plugin. See the poll in the sidebar at the top. And you can now subscribe to comments and be notified of new comments in articles.

    And if you click the drop down menu, you will now see a View All link (I think I mentioned this before but here it is again if you missed it). Thus you can view entire articles via the View All link or you can do it via the Print button. I recommend using View All though because the social media badges are appearing somewhat bugged at the bottom of the print page. Not sure how to fix this but whatever, the functionality is there if you need it.

    Thus no one needs Safari Reader if they wish to avoid clicking multiple times. But those who do not like scrolling can opt to click the page links or use the drop down menu to navigate or to skip right to whatever part of the article or review they wish to read.

    :smile:

  32. Cevval Koala on June 11, 2010 at 7:37 am

    Jim wrote:

    … So Safari Reader is an attack on the ability of publishers to generate revenue for their content.
    Articles are broken up into multiple pages to generate a certain number of ad impressions per page view. This is how sites monetize their content.

    Jim,

    As I see it, the practice of breaking pages up into multiple pages is publishers’ way of cheating the system, and overcharging their advertising clients. The multiple page articles are a waste of time and bandwidth, and it does not help the publishers a bit, since advertisers are aware of the practice, and adjust their prices per impression accordingly.
    It seems the publishers want to maintain a universally despised practice, just to increase their revenues. But in fact, the practice does not work anymore, because everyone knows about it and the ad-inflation caused by multi-page articles decrease the prices per impression. So don’t blame Apple or anyone else for you (I write you to mean you as the publishing community, not you as Jim) are the one to blame for an inflationary trap.
    Yes, inflation is what multi-page articles creates, and you, Jim, are the one who defends it. So please stop whining and adjust prices-per-impression. Don’t you have that kind of leverage with advertisers? If not, why? Don’t you think your content deserves a higher price-per-impression?

  33. Paulo Matos on June 11, 2010 at 7:23 am

    Most important thing on the web are not ads. I am thankful to Apple and you can be sure that I will use the feature besides being an obvious user of ad-blockers!

  34. Imagine on June 11, 2010 at 5:54 am

    Hello Jim,

    I have a few issues with your opinions, but I respect the position you find yourself in. Here’s how my thoughts differ…

    1) I think you’ve blown the significance of Safari Reader out of proportion. There are a few things we can consider. First, hardly anyone uses Safari as compared to the number of people using IE and Firefox. Firefox already has plug-ins that can perform a similar function and I reckon not too many ‘normal’ people have even bothered downloading them. You fear that this reader concept will proliferate and end up on all browsers in the near future. That might be correct, but I really wonder how many people are actually going to click on the little ‘Reader’ button when they’re just reading a short article or lightly browsing through their favourite tech or news site. Most people take what’s given to them without doing much searching around for other utilities. It would be an entirely different matter if Apple automatically reformatted web pages into the ‘Reader’ format. They don’t. You have to click a button, and I doubt most people browsing the web will bother.

    2) You are afraid that Safari Reader will bring about the end of the ‘web business model’, because publishers will no longer be able to make significant money from ad content. You state that some sites might have to resort to paid subscriptions (which don’t work) and others will fail entirely. Is this a bad thing? I think the web could use an overhaul. We’re moving so far away from edited content that I think our ‘news’ has become a joke and we end up relying on personal blogs, snippets and youtube videos for our information. While the web has made the world smaller, it has also dumbed us down. Yes, you can access loads of information immediately instead of sitting in a library with an encyclopaedia, but the quality of the information we’re receiving is severely under par. Where are the checks and balances? Wikipedia is great to gain a general understanding of something, but you can’t trust its accuracy. The web does offer quality content written by people who have devoted their lives to certain subject areas, but those are often found in PDFs and journal articles that require PAID access. I say charge me for quality content and cut down on the number of opinion sites and blogs (and ads). The net has turned into a gargantuan rubbish bin. Sometimes I feel like an archaeologist hunting for that one little gem of quality material amidst a morass of useless information. Let some of these sites go out of business. It will do the web some good.

    3) You own an iPhone, an iPad (which you had to have purchased within the last two months) and an iMac (etc). And after this single release from Apple (Safari Reader), you’re going to boycott the purchase of Apple products. That’s pretty convenient when you’re probably set to go for the next year or two with your brand new Apple products. It’s like gorging yourself on food and then stating that you intend to fast for the next three hours. You should probably stop using your Apple products as well, just to make the point. Why don’t you sell them off?

    Cheers!

  35. thinol on June 11, 2010 at 3:53 am

    Removing ads will hurt not only webmasters but also businesses that need ads to promote theirs products.
    Amazingly, Apple made lot of ads to promote the iPad while it want to remove “these annoying” ads in the web pages!
    I believe their tool will be removed too, there are already pages to explain how to do it. See http://www.scriptol.com/how-to/safari5-reader.php

  36. Shadab on June 10, 2010 at 6:57 pm

    @ David W:

    What should be noted indeed is that although a person reading online will look at the ads, its not all he wants to look at. I think decently designed blogs with good readability won’t be affected since there is need to push an extra button on address bar to turn on reader. Obviously, if the page is full os those stupid sounding flash ads, it will not even generate interest.

    Point that publishers should try to address now is how to maintain readability, with ads on the page, if they can’t, they lose. When they can play stupid sound without my will, i sure can strip the content i want to read, else make it private.

  37. Jim on June 10, 2010 at 4:44 pm

    I’ve moved some of the ad layouts around and also added a View All link in the drop down page navigation menu. So that should help the anti-clickers.

    Anti-scrollers should stay away from that link because it’s going to result in a longer page for you have to scroll down through. :biggrin:

  38. Jim on June 10, 2010 at 4:25 pm

    By the way, if anybody knows of a WordPress plugin that puts a handy “Next” link into multi-page articles, please post a link to it. I’ve done the best I could with the page navigation but I have yet to see a plugin that provides that functionality.

    Right now there are two ways to navigate pages. The page numbers links and the drop down menu. You can navigate either way. I’d love to have “Next” link the way I do with the comments but I cannot seem to find a plug-in that does it. Neither of the plugins I have for page navigation seems to generate a “Next” link.

    Thanks if you know of one and can post a link. :smile:

  39. rwahrens on June 10, 2010 at 3:14 pm

    I agree with the other comments about the site design, and am encouraged that Jim seems open to some kind of redesign. I do admire people that can change their minds and are open to new ideas.

    That said, I would point out that Reader does NOT show comments on an article page. You have to leave the Reader to be able to peruse comments or make one yourself.

    It is ONLY a tool for making reading easier. Any actual interaction with the page requires you to be on the real web page, which is how it should be.

  40. John M on June 10, 2010 at 2:52 pm

    I think you way overstate your point. I don’t think this has anything to do with Apple arrogance toward Google or any other advertiser. I suspect you may be a bit more sensitive about this because you have so over-invested in the advertising model on this, your own site. As someone who reads a lot on the web, I welcome anything that eliminates visual distraction and clarifies the content. I’ve already been a long time user of Readability. I’ve also noticed that it doesn’t totally eliminate ads – you have to invoke Reader from the original page with ads, you see a dimmed image of the page behind the cleaned-up content, and, most often, you return to the original page to proceed on to other things.

    By your logic, we should consider Apple arrogant for creating Spam filters for Mail, or [large electronics maker] arrogant for putting a fast-forward and 30-second fast skip on VHS, DVR, or any other time-shifting TV recording device. I doubt Reader will have much effect on your, or any other, site. But if it and its ilk does, I don’t think it would take much time for someone to figure out how to get around that model. Your visually unappealing and extremely cluttered site and all your ads will be safe.

  41. thomas on June 10, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    i think you are perhaps missing the purpose of the reader. it does not claim to be and adblocker, nor does it suffice as one. there are already multitudes of them around, and they do their job perfectly fine. make no mistake, if somebody wants to get rid of ads then it’s quite easy to.

    the purpose is to make it easier to read the content of sites. there would be no need for this if web developers showed some readability common sense, and used design to enhance the user experience rather than detract from it. as it stands, however, websites are becoming increasingly marred by poor typography and layout – making it difficult to see the content which is the focus of the experience. instead focus is being shifted towards advertising and buzz elements like social networking features. the reader functionality is more a statement about this than anything else, i think. sites need to wake up and realise that first and foremost a reader needs to be able to read their content.

    take, for example, the article i’m currently commenting on. yes, i did use the reader to read this. the article was difficult to read otherwise. there are no clear dividing lines between content and advertisement, so the eye does not know where to look initially – where does content stop and advertising begin? this is emphasised by the lack of visual distinction between the black on white text of both adverts and articles. your quotation is not indented from the rest of the article and seems like it could be another advert (it is in one block in bold and italicised text that appears elsewhere in advertisements). there does not seem to have been any conscious thought about where adverts appear, other than to put them wherever possible. the worst thing by far are the inline adverts (the underlined ones). these distract completely from the article, which is v irritating and sacrifices the readability totally. i don’t mind the adverts in themselves – but their placement makes it very difficult to read the article i came for.

    you also have a major gripe with the multi-page combining feature. the reality of this is the same as the rest – by and large people don’t care if they have to click an extra couple of times, as long as it’s EASY and doesn’t make life at all harder. sites that do this well have large and clear NEXT and PREVIOUS links at the bottoms of pages, with a layout that draws attention to these. those that do it badly often lave people reaching the end of a page and either wondering where the rest of the article went, or hunting for a good few seconds to find the next links. this is why the reader function will be used – again, to compensate or eliminate the poor design elements that have become so rife in websites.

  42. Jim on June 10, 2010 at 2:45 pm

    Hi again Joe,

    Thanks for the feedback again. I’ve decided to do a few changes to the blog to help improve the readability. There will still be ads running but maybe I can cut down on the clutter a bit.

    I will investigate Fusion. Thanks, I hadn’t heard of it until now. Nor did I know about the Deck. I very much like the idea of showing fewer or one ads while still being able to monetize my blogs. Frankly, it would make it much easier for me because I could then concentrate on writing content rather than worrying about the revenue end of things.

    Regarding Gucci…hey, you never know when you might get a sudden craving for a new handbag, right? :wink: :whistle: :tongue:

  43. Joe Stevens on June 10, 2010 at 2:40 pm

    @ Jim:

    Hi Jim,

    Thank you for responding.

    I understand the importance of online ads, you will never ever see me defending Ad Blocker or any program that blocks (non Flash) ads from showing. If Publishers are providing content for free then they deserve to make money from ads.

    That said, I do get why people want to use things like Reader and Ad Blocker. Its because online publishers are not putting enough care into the ads they show and how they show them. Way too many sites put their advertising needs before their readers and now websites are filled with cluttered useless sidebars, excessive pagination, rollover ads on fake links among other frustrating techniques. Not only that most publishers don’t care what ads they show and thanks to that I come to a tech blog like yours and I see ads for Gucci Handbags and Personal Bad Credit Loans. I don’t block your ads, but they are still completely useless to the advertisers because no one coming to this site is looking for Gucci handbags or Personal Bad Credit Loans. Meanwhile Gruber is showing a ad for UX Week which is absolutely relevant to me because UX design is what I do so naturally I clicked on it. I know its legit because the Deck does not run any ads for products they haven’t used. Thats a curated ad that I can trust, thats useful to me on a readable site, using Readability, Safari Reader, Ad Block or even my RSS Reader doesn’t even cross my mind.

    The current web is dependent on CPM/CPC, but it is a silly useless model that has lead to the need for Safari Reader and will likely lead to the other browser makers building a similar feature. Its time for publishers like yourself to shift away from this model and start curating your ads. Treat them like they are content, do not run ads for products you don’t know or haven’t used personally and finally charge a arm and a leg to display them. If more publishers run less ads then the inventory will down and the prices will shoot up.

    You can even show more then one, but not too many more. If you can’t get into the Deck try Fusion. I suspect that more respectful ad networks like them will show up soon.

  44. Jim on June 10, 2010 at 1:26 pm

    Nimro, please see my previous message. Not all sites have access to a premium ad network like the Deck (which is what Daring Fireball uses). The Deck’s model is great, no doubt about it. But it’s limited to a VERY few select sites. It simply isn’t open to every publisher. And thus the CPM/CPC model is what dominates right now.

  45. nimro on June 10, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    I found your take on the topic quite interesting, but I only read it because I could use Safari Reader. My initial reaction was to click away from the page, but then I remembered this new feature :)

    IgnoreTheCode has a good take on it too: http://tinyurl.com/39toqmj

    My main takeaway from that was:

    “Via Daring Fireball, Nik Fletcher writes:

    My own primary interest in reading online surprisingly goes beyond a headline. I take the time to read an article, and if Safari Reader makes reading much easier, then it’s the site’s fault for failing to make itself reasonably legible.”

  46. Jim on June 10, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    BTW, regarding multi-page articles, there is another issue that hasn’t been raised: screenshots. On my other blog, I do detailed reviews of Linux distributions. Often I have more than 25 screenshots included and it would probably piss people off if all of those screenshots appeared on one page.

    Here’s a link to the screenshots for the Linux Mint 9 review. Imagine if all of these loaded on one page with no warning to the reader that they were coming up.

    http://desktoplinuxreviews.com/2010/05/18/linux-mint-9-isadora/8/

  47. Jim on June 10, 2010 at 1:20 pm

    Hi Joe,

    The reason sites have so many ads is that there is a need to generate a lot of ad impressions and clicks to get paid. It’s funny you mentioned John’s blog, I sent the folks at the Deck an email today about the possibility of joining their network. I don’t know if it will happen as it seems to be by invite-only.

    It would certainly be nice to only need to run one ad. I’d love to be able to do that. But for most sites, that really isn’t possible and they must use the CPM/CPC business model. Thus you see ads in a lot of pages.

    If you looked at my Ads and Ad Blockers page, you know that I tried hard to keep the ad coloring and placement reasonable by keeping image ads out of the article, and by making sure the Google Ads and Vibrant ads were all in black text.

    I know that some folks want no ads at all. But publishers must generate revenue from their content and right now the CPM/CPC business model is the one that is dominant. It would be quite nice if we could all switch to what John is doing on Daring Fireball. However, I don’t think that’s an option for everybody.

  48. Joe Stevens on June 10, 2010 at 1:10 pm

    I know you have probably heard this 1000 times today but your website is the poster child for why a feature like Safari Reader is needed. Is there really a need for all these ads? Not only are you doing your readers a disservice by cluttering the content we are trying to read you are also doing your advertisers a disservice by cramming their ads with a whole bunch of other unrelated ads. I will definitely be using Reader on your site. One site I will likely never use it on is Gruber’s daringfireball.com, he has one page articles, and one small ad. Yet, his site is immensely profitable. More publishers like yourself need to take the ads you choose to display and the way you choose to display them more seriously. You say yourself in your AdBlock article that you don’t even use the products you advertise or have any clue what is going to show….. seriously. Its time for publishers to start treating ads as part of the content and show more respect to your readers and your advertisers by showing less ads. It would be a win for you because you could charge a hell of a lot more for that one ad and your advertisers would likely see much better results.

  49. Jim on June 10, 2010 at 12:11 pm

    I’m working on getting the comment pagination fixed, so I’ve turned on the comments again.

  50. artyfarty on June 9, 2010 at 10:29 am

    Jeez, your blog looks so much more readable with this thing on.

  51. Zed D. on June 9, 2010 at 9:53 am

    If you don’t give your reader a reason to click on the Reader button in Safari 5 there’s mo problem.
    In other words: if your layout is clear, easy to read and not too distracting, there should be no problem. Therefor, I see the Reader function in Apple’s browsers as a useful instrument to maintain the balance ;-)

  52. Pender on June 9, 2010 at 9:34 am

    I have a lot of opinions about the merits of an advertising business model relative to a microtransaction business model, but honestly they don’t seem necessary, because there’s one overriding principle here:

    You aren’t Apple’s constituency. I am.

    I don’t want to see ads. As long as there is a legal way for me to refuse to see ads, I will use it. Apple sees a consumer preference and adopts it. Getting upset at them for that is like getting upset at fire for being hot. You can imagine a universe in which companies ignore their consumers’ preferences and make decisions based on what their CEOs think would be best for society, but that’s no more productive than imagining a universe in which fire isn’t hot. It’s not the universe we live in, and it never will be.

    Rather than going incandescent with moral indignation, why not sue Apple? Copyright law is whatever the courts say it is, and unlike Apple, it is the job of the courts to keep an eye on what is best for society. It’s entirely plausible that if a federal judge agreed with you about the implications of Safari Reader, she would find that it infringes your copyright. Of course, you’d have to convince her that your views are in fact correct, which would be a good test of whether they are correct or merely the biased product of indignant self-interest. I have my suspicions but would not bear you any ill will if you tried this and won.

    As for how else you can earn a buck writing: microtransactions seem like the best possibility. If ads are really out the window as a viable business strategy, you have to think the microtransactions infrastructure will be built quickly to satisfy the resulting vacuum. Will sites make as much money with microtransactions as they do with advertising? Beats me. Seems plausible to me that they’d make as much or more money. But if they don’t? Well, no one has a right to receive more for what they are selling than buyers are willing to pay.

    But here’s a crazy prediction. Ready? Safari 5 will be released, very few people will ever notice much less click on the little “Reader” button, and nothing will change.

  53. Rob on June 9, 2010 at 8:51 am

    Ads are the scourge of the internet and anything that reduces them is a good thing. If your income is made by inundating readers with ads, then that’s your problem. Let’s be honest – people want to read content, not ads. I love Reader and use it all the time now to my utter delight. I am using it on this site right now and it’s great.

    Let’s face it, anything that reduces the staggering amount of ads a user has to wade through is a good thing. If greedy people want to make people not spend money on ad-blockers and spend it on their products, they would limit the amount of ads to something that isn’t annoying. A few ads can be either ignored or maybe – just maybe – even get looked at. Now with the page half full of ads and articles broken up into a bunch of pages with just a small amount of real content on each page so you have to look at even MORE ads, they just become annoying and nothing else.

    A friend linked me this story and that is how I landed here. I don’t see myself coming back thanks to your pathetic ways of greedily snatching every penny you can regardless of what that may do to the viewer. Congratulation, you lost revenue I would have generated otherwise. I hope that makes your income drop.

  54. Jim on June 9, 2010 at 8:50 am

    Nik, you can also use the drop down menu right under the page numbers to jump to any page.

  55. Nik on June 9, 2010 at 8:45 am

    hm, if you’re gonna fight for garbage-ridden webpages and split articles- at LEAST pad your pagination links properly so that they are actually clickable!

    it wouldn’t be so bad if you didn’t have to first hunt for the pagination. then- get your mouse pointer jusssst over the number.

    display: inline-block; padding: 4px 8px;

  56. Raikkonen on June 9, 2010 at 8:31 am

    Scott Gilbertsonof WebMonkey states;

    ‘On one level, Reader seems like it could hurt publishers by subtracting ad revenue, and it could hurt ad networks like Google’s. But Safari loads the entire page — ads and all — before it presents the Reader button in the URL bar. So, by the time the person clicks on the button and launches the Reader view, the ad impressions have already been counted. Reader also has the ability to string multiple pages together, and it appears as though Safari is loading all of the information (including the ads) from the next pages, but only displaying the text. Ad impression numbers should be unaffected by Safari Reader, but click-through numbers will no doubt go down. Also, we noticed some ads served within the text body made it through into the Reader view, so it’s not perfect at stripping out ads.’

    So what exactly are you on about mate. I can say for a fact that I’ve only clicked on one ad that I know of, and the reason I clicked it was because it was from a Longboard Co I wanted to buy a product from.

  57. Shaun on June 9, 2010 at 9:14 am

    put down your pitchfork and deal please, your whining is unbearable.

    Incidentally, your page layout is a little too busy, thanks to safari reader I actually managed to make it to the end of the article without being forced to give up on the tiled crappy background image and what only can be described as a greedy amount of ad’s.

    imho dude. imho..

  58. Federico Contreras on June 9, 2010 at 8:12 am

    I thought flash sucked, people are already blocking flash, likely not seeing your ads anyway, so who cares if they block all adds or everyone just starts blocking ads en-masse either with add-on ad blockers or built in software? Didn’t you yourself write an article bashing flash?

    Quote: 2. Animated, pushy ads. Does an excess of animation and noise really make ads more effective? I doubt it. I suspect that they simply annoy people to the point where they tune them out or use some kind of Flash-blocker in their browsers. In the interests of full disclosure, I have advertising on some of my sites (including JimLynch.com) and, yes, some of the ads are Flash-based. I suppose I’m a bit of a hypocrite for complaining about it, but I’d still like to see the ad networks move away from using Flash.

    The lady doth protest too much, methinks.

  59. Wish this article was written by someone else on June 9, 2010 at 7:31 am

    Nearly everything in this article is correct, but I wish that it had been written by someone else…ideally a someone else that isn’t the epitome of everything that I will be glad to see the new Safari addressing. I wish that I had been able to use the new Safari to read this article, so that I could block your 10+ graphic ads per page, so that I could join together the unnecessary three pages of your article (that were formatted as 3 pages in order to serve your readers an additional 20 ads), so that each page would have loaded faster than 3 min per page etc. YOU are the poster boy for why greedy Apple is going to look like a hero for providing the ad-blocking-article-rejoining features in the new Safari.

  60. Shaun on June 9, 2010 at 7:30 am

    Oh and one more point: if everyone splits their content into multiple pages, the advertisers will reduce the amount per page view. So you’re not helping anyone at all.

    Soon we will have to read articles word-by-word, clicking through an ad to get to the next one – and you will get paid $0.00000001 per page.

    Think about it.

  61. Shaun on June 9, 2010 at 7:25 am

    I am a web designer and your website is so awful it makes me weep. The more ads you put on the site, the less people will want to visit, so the more ads you will need to maintain your income. This will become a vicious cycle until you have to give up, and no doubt you will blame ad blockers or Safari Reader for your failure.

    I think you should concentrate on writing good content and getting engaged visitors, like Daring Fireball. If you cannot do this, then get a day job instead of relying on idiots to click ads for dieting tips and free iPods etc. There are even ads in between this comment box and the “Submit” button – hoping people click by accident (the ads are all to do with Terrorism for some reason). I’m sure advertisers love paying you for accidental clicks on irrelevant topics don’t they? Is it ad blockers who are ruining your income or is it yourself and your dodgy tactics?

    PS. if you hate Ad blocking tools so much, why do you have instructions how to install them on your site? Like this one and many others?

  62. TriangleJuice on June 9, 2010 at 7:16 am

    Jim,

    I think you’re overreacting. Consider this:

    Most of the people who are giving their responses to your article are web “geeks”. They wouldn’t click on ANY ad (most of the time), except when they would have a very good reason for it (e.g. they want to support the web site creator).

    All the others (95%, sorry didn’t double-check that number) just don’t know that there’s a “Reader” button and if they did, they wouldn’t care, as in: ‘Why would I take an “extra” step to read the same article?’. they will continue to click on (your) ads, because they’re used to do that.

    Just my $0.02…

  63. VRic on June 9, 2010 at 7:13 am

    Jim wrote:

    Please share your thoughts on alternative business models for web publishers. Usually it can be broken down into the following:

    1. Ads

    2. Subscriptions

    3. Micro-transactions (paying a fee per article)

    If you have some other viable business models, please do list them.

    Easy : talent.

  64. Torbjørn Vik Lunde on June 9, 2010 at 6:30 am

    It removes other things than ads though, and I think that is as important. I’ve been a long user of extensions that a similar, and now I’m using it natively, however… I only use it if the readability on a site is too poor.

    The most common problem is that the text is too small and that there is too little whitespace. (Space of nothing between the main text column and other parts of the site.)

    Safari Reader and other extensions fix these problems so you can actually read the damn articles.

    And now: I do not complain about subscriptions, I am a very happy Ars Technica subscriber.

  65. Jozef on June 9, 2010 at 4:06 am

    Is RSS attack for advertising publishers too? in RSS your ead only content.. Usualy without any commercials.. So? :-D Pls dont be funny.. RSS is here for many years.. And advertising is still alive.. As well as, noone FORCE you to use Reader button.. YOU DONT HAVE TO USE IT.. only IF YOU want to.. and thats ONLY AFTER first load of page.. which means.. you still have points of loading adds on first page..

    pls start thinking again : )

  66. Chris Chapman on June 9, 2010 at 3:04 am

    I installed Safari 5 just to get a tolerable reading experience for this article. Worked great, thanks for the heads-up!

    Snark aside, this is the Web. You don’t ever get to dictate what someone does to your page between their network socket and their browser window. If you need to do this, you should be publishing in a DRMable format like PDF instead. User-side transformations of content were a key part of the vision of the Web from the very earliest days. Your business model didn’t take that into account? Oops.

  67. minifi on June 9, 2010 at 2:27 am

    @Rob: while I completely agree with every single point you’ve made I think we all should discuss here in a civilized way. :)

  68. Rob on June 9, 2010 at 2:07 am

    Here’s what Apple understands which you tech analyst can’t seem to wrap your heads around: it’s all about user experience. When Steve Jobs comes to a website like yours and sees ads littered everywhere and articles split into multiple pages for no reason, he gets furious like the rest of us. But unlike the rest of us, he’s in a position to do something about it. So he orders his Safari team to find a way to fix the shitshow that is 90% of websites these days, and thus is born the sheer brilliance that is Safari Reader. What’s ironic here is that you’re whining about how Reader is rearranging your website, when it’s precisely sites like yours that caused the birth of Safari Reader in the first place. If you didn’t have such massive disrespect for your readers, we wouldn’t have a need to return the favor by using the godsend that is Safari Reader.

    If you want an example of the right way to treat your readers, go visit http://www.daringfireball.net. Try counting the number of ads you see on the site (one, in case you can’t count that high) and the number of articles split into multiple pages (zero). Then guess how much money the author makes off of his site per year ($4k+ per week, you do the rest of the math if you’re capable of it).

    Instead of crying like a baby to Google or the government about how Apple is putting you out of business, how about figuring out a way to make your site a pleasure to read. Do you get it yet?

    Dumb.

  69. Adam on June 9, 2010 at 12:32 am

    You do realize your site is a usability disaster, right? You’ve got more ads and social media links than content. For crissakes….think of the users!

  70. Steve on June 9, 2010 at 12:09 am

    I just read this article using the new Reader function. It was a very nice experience. Perhaps you should casually mention products by name in your articles in return for payment. “Blah blah blah… did I mention how much I love Tide?.. blah blah.”

  71. Chris Martin on June 9, 2010 at 12:04 am

    I never would have read your article if it weren’t for reader. I would have looked at this horrendous page and left immediately.

    With reader I read the full article, and you even got a comment.

    Either way you would have only had impressions on the first page of ads.

  72. Bob on June 9, 2010 at 12:01 am

    Instead of whining about safari reader, you should be making it sot hat people don’t want to use it. And when I look at your site, I CERTAINLY want to use it. You are a perfect example of why it was made by apple.

  73. Bob on June 8, 2010 at 11:58 pm

    @ Jim:

    That made me laugh out loud. “STOP ATTACKING MY SITE JUST COMMENT ON THE ARTICLE ITSELF!” Your clusterfuck of a site is the best argument AGAINST your article. That being said, I don’t actually give a shit about your opinions or your site, so don’t bother changing it for me. “Tech Analyst” that’s nice dear. I can read other blogs too.

  74. Greg on June 8, 2010 at 11:45 pm

    Jim, I appreciate the fix. Also, please ignore my hypocrisy in returning.

    I’ve been active in a many discussions over online advertising/ blocking/ etc. Dealing with content integration with advertisements are a common occurrence in my daily work. I’ll be honest and say that I didn’t read all of your article either; Only made it through page one due to the reasons I mentioned above. I’m going to loosely quote myself from other discussion I’ve had on this, as they do relate:

    I have no problems with people monetizing from my visits, and am pleased if they do. Everyone deserves pay for the work they do. I’d much rather be served a few ads than to be forced to add yet another subscription to my life. Contracts and recurring bills are a hassle. If the content is actually [regularly] valuable to me, and there’s no other option [for supporting the publisher], I’d likely be willing to pay that site a subscription.

    I think the major issue is that ads are often horrifically intrusive. Pop-ups, pop-unders, full fold flash animations, audio, floaters, inline with content, etc just piss people off. I wouldn’t be surprised if it lead to “ad blindness” and people just scanning content rather than actually reading anything. Advertisers try and trick people into interacting with their ads, were-as people are used to a more passive interaction (TV/ radio). You’re often forced to actively ignore ads, rather than casually seeing them and choosing whether or not it interests you.

    This has been getting better though. The web is still a fairly new medium and designers and media outlets are still adjusting to what works and what doesn’t. UX, IA, and other components of web design are getting more refined. A lot of sites are understanding this and starting to realize that bouncing a box with stroke inducing visuals and screeching audio over the link you were about to click isn’t exactly helping. The others will (hopefully) slowly fade into history.

    That and my comment above are attacks on your site. This site is an eyesore to look at. Repeating background images, flyouts, ads inline with content, page refreshes. That’s a major problem for your readers and you. You tire your readers eyes and brain capacity, destroy accessibility, and put them in a position like you put me in; I didn’t fully read your article and didn’t want to return. For the sake of constructive discussion, I did.

    That’s destructive to you, because when your new users (or old) give up due to pressuring site designs, you lose the revenue they would have brought. Safari’s Reader isn’t trying to strip you of your revenue, it’s trying to give power back to users and let them enjoy (rather than struggle with) reading your content.

  75. Jim on June 8, 2010 at 11:20 pm

    Darwin, please see my page about Ads & Ad Blockers. The link is at the top of the page.

    As far as Apple goes, are they going to build an ad blocker/reader for the iPhone and iPad? If they can do it for the web then why not for their own iAds platform? Or is that not in their interest?

  76. Darwin on June 8, 2010 at 11:12 pm

    Why do you think Apple has some responsibility to you.? Why do you think Government should get involved? Do you say the same about any other ad blockers. I know it’s trendy to whiner about Apple but get a grip. I used readability but am already using Safari extensively.

  77. Jim on June 8, 2010 at 11:09 pm

    Thank you all for your feedback. I appreciate it. :smile:

    I’m somewhat disappointed in the remarks that attack my site, the quality of the articles, etc. rather than responding to my comments about Apple’s behavior, how it relates to Google, and how it affects web publishers in general. I’d appreciate it if future comments could really focus in on some of the issues I raised, rather than just bashing my site’s layout, etc.

    It’s also important to remember that web sites are not ebooks. I suspect that some folks that have posted here want an ebook-like experience when on web sites. My question to them is this: Are you willing to pay for it? Will you ante up with a monthly subscription to get ad-free content? Are you willing to pay a certain amount to read an article?

    Or are you simply willing to be parasites and feed off the creative energy of other people without giving anything back?

    Thanks in advance for your feedback.

  78. Elliott on June 8, 2010 at 11:46 pm

    The reader feature is not going to kill the ad market. This is nothing more than hyperbole. This feature doesn’t even have as much impact as the DVR and certainly nowhere near the impact of ad-blockers. You still get the legitimate impressions when the user loads the page. However, just because I have the ability to make the ads go away after I’ve seen them doesn’t kill the publishing industry. Does having the ability to fold a newspaper or a magazine, or worse yet — cut the article out, to hide the ads kill the publishing industry? Of course not. The reader feature is virtually identical in function to the act of folding a newspaper or magazine. It makes the content more comfortable to read. This is the reason I’ve been using services like Instapaper for months. It makes it far more pleasurable to focus on the most important part of the site, the actual content. In this sense, it is allowing people to choose to do what they have been able to do already.

    As for the multipage articles, that has always felt contrived to me. I understand the need to inflate the impressions: everyone else is doing it, but I still find it annoying. You’re not going to get much sympathy from anyone on that point. Besides, if this practice goes away, then the ad revenue will adjust and rise back up once the impression inflation stops.

    This reader function is nothing like piracy or ad-blockers. I’m sorry to say this, but the reasoning used to arrive at this conclusion is simply questionable at best. It’s not going to kill the publishing industry; and if it does cause some adjustments, like the elimination of multipage articles on the web, it will probably be for the better.

    My $0.02

  79. Nuclear Fire on June 8, 2010 at 10:34 pm

    The first page of this article sucked. I’m not clicking through to the other two. If this crap stops because of Safari Reader then I’ll gladly switch from Chrome.

  80. Greg on June 8, 2010 at 10:32 pm

    Says the guy with 18+ (not to mention the auto-page refresh to increase ad impressions) ads on a single article that’s split into 3 pages. That’s not even counting the ads for social sites, and the actual ads advertising the ad services/ plugins in use here.

    Reader and the plugins preceeding it exist to make content king on sites where it’s clearly a slave. Perhaps if you didn’t abuse your readers, they wouldn’t be avoiding your site.

  81. Greg on June 8, 2010 at 8:17 pm

    Maybe the current web publishing model sucks?

    I know I despise the click throughs and use many adblock extensions as workarounds, also, google reader will have much more of an impact on your ads than safari reader.

  82. John on June 8, 2010 at 7:59 pm

    Jim wrote:

    Safari Reader would not be so bad if Apple had allowed users to white-list sites so that ads loaded in the Reader view. Or if the default had been for ads to load but no other parts of the page (except the content).

    I agree that the way Apple did is “not so bad” since all sites are essentially white-listed until you hit the reader button. Get back with us when you have tried the reader.

  83. Christopher Kennedy on June 8, 2010 at 7:38 pm

    @ Christopher Kennedy:

    Gah. Just realized this was three pages, not four. Clearly, I cannot count.

  84. Captain on June 8, 2010 at 7:38 pm

    “As if people using ad-blocker extensions in Firefox isn’t bad enough, now Apple has made it so that an extension isn’t even necessary.”

    People using the Adblock extension won’t see a single ad, ever. On the other hand, Safari will still load the ads with the rest of the page and the users will see the ads, until they click the Reader button — if they are so inclined.

    “Now the ad blocker is built into the browser and, to add insult to injury, users don’t even need to click to view multi-page articles.”

    Splitting your articles, that are not that long, in multiple pages is a trick to artificially increase your page views and ad impressions. In a way you’re cheating your advertisers. Some sites are even reloading the pages automatically, in fact that’s not a legitimate ad impression at all.

    “And, unlike some extensions, there is no way for the user to “white-list” the site.”

    Of course there is. Just don’t click on the Reader button if you really want to go the extra mile to support the site.

  85. ben on June 8, 2010 at 7:36 pm

    I don’t know, maybe it’s a really bad idea to divide an article that can perfectly fit on one page into 3 pages?

    Yeah you think it’s a good experience to keep clicking next page just to read your stupid rant?

  86. Ian Page-Echols on June 8, 2010 at 7:29 pm

    As an example of how much it helps to clean up a web site with a plugin or feature like Reader: I didn’t even realize that your article was three pages long. Your little page 1 2 3 links were pretty much hidden in between all of those links and pictures everywhere. So with Reader, I might not click on the next pages, but at least I might read them.

  87. Christopher Kennedy on June 8, 2010 at 7:29 pm

    Slapping 10 ad sections per page, not to mention Vibrant hover effects (a terrible practice that lowers the quality of *ANY* article) is a little ridiculous. I disagree with splitting up the content just for the sake of making a money grab off advertisers in an attempt to increase your pageviews. Let’s not forget that marketers LOVE brandishing the number of hits they get by using inflated numbers from multi-page content.

    You’re saying that you should be allowed to do what you want with your content.

    That’s fine.

    As a result, I’m saying I don’t want to be exposed to 40+ ads for this article.

    It’s funny how this little article looks better in Safari’s Reader already.

  88. Cameron on June 8, 2010 at 7:21 pm

    To be honest, this hurts no one buy people like you who put mediocre content which could easily fit on one page and turn it into a three page ad-fest. I literally didn’t even know your article was broken up into parts at first because page one seemed so short. I also counted about 20 ads on the last page alone. TWENTY. I don’t feel bad for you at all, as you’re the reason why features like this are invented.

    Advertisers will become more creative and overcome. Look at a guy like Gruber over at Daring Fireball. He makes great money by making one thank you post per week to a sponsor. It’s literally 4k for just one post. Why does he command this? Because he puts out great ad-free content which people actually want to read. Try spending more time on writing great content and less toward flooding your pages with ads, and I’m sure you’ll find that income which you’re going to lose because of services like this. Sorry Apple ruined your world.

  89. luxagraf on June 8, 2010 at 6:44 pm

    Speaking of hubris, splitting a 1500 word article into three pages and thinking readers will actually make it to the end just smacks of it.

    I agree with some of your points, but multi-page articles just so you can display more ads has always been lame. It’s a web browser, it has scrollbars, stop fighting the web.

    I also fail to see how Reader is much different than an RSS reader. You can stick ads in an RSS feed, just like your site still loads all it’s ads before you click reader. When RSS first appeared everyone said it would ruin online publishing because no one would visit sites. Hasn’t happened. And I don’t think it’ll happen this time either. The web moves fast, just because it made money yesterday doesn’t mean it will tomorrow. Publishers may have to change their revenue models, but if history is any guide they’ll figure something out.

    And for the record, I actually read all three pages using Reader, I never would have clicked past page one, so in that sense Reader has already helped get more of you ideas to more people. In the end that’s the point right?

  90. Tom on June 8, 2010 at 5:39 pm

    TBO, Jim, this new feature of Safari sure makes it more enjoyable to read your articles :).

    It doesn’t seem to handle every website with blog or articles the same though. For example, I rss Thisoldhouse.com, but this new feature of Safari still doesn’t put every article in a continuous format. You still have to click through a small article 8-15 times to make it to the end including specific ad pages to close out of, on top of the surrounding eye clutter. One can only take so much of that unless its a really really good article or something very specific that’s of interest.

    Safari is not going to kill web publishing by itself. But it might help force change. Although its anecdote, personally, I really enjoy reading rss feeds through an app on my iPad moreso than going to a site through a browser on my pc. So honestly I don’t think Safari on the pc is going to change my reading habits too much.

    There will be other ways to get paid other than through google ads. Can’t recall the link for reference, but for example, the author behind periodictable.com said he made more money with his ipad app, The Elements, on the first day, than all his years combined from google ad revenue.

    Also with iAd, Jobs has the right idea about approaching ads. Make something that’s more enjoyable for a user to explore, rather than be so distracted by eye clutter and pop ups that take you away from your focus.

    Maybe HTML5 will open up more creative and attractive ways of advertising rather being restricted to basic eye clutter that google ads is currently, so that one doesn’t have to format an article to multi-page just to squeeze in more cheap advertising.

  91. Andreas on June 8, 2010 at 4:46 pm

    It seems you can’t figure out what Apple though of, when building this functionality into Safari.
    I’ll help you: They though of their users.

    It is NOT Apple’s responsibility to make publishers money.

    It is also not my responsibility to help you make money. But if you ask how you should earn money without adds – yes, subscriptions seem plausible. Of course that requires content that people actually would want to pay for. Rants about ad-blocking features in web browsers will probably not be good enough.

    You write:
    “Fair enough but don’t bitch when the content sites you love to read go out of business for lack of revenue, or have to resort to a subscription model to try make enough money to survive.”

    I won’t. Don’t worry.

  92. Jim on June 8, 2010 at 3:33 pm

    Hi John,

    Please share your thoughts on alternative business models for web publishers. Usually it can be broken down into the following:

    1. Ads

    2. Subscriptions

    3. Micro-transactions (paying a fee per article)

    If you have some other viable business models, please do list them.

    John Gruber wrote:

    Yeah, having a ton of ads on your site is the only way to make a living writing.

  93. Jim on June 8, 2010 at 3:32 pm

    Hi Julian,

    Good points about the WSJ and NY Times. But remember that the WSJ also has ads and some of its content is available without a subscription.

    Safari Reader would not be so bad if Apple had allowed users to white-list sites so that ads loaded in the Reader view. Or if the default had been for ads to load but no other parts of the page (except the content).

    I can’t figure out if Apple was simply too stupid to think this through or if they did it deliberately to go after Google. If it’s an attack on Google’s advertising business then it’s an extremely nasty one. Can you imagine if Microsoft had done something like this? All hell would be breaking loose and a lot of Apple fans would be screaming about how “evil” Microsoft is, and how the government should do something about it.

  94. John Gruber on June 8, 2010 at 3:28 pm

    Yeah, having a ton of ads on your site is the only way to make a living writing.

  95. julian516 on June 8, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    Jim, what is dying here is the idea that we all can consume sophisticated digital products for free because someone else will pay for them.

    The advertising variant of that idea is dying as audiences fragment and investors tire of bloated (but tax-deductible?) advertising budgets with no clear connection to product visibility, sales or net profits.

    The New York Times followed the advertising model for its web-site as did most newspapers. The Wall Street Journal chose a subscription model. It seems to me the outcome of that experiment is clear enough.

    Will we have to pay for our megabytes/Gigabytes of downloads? Absolutely. This may shock people tying up servers with Movie downloads but they have no “right” to free downloads.

    Will more web-sites have to compete for subscribers? Absolutely.

    I am a retiree on a limited budget. Will all of this force me to make different (and sometimes very difficult) choices in how I use the internet? Absolutely.

    Absent a public subsidy will this have a different impact across different income levels? Absolutely.

    If you are right and Apple’s strategy really is a harbinger of the future then much will change and we can all debate how good or bad that is.

    One thing is clear. We have a deeply ingrained idea that we are going to consume costly public and private goods and services that “somebody else” will pay for. Call it the “advertising” or the “deficit” model as you prefer.

    It does not work. Change is coming. I don’t like it any more than you do but I suspect we both are going to have to deal with it.

  96. Jim on June 8, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    Heh, heh. Good point, Ben. :devil:

    I doubt very much that Apple will cut its own throat by allowing an ad blocking app to be developed for iPhone that would remove iAds. A developer would probably have a chance in hell of getting something like that through Apple’s draconian app review process.

  97. Jim on June 8, 2010 at 3:09 pm

    Sorry you don’t like my site, David. Nobody forced you to come and read my article. And no other publisher is forcing you to visit their site to read their content. It’s entirely voluntary on your part.

    As I noted in the page I put up about Ads & Ad Blockers, I rely on my blogs for money to cover expenses such as rent, food, etc. Writing for the sheer love of it is a wonderful, romantic notion. But it’s not very practical when it comes time to pay the bills. Thus the advertising on my site.

    Please see the Ads & Ad Blockers page for an explanation of how the ads are set up on my blogs.

    David wrote:

    I think this advert… UHHH website… is the reason why Safari Reader was created in the first place. You have adverts everywhere, and you wonder why people would possibly ever want to read your website without adverts? I can’t think why… Then you have to go to 2 extra pages, filled with yet more ads, just to be able to read the full article.

    Wow!

  98. Ben on June 8, 2010 at 12:24 pm

    Let me guess though, once iAds is completely integrated, Safari Reader will still display those advertisements…

  99. David on June 8, 2010 at 11:46 am

    I think this advert… UHHH website… is the reason why Safari Reader was created in the first place. You have adverts everywhere, and you wonder why people would possibly ever want to read your website without adverts? I can’t think why… Then you have to go to 2 extra pages, filled with yet more ads, just to be able to read the full article.

    Wow!

  100. Robin 'Roblimo' Miller on June 8, 2010 at 11:32 am

    I’m kind of “whatever” about all this. Salon has truly annoying ads that attack you even if you use Adblock Plus. Smart publishers and advertisers will find easy ways to bypass this protection scheme, too.

  101. Jim on June 8, 2010 at 10:49 am

    Hi David,

    Publishers will get ad impressions for the first page only. The rest of the pages in multipage articles do not load ads. Publishers will lose those ad impressions. So Safari Reader is an attack on the ability of publishers to generate revenue for their content.

    Articles are broken up into multiple pages to generate a certain number of ad impressions per page view. This is how sites monetize their content. It’s how they pay the bills, pay employee benefits, taxes, buy computer equipment, etc.

    Safari Reader is going to cut into site revenues in a big way, particularly if the feature is cloned into Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome and other browsers.

  102. David W on June 8, 2010 at 10:41 am

    What about Readability? http://bit.ly/Dpnsv
    Save for the need to install the bookmarklet, it does pretty much the same thing. This is a very useful tool for reading lots of text. Clearing all the “clutter” enhances comprehension. Glad to see this in Safari 5. I don’t think it will kill online advertising as every page load will still be complete (unless you have Firefox Ad Block and NoScript).



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