The web's reading platform.

Reeder for Mac Debuts, Featuring Full Readability Integration

There are RSS reader apps out there and then there’s Reeder, Silvio Rizzi’s beautiful Google Reader client for iPhone and iPad. Today marks the release of Reeder for Mac OS, bringing Reeder’s unparalleled experience to Macs everywhere.

While there are a slew of great features in Reeder for Mac, it’s an especially great release for us because it includes full Readability integration right in the app. Not only can you turn on reading view and send any entries into your Readability reading list, but you can log right into your Readability account with Reeder and use it as full-fledged desktop client for Readability.

We’re proud to be a part of the debut release of Reeder. Congratulations to Silvio for an incredibly polished debut on the Mac App Store. If you’re a Mac user and a news hound, don’t miss out on Reeder. It’s on sale today.

Some Thoughts on Yesterday’s Apple Announcements

A good number of people have asked us how Readability is impacted by the just-announced reading list feature in iOS 5 so we’ve decided to share some of our thoughts here.

Readability’s goal is straightforward: to make the web better. We are big believers in the web’s profound impact on all corners of technology regardless of device, operating system or application. By providing great tools and capabilities around reading, we’re hoping to extend the web’s reach to new devices, contexts and experiences.

Apple is laser-focused on delivering a great experience around its hardware and software by delivering differentiating native features and apps that showcase iOS and in turn Apple devices. This is a logical and effective strategy for Apple, but our motivation is entirely different: allow our users to read anywhere, on any device, while creating a sustainable ecosystem for writers and publishers. As we think about how and where to extend Readability, we view all platforms, apps and services (via our API) as natural extensions of the web. From our reader-friendly URL shortener RDD.ME to the just-announced Amazon Kindle integration, we continue to charge towards our goal of marrying the sheer breadth of the web with the flexibility of reading how and when you want.

As we peer ahead on the Readability roadmap, we’re excited about all the great things we’ve got planned. Our goal is to continue to be on the forefront of how users manage and consume web content in new and innovative ways. In fact, we’ll even explore how we can leverage all the exciting features announced by Apple yesterday – from iCloud to iMessage to iOS 5 – to continue to deliver on our promise. Just as Safari Reader served to validate the value of Readability, we welcome the new reading list feature as yet another vote for delivering a great reading platform – anywhere, anytime.

Introducing Kindle Support for Readability

We’re really excited to announce the latest update to Readability, featuring support for the Amazon Kindle:

With this update, readers can now send any web article to their Kindle for reading at their convenience. To send to your Kindle, simply run the free Readability browser add-on and click the Send to Kindle button. Moments later it will be available on your Kindle in a nice, comfortable reading format.

Subscribers of Readability can receive their entire reading list automatically in a convenient digest form. There’s no need to even “sync” to your Kindle. Every morning (or any other time you specify), we’ll automatically push your reading list to your device.

For writers and publishers, we’re introducing a first for the web: a free, easily-embeddable “Send to Kindle” button:

Embeddable buttons for publishers

In just a few seconds, you can add this feature to your articles or index pages and your readers will begin enjoying the convenience of Kindle reading around your content. Visit the Free Publisher Tools page to find the code and instructions for installation. Soon, we’ll be announcing some exciting partnerships around our Kindle support.

There are host of other fixes, tweaks and updates with this update to Readability. We’ll be sharing those details in future blog post. Beyond this release, we’ve got even more exciting things to come from the Readability team. Until then, happy Kindle reading!

Do You Speak Readability? Join Our Team

Calling all Readability enthusiasts—we have a special opening here at HQ.

Are you fanatical about community, customer service, and Readability? If you’d like to put those powers to use, we are waiting to hear from you.

We’re expanding and looking for a talented Customer Support and Community Manager. NYC applicants warmly welcome, but we are considering folks further afield as well. Here’s the full skinny on our dream candidate:

  • Passionate about helping folks and making Readability shine for its customers
  • Manage boatloads of information effortlessly, generating reports for our product team that will help chart the future course for Readability
  • Handy at juggling email inboxes, monitoring social media, refining knowledge bases, and administering special promotions
  • Technically savvy—but an able, eager, and responsive communicator

Tell your friends and help us spread the word. Apply here. We’re looking for someone great. And we’re hiring elsewhere, too! See all the opening at our parent company, Arc90, here.

And what of art direction?

As Readability’s popularity continues to grow on the web, we often catch the occasional grimace from designers, art directors and the like noting that Readability’s “slash and burn” approach is unfortunate for design on the web.

We have to admit, when you click that button, Readability moves in aggressively and thoroughly, flattening everything in its way. It’s partly why readers love it so much. Readability hands control back to the reader at the expense of the original design of any given web page. One could easily argue that designers and art directors have every right to wince at the presence of Readability. It takes their work and puts a lit match to it.

Then again, save for a few thoughtfully laid-out sites, it’s hard to deny that things have gotten a bit out of hand on the web.

Let’s take a look at a web vs. print example. Here’s a fairly brief Q&A session with the actor Samuel L. Jackson from Esquire on the web:

Now here’s the same article in the December 2010 print issue of Esquire:

The difference is, to say the least, dramatic. On the web, art direction has been shown the door. The content succumbs to the tyranny of the CMS and its allies. Not only is art direction absent in the web view, there is no room for it. The print version stands in stark contrast. The content – the copy and bold photograph – stand alone with design integrity fully intact. It is no wonder that publishers are looking away from the web – to proprietary platforms and devices – to try to reclaim the elegance and readability of print.

As with any argument, we’re generalizing to make a point. There are well-designed sites out there that attempt to strike a balance between utility and a good reading experience on the web. Still, this tension between design integrity and getting that next click persists.

At Readability, we view our tools as a reboot: a new opportunity to wash down the canvas and start again. Today, we’ve made some modest efforts to hand some control to writers and publishers with our Article Guidelines. Still, we’d like to do more. We’d love to recapture the beauty and austerity of thoughtful art direction in print and marry it with the convenience and flexibility that readers have come to enjoy with Readability.

We’ve always believed that the web is capable of delivering a world class reading experience. The “reading view” doesn’t have to be spartan and utilitarian. From beautiful photography to pull quotes to stronger brand prominence, we’re convinced that comfortable reading and great design are not mutually exclusive. Maybe what the web needs is a new type of “standard” or guidelines that live alongside the “regular web.” Guidelines that ensure an optimal reading experience for readers and a fresh new canvas for designers and art directors.

When control over an experience is redistributed, even partly, new opportunities arise. Rather than being viewed as a unilateral mandate to force a particular experience, we view Readability as a spark that can hopefully kickstart a conversation between developers, bloggers, designers, art directors and publishers. While Readability works as advertised today, we recognize that reading isn’t just about “data in.” Just as a great article can evoke strong sentiment and emotion, so can a great visual experience around the text.

Looking ahead, we plan to experiment with and share new ways of enabling designers and art directors on the reading view. We would like nothing more than to see great design meet a great reading experience.

Readability in the Wild: Chrome Store, Echofon, and Tweetbot

Fans of comfortable reading are finding news ways to encounter the Readability experience across the web. Here are three you may have spotted recently:

  • Google Chrome Web Store: As we mentioned the other day, the official Readability extension has landed at Google—and to warm reviews already. (“One of the best add-ons I have ever installed!!”) Our custom keyboard shortcuts are now available to all our Chrome users, regardless of where you downloaded Readability.
  • Echofon: At your desktop or on the go, the widely-used Twitter client for iPhone, Firefox, and Mac now integrates directly with Readability. “Send to Readability” is also included.
  • Tweetbot: Young but already celebrated, Tweetbot is a versatile Twitter client that responded to early user requests by adding the ability to add links to your Readability reading list.

We’re delighted to be keeping such good company.

Where else are you seeing Readability-powered services out in the wild? Tell us in the comments!

The Little Things

The team at Readability is bearing down on a major release update. Yet, as a member reminded us just the other day on our community site, Readability Ideas, it’s the little things that count when you care about hand-crafting a better reading experience. Here’s proof.

Custom keyboard shortcuts

You spoke, we answered. One of our biggest requests has been configurable “read now” and “read later” keys. Today it’s available for Chrome—coming elsewhere soon.

Progress dot with smooth scroll

Ever lose your place while scrolling screen-by-screen with your spacebar? The scrolling dot provides a subtle visual hint to indicate where you are in the text as the page scrolls. Look for it in your left margin.

Summary and detailed views of your reading list

A toggle to switch between a condensed and expanded view of your reading list? Streamlining the reading list view makes a lot of sense to us. Another member request that is now live.

As part of our next release we’ll be sharing release notes to document our enhancements. To Ilya, Marcelo, and everyone who weighed in with their vote to hear more about our updates: we appreciated the nudge!

What are the finer points that matter most to you as part of a premium reading experience? Let us know on Twitter or in the comments below.

Q&A: Mark Armstrong of Longreads

Today we continue an occasional series of guest spots by Readability friends and neighbors. We believe the new Readability, alongside efforts elsewhere aimed at innovating the reading experience, is part of a broader conversation: the possibilities of fresh thinking around digital content, publishing, and—especially—the future of reading. They are some of the brightest folks we know: help us all take the conversation further.

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Q. How do you distinguish between what you are doing from fellow curators like brainpickings.org and Longform.org, or even outfits like The Atavist? There’s a shared affinity for delivering great reading—but what sets you apart?

A.I think the biggest thing we should note here is that Longreads, and all of the outstanding people you’ve mentioned above, are simply a new generation of media brand.

I think we’re all coming from a place where we’re committed to ensuring outstanding creative work gets noticed and rewarded. Then, beyond that, we’re each finding ways to make contributions to the ecosystem through technology and content.

With daily curation, everyone has individual tastes that vary. But there’s a lot to read, and I think we’re just scraping the surface in terms of those who help people navigate the chaos of the open web. (Sports Illustrated‘s Joe Posnanski also recently declared that we’ve entered a golden age for writing, and based on what I’ve seen over the past two years, I’d agree.)

[W]e’re all coming from a place where we’re committed to ensuring outstanding creative work gets noticed and rewarded.

As for Longreads: I started it in April 2009 as a hashtag and a service on Twitter, in order to experiment with community-powered curation, so my daily picks are largely driven by the suggestions of readers who post their favorite stories using the #longreads hashtag. It’s been fascinating to see the varied tastes and interests of everyone who posts. I’ve also enjoyed seeing publishers get involved: The New Yorker, Rolling Stone (with whom we hosted our first live event) New York Review of Books, The Awl, The Atlantic, Mother Jones, and others all post their feature-length stories to #longreads, as well as recommending their favorite stories from other sources.

Q. Instapaper was created to make its creators’ commute more pleasurable. Readability has just announced an API contest. Where else can enterprising developers help innovate on a platform like ours?

A.I tend to nerd out over things like data organization and structure, so I’m fascinated by Readability’s embrace of the hNews standard as a way to help make better sense of the content that’s being created across the open web.

I’d love to see developers and publishers continue to play with that structure.

One of my favorite recent inventions was from Al Shaw at ProPublica. He and I were chatting about the fact that Longreads features word counts and reading times for all of the stories we feature, so he built a neat thing called TrippyApp, which lets you sync your reading list with your precise subway commute time according to HopStop.

Q. We’ve seen it with Netflix and elsewhere: the realities of “timeshifted” consumption are taking hold. Beyond juicing traffic, what is the economically meaningful business case that can emerge alongside the rise of the “read later” reader?

A.I’ve said this many times before, but here’s my thinking: For the last 15 years, digital content companies have been focused on just one screen: The desktop computer at work. That means the best someone could ever hope for in terms of online engagement was 5 minutes of their attention, in between email and work, Monday through Friday, 9 am to 5 pm.

Now, we have a lot more screens (tablets, Kindles and smartphones), we have access to them everywhere—on the couch, the bed, the commute, the gym, the doctor’s waiting room, the bathroom—and we have a chance to engage with them for 10, 30, 60 minutes in one sitting.

We also now have the “Read Later” button, which allows people to pre-program this downtime entertainment. In many cases people spend their work hours in hunter-gatherer mode, picking through Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr (and Longreads) collecting material to enjoy when they have more time—and even read offline, if they so choose.

This depth of engagement creates a huge business opportunity.

For magazines, this is what’s been missing from the digital experience. You used to go to a newsstand, buy a magazine, and then take it with you to read whenever you have a spare moment. “Read Later” finally solves that problem. You can now read the web, on your own terms.

Back to your “is this a business question”: From my own data, I see that reader interest is there. And I think publishers are seeing value in producing storytelling that has a longer shelf life: Besides the credibility-building aspects of it, a great story can keep grabbing people’s attention on Twitter for weeks, months and even years after it’s first published. There’s also a lot of experimentation right now: ESPN has a separate “Reader” Twitter feed for its longer pieces, you’ve got New York Review of Books sporting Readability buttons, and blogs like Deadspin turning into a publisher of excellent in-depth stories. (See last week’s “How These Two White Guys Wound Up In This Kendrick Perkins Family Photo.”)

This depth of engagement creates a huge business opportunity. But it also raises the stakes for the quality of content: If you want someone’s attention for that long, you’ll have to produce great work.

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Bookclub Effect

One thing I’ve noticed since Readability launched—it feels like I’ve unwittingly joined my first bookclub. The club is just a loose orbit of friends and family reading from the same lists of magazine articles each week, thanks to recommendations from longform curators (ex: 1, 2, 3). But we rarely share URLs directly via email or Twitter because it’s understood that when we meet for drinks Friday night, we can incorporate something like the Paul Haggis Scientology piece into conversation without needing to preface or cite it.

Love for certain content has linked us telepathically for years. Before the web, in my old town of Charlottesville VA it was unnecessary to ask, “did you hear that piece on NPR…” Everyone had heard the piece. Traces of NPR stories were in every conversation. Online, communities like Reddit and Boing Boing are able to keep large numbers of like-minded people ambiently aware of certain content, but their strength is mainly tracking memes.

The virtual club for magazine writing—the one I’ve been waiting for—finally feels like it’s arrived. Why now? Compared to other web content, longform journalism has been tougher to organize and digest…

…and gets overloaded when there aren’t ways to keep it centralized and easily referenced. Readability has helped solve a lot of these organizational problems.

The beauty is in the marriage between Readability’s mechanical algorithms and the human touch of web curators.

But the app alone isn’t the whole experience—the beauty is in the marriage between Readability’s mechanical algorithms and the human touch of web curators. Without them, the bookclub effect might disappear.

Curators provide serious legwork. They carefully handpick the good stuff to save you from sifting through overstuffed RSS feeds. They dig deep into the long tail of journalism to find gems like this one which you might’ve missed.

Curators also provide perspective and sensibility. With so much ad-driven content-farm junk on the web, they remind you that good writing is still fundamental above all. They break you out of habitually relying on singular sources of content (see NPR above) which can give you tunnel vision. They keep the bar set high.

This summer Readability will continue to add more social features to our app that make it easier to share great articles across groups of friends. We would love to help make good journalism more of a bonding experience.

Shorten & Read Comfortably with rdd.me

Thanks to Twitter and the claustrophobic constraint of 140 characters, link shorteners have become a common part of sharing links on the web. There’s something oddly satisfying about scrunching up an unwieldy link down to just a handful of characters.

Today, we’re announcing the availability of yet another URL shortener with a convenient little twist: rdd.me:

rdd.me

It works like any other link-shortener except for one very important distinction: it bakes the power and convenience of Readability right into the link. If anyone opens an rdd.me link, they’ll see a reading view option up top that lets them turn on Readability. If they open the link on a mobile device, a lightweight mobile version of Readability kicks in to present the page in a clean reading view. Rdd.me is even smart enough to leave alone web pages that don’t need an optimized reading view.

We’re also excited to announce that one of our favorite curators, Maria Popova, the editor of Brain Pickings will be helping us spread the word about rdd.me. Through her popular @brainpicker Twitter account, Maria will be using rdd.me as the shortener of choice for all that great article content that she discovers and shares.

Rdd.me is free for anyone to use and share. A Readability account is not required. So what are you waiting for? Go forth and shorten…and read comfortably!