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    blog.readup.com | Bill Loundy | 11/30/20 | 8 min
    30 reads26 comments
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    blog.readup.com
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    • danielw1 month ago

      I'm still a little confused by this. What is the model for money flow from reader to writer. 50% of what? Of the monthly subscription fee? Is it divided between all the articles that were read that month? Are you paying writers per read?

      Also, I still am missing why this would help publishers at all. Maybe someone can explain.

      • bill
        Top reader of all timeScoutScribe
        1 month ago

        Yes. Exactly. 50% of the monthly subscription fee. I've been using the term "contribution" instead of "fee." Is that causing the confusion? And yes, we're only paying writers per complete read. If you skim an article, no dice. No money moves in the system. When you finish an article, that's when something happens. The Writer gets some pie. Pie slices are divvied out on a monthly basis. As a Reader, you are watching all of this happen.

        Also, I still am missing why this would help publishers at all. Maybe someone can explain.

        OK, imagine: You are a publisher. You're sitting at your big corner-office desk, trying to crunch the numbers, but everything looks dire. Worse than last year, which was worse than the year before. Another round of layoffs are inevitable. You're sick of cutting corners, letting people go; shrinking, withering. "This is news," you think. "This is essential." Then your secretary comes through the door, looking all sweaty and worked up. "Ma'am," he says, "There's something going on in the newsroom. A kerfuffle. Five writers just cashed out a few thousand bucks on this new thing called Readup. It collects money from Readers and distributes it directly to the writers they read." You look back at your spreadsheets. You notice that you're actually only a few thousand dollars short, per person, to avoid this next round of layoffs. Now you tell me: Do you, publisher, want to know more about this Readup or what?

        Basically, we're going to provide supplemental income to writers. If publishers want to block or fight us, or their own employees, there are many ways to do it. But will they? We'll see.

        Alternatively, everyone can just stay on Twitter and die. (<-- lol I should edit this out but it's really too funny.)

        • danielw1 month ago

          You should really consider adding contributions as well. If I read a fantastic, thought provoking article on readup and I want to send a dollar or two the writers way, you should enable people to do this. This would be in addition to the fee, not instead of. It's a nice way for people to tip a writer for a job well done. Something to think about. There are already models such as Patreon that do this so clearly people are willing to.

          • thorgalle
            Scribe
            1 month ago

            Cool idea! Could get blocked though with the Apple App Store scrutinizing every revenue model with opinionated eyes. They already rejected a pay-what-you-want model (see Bill's Blog). On the other hand, you can tip on a number of delivery/transport platforms, I think...

            Also makes me think of how Humble Bundle, which is selling game & media bundles, allows you to manually customize what you pay to whom. You can decide which item creators gets what split of your money, from 100% to 0%. Similarly, Readup could allow you to give more to a 5 minute article that changed your life than a 10 minute article which you finished but found bad. To me this sounds cool too, but at the same time it would make an already hard-to-explain concept even more complex!

            • bill
              Top reader of all timeScoutScribe
              1 month ago

              I agree, but we’ll get there eventually!!

              Similarly, Readup could allow you to give more to a 5 minute article that changed your life than a 10 minute article which you finished but found bad.

              I am asked about this often. I think, in practice, it’s a non-issue, but we’ll see. People don’t fully read bad articles! (Broadly speaking, even fully reading the good ones is rare, lol.)

              • thorgalle
                Scribe
                1 month ago

                Fair point! But there might be different shades of fully-read “good”, regardless of length. And then the extra-tip system is maybe even a cooler solution to that.

          • bill
            Top reader of all timeScoutScribe
            1 month ago

            UPVOTE! Great idea. Are "add on" tips public or private by default. (FYI everything is going to be totally private, by default, for a while, because its easiest to build and implement that way. For example: Writers will NOT be able to track where their earnings come from.

            But something about tips feels like the should, eventually, be public.

            • danielw1 month ago

              Why not allow people to choose? Gofundme does that for donations.

              • bill
                Top reader of all timeScoutScribe
                1 month ago

                Yup. And we’ll probably do the same thing.

                The only argument I can think of against choice is just that choice can become a burden. If you’re reading 4 or 5 articles per day, it becomes quite a major brain-drain to have to tip all the time (and figure out how much, and decide public or private, on an article by article basis, again and again and again). For people who just want a simple way to read and give, Readup will be the answer.

                I like the idea of an end of month “Here’s everything you read” email with an easy way to see how much you’ve already paid everyone and an easy way to tip all of your favs or just up (🆙!) your overall contribution. I want people to feel just as psyched giving to Readup as they do giving to Writers. That will be tricky because we’re going to have to change the way people think and feel about the fact that we’re a for-profit company. I have some ideas. 😏👍

        • danielw1 month ago

          Yes, this does help clarify. Thanks, Bill. So if I am understanding this correctly, this is the flow:

          A reader posts an article from an existing publisher such as NY Times/Atlantic/etc to Readup. People read that article to completion. You take all the articles those readers read this month and divide 50% of the subscription fee between them. So for example, if my monthly fee is $10 a month to readup, and I read 10 articles this month to completion, then each author of those ten articles would get 50 cents from me for that month. The assumption is that the publisher loses nothing (they are still posting the article on their own site and getting whatever advertising dollars they are already getting. But their writers are getting more money than they were before and so they can continue to afford to keep writers on staff because the writers have an alternate income. Is this correct?

          • thorgalle
            Scribe
            1 month ago

            Almost. Article length will also play an important role (source: De-complexifying Readup). So to me it seems that your flow is correct in the case that those 10 articles all have the exact same "minute count" (where minute count is calculated as(article word count) / 184, for that 184 see Jeff's recent blog post). In the case of varying article lengths, the distribution will be directly proportional to the article length. Bill explains it best (same source):

            So, let’s say you read five ten-minuters and one fifty-minuter within one pay cycle. In that case, the author of the fifty-minuter gets one quarter of your total contribution, and the other five writers split another quarter. Then Readup gets the other half.


            The assumption is that the publisher loses nothing (they are still posting the article on their own site and getting whatever advertising dollars they are already getting.

            Practically, yes. But to nitpick on this, if the publisher had 1000 article page visitors before on an article, and 50 mobile Readup Readers who would have read it on the publisher's site before, but who now read it directly on Readup (because the first one posted it), then the publisher will miss ad revenue from those 49 readers (because their ads were blocked). The writers would be compensated an order of magnitude more than those ads were worth though.

            Thanks for digging down on this! It helps to clarify, or know what is important to clarify in this business model.

            1. Update (12/1/2020):

              But their writers are getting more money than they were before and so > they can continue to afford to keep writers on staff because the writers have an alternate income.

              Good point/question... if you put it like this, it sounds like the publisher would lower the wage of a writer that gets compensated partially through Readup. With the saved money they could hire (or keep on) more writers. That would represent a net benefit to the industry. But it also sounds weird, since the staff writer is now dependent on two "employers", with Readup income depending on their output. It might not be a net win for that writer? Disclaimer: I don't know at all how staff writers at publishers are compensated in the industry today. A fixed wage? A variable component based on article clicks?

            • danielw1 month ago

              As an aside, how to I quote text from a previous reply. I have never been able to figure out how.

              • thorgalle
                Scribe
                1 month ago

                By starting a paragraph with the character >, then a space, and then writing/copy-pasting the text you want to quote. Like this:

                Hello this is my first paragraph.
                
                > This is quoted text.
                
                My second answer paragraph.
                
                

                To learn more on the formatting possibilities you can also check the “Formatting guide” pop-up link under the comment box, or do an internet search for “Markdown”, which is the set of rules for text formatting used by Readup (at least partially).

            • danielw1 month ago

              Another thing that Readup could be: A way for a writer to get discovered and make income when they don't have a publisher.

            • danielw1 month ago

              On your last point:

              Sounds like doing research and talking to a couple of writers would be beneficial. (Maybe reach out to Glenn Greenwald... He recently left the Intercept under less than pleasant circumstances because he wanted a platform that gives him freedom of expression without censorship.)

              I would hope that the publisher would not lower wages... The original scenario that Bill mentioned was that the publisher was short a couple thousand dollars. Yes, there are a whole host of possible unintended consequences so definitely merits a lot of thought.

    • DellwoodBarker
      Top reader this weekScoutScribe
      1 month ago

      Power*Full Paragraph Illumination:

      “Readup is publisher-agnostic. There won’t be any official way for publishers to partner with us, besides the obvious: We’ll help them to get all of their Writers on Readup, ASAP, so that they can all make more money. Individually, they can get a first-mover advantage and, collectively, a Top Publisher advantage.”

      Interestingly Enough, in Conversations re: ReadUp with others in our Community the Spotify relativity has been brought Up In the Opposite Direction where ReadUp is the Star All the Next Wave Start-Ups and tech geezers (Spotify/Facebook/etc) Will Essentially Need to Hitch recalibrated formats to.

      “Have u heard of ReadUp?”

      explains Fully without mentioning an existing comparison

      “That type of Standard Needs to Exist in Music, as well.”

      queues “I’m Glad I Hitched my Apple Wagon to Ur Star” by The Boy Least Likely To

      😉⭐️🌟✨💫👍🏽

    • thorgalle
      Scribe
      1 month ago

      Good point Bill, that comparing Readup to Spotify at this point can lead to confusion regarding Search.

      At the same time, maybe Readup's mid-term vision can be compared to Spotify's current state in some technical sense (having Search, or recommendations, "playlists", genres, groups, ...?). Or maybe not!

      That's what I find so exciting about Readup: there is a demonstrated current value, but how Readup will change while scaling is not obvious at all. One immediate unknown is how the reception will be after the paywall drops. How will the dynamics of Readup change? What part of the offering will be in focus in 3 years?

      Searching on Search Engine History (so meta), I read that the beginnings of Google ("BackRub") had the following unique feature:

      It ranked pages using citation notation, meaning any mention of a website on another site would count it as a vote toward the mentioned site

      Readup is upending the "article digestion industry" with another revolutionary voting mechanism. Let's see where it takes us!


      Some other specific comments:

      Readup, unlike Spotify, actually invented something — a completely new business model built on a technology that didn’t exist until we invented it.

      I'd argue that's mostly true, but not fully. AFAIK, the web read tracking technology is novel. Tying that to a community and leaderboard is too. Collecting money for creators without them being on the platform is also something mind-boggling I've never heard of. But... automatically giving cuts of subscription money to creators based on a subscribers' consumption pattern is not. It already existed for years with Flattr.

      Whether or not they’re destroying the music industry is definitely up for debate. What’s not up for debate is whether or not they’re revitalizing it. Because everyone knows they aren’t.

      The not revitalizing part might be an overgeneralization. According to this article, Spotify popularized genres like Latin pop that had a difficult time to sell in the times of radio. That said, I know they're not making it better for everyone (the article cites many "losers" as well).

    • monstertuck
      Scout
      1 month ago

      I like seeing the inner workings of how the strategy is being set. It will be interesting to see if as Readup scales 50/50 will really be feasible, I mean of course it will always be feasible, but will Writers start to demand more?

      I do think many stories are solo journeys, but let us not forget the team of editors, photographers, fixers, booking agents, etc. that are behind many articles coming from large scale publishers. Will they need to be considered in the future or is that up to the writer to decide?

      • bill
        Top reader of all timeScoutScribe
        1 month ago

        will Writers start to demand more?

        Yes. I'm pretty sure. Eventually. I hope they do. And we'll give more as soon as it makes sense. We have all the leverage, but we aren't greedy. I care more what the Readers think. If they start organizing for a shift to 75/25, that would really get my attention. For now, Jeff and I need to start paying ourselves, and we have our first few employees lined up, but no money to pay them. So I'd say there's zero chance we'll stray from 50/50 within the next few years.

        let us not forget the team of editors, photographers, fixers, booking agents, etc. that are behind many articles coming from large scale publishers. Will they need to be considered in the future or is that up to the writer to decide?

        Well said! I agree. And yes, exactly. (Buy your own hair and makeup.)

        • thorgalle
          Scribe
          1 month ago

          Buy your own hair and makeup.

          Decoding this; is that saying: "Staff writer, Readup pays you (and you only). If you feel that the publisher that supported you to write this article deserves a cut, you have full ownership over that decision (but it needs to come from your 50%)" ?

          • bill
            Top reader of all timeScoutScribe
            1 month ago

            Exactly. I doubt this question will come up for Writers at big pubs. They're already surrounded by so much support and so many resources.

            For independent freelancers though, it's a no-brainer. Example: Writer tells a friend, "Let me use some of your sweet photos in this article I'm working on and I'll give you x% of my earnings on the piece," or whatever.

            • thorgalle
              Scribe
              1 month ago

              Let's see what big pub writers/agents say! Yes it makes a lot of sense for the freelancers. I actually put the exact same example with the freelancer + photographer, but then removed it to keep this comment focussed on the publisher 😁

              • bill
                Top reader of all timeScoutScribe
                1 month ago

                Haha. Of course you did.

    • bartadamley
      Reading streakScout
      1 month ago

      Ate this article up! Great writing @Bill, definitely some bits to think over..

      And so that, Reader, is our primary point of departure from Spotify. Readup is going to have a positive impact on the journalism industry by providing a direct, new revenue stream for writers. And we’re doing it transparently. Someone recently said to me, “It’s like you’re pirating from the advertisers.” Exactly!

      This part of the blog post stuck out to me the most!

      I have been running Readup's Twitter account for close to 4 months and have been fascinated by the variety of Writers in terms of their following.. who have had an article named our AOTD.

      Now just imagine the top Writer of The Guardian for example being neck-and-neck with a freelance writer on Readup's Writing Leaderboard.. who started their blog earlier in the year. Talk about an equalizer for Writers of all accords!

      I envision Readup creating a way for Readers to no longer, going to the top publication for our first source for news, leisure reading... whatever it may be... and to be a catalyst in initiating a new wave of writing being dominated by truly the most talented and creative writers. A win-win for Writers and Readers of all tastes.

      • thorgalle
        Scribe
        1 month ago

        Yes! That’s super true and super cool indeed. Almost uniquely possible through the read tracking system. Readup the Great Equalizer.

        Also: all hail our Twitter Master! 🙏🙏 🙏 Excellent stuff out there.