There’s a tonne of posts today about the slick new Safari Reader feature I linked to yesterday. As someone who enjoys reading decent content online, I totally welcome it. I’ve used readability / Instapaper bookmarklets for some time - both on my Mac and iPhone - and, if I’m honest, I’m surprised at the reaction from outlets that call out Safari 5’s Reader feature. If you believe some quarters of the press, the Reader functionality is an affront to online advertising revenues - choking outlets of their deserved revenue and attempts at profit. There’s also clearly some folks who haven’t actually tried Reader.
Let’s get one thing straight: Safari 5’s Reader feature is not an ad-blocker. It’s no more prominent or enforced than clicking the RSS button in Safari’s address field. If you visit a page with a element of over 2,000 characters (I believe) Reader is made available for use - note that it’s not enabled automatically, much as some would love it.
Fraser Speirs makes an excellent point:
Most interesting thing about Safari Reader? It shows how little actual content there is on these busy, long webpages.
Ken Fisher, at the usually-sane Ars Technica calls Apple hypocritical:
So the company that has made an advertising platform a major part of its iOS strategy is also hawking an ad-blocking technology for its Web browser, where it has no stake in ads. App Store: use our unblockable ads, developers! They help you get paid for your hard work! Web: hey, block some ads, readers! They’re annoying!
Gizmodo links to Jim Lynch
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.
You can almost imagine what started off Safari Reader: Steve visiting insert big name news site with ads and being massively unhappy with the reading experience. Here’s just one example. From Jim Lynch’s site.
Yes, Safari does some smart stuff behind the scenes - on Lynch’s blog, his multi-page diatribe is brought into one paginated lightbox - and that eliminates ad impressions. But if Safari Reader eliminates the bullshit practice of publishers including disproportionately highly numbers of pages per article then you won’t hear any complaints from me. 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.
Thankfully, in amongst a swathe of misjudged writing on Safari Reader, The Guardian has a level-headed piece on the feature:
Technologies like Safari Reader sound a salutary warning to media companies and advertisers. From now on, we must love our readers or die.
Amen to that. If anything, instead of this belligerent whinging, web publishers should wise up that people visit their sites to read content. Safari Reader does hide ads, after they - along with the almost-constant barrage of ‘Share This’, ‘Tweet This’, ‘Buzz This’ bullshit - are shown alongside each post, and above all: it’s not mandatory to use, or enforced any more than the RSS button. Perhaps instead of flamebait posts of ‘Apple are out to get us’ media companies should be asking themselves ‘how did reading content online become so sucky’?
Update, 10th June: I’ve had a tonne of feedback on this post, and published a quick followup including some of it. Thanks to everyone who sent in feedback.
Posted on Wednesday June 9th, 2010