Archive for the ‘Blog Publishing’ Category

Revamped Readability Rewards Writers [Updated]

The new Readability pays the sites you read

Readability, a browser tool which isolates the text on a webpage making it easier to read, has announced it’s moving beyond its humble beginnings to become a “full-fledged reading platform.” Readability will now offer iOS apps and, more importantly, it’s no longer a free tool.

The new Readability will cost you a minimum of $5 a month, with 70 percent of that fee going directly to the writers and publishers whose sites you visit.

Readability and similar tools, like Apple’s Safari 5 web browser have been criticized for cutting into publishers’ bottom line by eliminating online advertisements. The new non-free Readability is at least in part a way to address this concern. As readers, most people want a clean, distraction-free reading experience. At the same time no one wants to deprive their favorite websites of the income necessary to keep the site going. Readability’s new pricing plan is an attempt to find some common ground and keep everyone happy.

Not only does the new Readability give readers an option to hide ads and view a more readable page (which they may well be doing anyway), it provides a new source of income for the site. Even better, that additional revenue comes from the actual content, rather than simply the ads surrounding the content.

Ironically, in testing the new Readability, I realized that most sites I read regularly already have clean designs, nice typography and uncluttered layouts — sites that don’t really need Readability. But the new payment system can help those sites too. Readability’s payment system turns the service into something more than just a reformatting tool — it’s a bit like a roving micropayments system, handing out money to sites you enjoy.

Here’s how it works: The minimum fee is $5 a month, though Readability encourages you to spend more if you can afford it. The money is then split up between articles where you use Readability. Visit only one site and it will get all of your money; visit several dozen and each will see only a few pennies unless you up your monthly payment. You can use the Readability web interface to see where your money is going. It’s like micropayments, but all the transaction details are handled behind the scenes by Readability.

Of course you aren’t just paying the writers and publishers. Thirty percent of your monthly fee money goes to Readability, which has some new browser extensions, web badges, an API and some nice looking (though as-yet-unapproved) iOS apps built around the popular Instapaper.

The Instapaper contribution means that in addition to the “Read Now” button, which gives you a more readable version of the current article, there’s also a new “Read Later” button. Read Later works just like it does in Instapaper, saving the article to your account for when you have more time to read. Unfortunately, right now there’s no way to actually integrate your Instapaper account with Readability.

The “Read Now” and “Read Later” buttons can come from either the Readability browser extension, bookmarklet or from the site itself using a new embedded button (there’s also an API for more sophisticated integration).

Despite the integration tools and new payment system, it’s unlikely most sites will ever get rich from Readability. Of course it’s unlikely most sites are making much from Google Ads either, and it certainly never hurts to have another form of income, even if it is measured in pennies.

[Update: For those worried that Readability is no longer free at all, we should note that you can keep using the bookmarklets and browser extensions without paying for the service.]

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File Under: Blog Publishing, Identity

Six Apart Shuts Down Vox

Six Apart is shutting down its Vox blogging service. Users have until Sept. 30 to export their data to other services, including Six Apart’s TypePad blogging service. After that, Vox will be gone.

If you’ve got a Vox blog, there are several export options — Six Apart has instructions for moving to TypePad, Posterous and WordPress. There’s also an option to move your photos and videos over to Flickr.

Of course none of those services quite combine the privacy and small social network features that endeared Vox to users, but at least you can retrieve your content in some form.

The export options also make no mention of the fact that Vox is an OpenID provider, which means that, presumably, when your Vox URL is gone, your OpenID is gone with it. That means any site you’ve signed into using your Vox account will no longer let you sign in. In some cases that could mean a total loss of access to the third-party site — exactly the sort of thing OpenID is supposed to help prevent.

UPDATE: Six Apart vice president Michael Sippey responds to this issue in the comments. We’ve added it here:

Quick note. Vox will continue to serve as an OpenID provider through September 30. If a Vox user chooses to migrate their blog to TypePad, OpenID requests at the original Vox address will delegate to TypePad for authentication.

We know that shuttering a service is never easy on users; We’ve invested a lot of time and effort in making sure that there are tools in place to migrate content off of Vox, and that if folks are using Vox as their OpenID provider that there’s a solution in place for them.

If there’s a moral to Vox shutting down, it’s pretty simple: choose your OpenID provider with care. It would seem that the bigger the provider, the safer you are. Alternately you could be your own OpenID provider, ensuring that you retain control over your identity.

Six Apart’s blog does not give any reason for the shutdown, and the company did not respond to requests to comment on this story. However, it seems likely that Vox was simply supplanted by Facebook, Twitter and other, more popular means of sharing content with your web friends.

The social network landscape has also changed considerably since Vox launched in 2006. Much of the initial appeal of Vox — namely, its tightly controlled privacy — is less of a concern for many of today’s users.

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File Under: Blog Publishing

In Walked Blog: WordPress Hits 3.0 With ‘Thelonious’

WordPress, one of the most popular blogging platforms on the web, reached a new milestone Thursday with its 3.0 release.

This one is nicknamed “Thelonious,” and you can run an update your own WordPress installation by clicking on the update link at the top of your blog dashboard. It’s also available for download.

The big news is that WordPress MU, a multisite tool that can be used to run a whole network of blogs, has become one of WordPress’ default features. You can now manage as many different blogs as you want from one single WordPress installation.

There are a number of updates to the user-facing part of WordPress. The admin has been redesigned: It’s been slimmed down and made easier to navigate with a more accessible layout and color scheme. Some of the menu choices have been renamed to be more descriptive.

There are also new contextual help tabs on every panel inside the admin, so it’s less likely you’ll be left wondering, “what’s this do?” For promoting your posts on Twitter, there’s a new tool that lets you generate a short URL for your post as you’re composing it.

The WordPress team has built a new default theme called “Twenty Ten” to show off all the new features in Thelonious. Much like Kubrick, the old default theme, Twenty Ten is pretty minimal, but it’s a good starting point for learning how to tweak and customize WordPress.

For theme developers and site administrators, WordPress 3.0 has a number of enhancements. The new MU integration is a big plus if you’re running a blog network, or even two different sites that share resources and authors. There’s also a new set of APIs you can use to make building custom headers, backgrounds, menus and custom post types easier. To see the full list of enhancements, see the list at the WordPress Codex.

Here’s a video tour of the new stuff:

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Add Feeds to Your Site With MagpieRSS

If content is king, then fresh, ever-changing, dynamic content must be the Emperor. If what you’re looking for is new, daily content on your site, why not take it from someone else? Goodness knows there are a million RSS feeds out there just begging for aggregation.

Integrating someone else’s news feed is relatively quick and painless when compared to the dull ache of writer’s block. While there are any number of RSS aggregation tools out there for you to use, many prefer MagpieRSS. It’s a light, flexible, open source PHP script that’s practically bomb-proof.

Though it’s currently the fourth most-popular programming language out there, some programmers are loathe to work in PHP. Possibly, they’re leery of the server-side load stress which, yes, in certain circumstances, can become an issue. However, for simple tasks like RSS aggregation, a PHP solution is far less taxing than a JavaScript equivalent. Or maybe it’s just the fear that having to use *.php file name extensions is going to break all of the file references in a site. Who knows? It is time to get over these fears.

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File Under: Blog Publishing

How Many Users Are on Your Site Right Now

Hello, readers. You seem to be sending me a lot of e-mail lately. Fortunately, my spam sorter takes care of most of it, but a substantial stream of questions and comments keeps pouring in, inscrutable character sets and all. I wish they were all as eloquent as this one:

Paul Loved your articel! I have a few question. 1 How to setup? thanks.. derek meatburp

…but lately there have been more than a couple asking how to implement what’s apparently a very desirable feature — a little display of how many users are currently accessing a site. Of course there are dozens of pre-packaged scripts to do this, but, just because I love you all, let’s take a walk through a couple of ways to build this sort of feature from scratch. We’ll use PHP, the popular and friendly scripting language, for our examples.

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