Publishers are killing full-content feeds because newsreaders haven’t given them a reason not to

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With all the noise on social media, Facebook dictating what we should and shouldn’t like, and Twitter chasing Facebook’s numbers and buying into its spiel, I’ve joined many others in heading back to newsreaders and feeds to find content I care about. The market has improved immensely in the wake of Google Reader’s fortunate demise, but publishers have also understandably begun to limit content in their feeds because for lack of good ways to monetize it, run a business, and pay writers a reasonable wage.
In other words: our newsreaders have improved by leaps and bounds in the past decade, but the feed business hasn’t improved one inch for publishers.

As both a reader and a writer, I honestly can’t blame more and more publishes for flipping the switch on things like limited or excerpt-only feeds. But I also believe this means there is a massive, untapped market that could benefit everyone involved.

Readability saw it a long time ago, and originally launched as a Netflix-like service that let readers pay websites for their content (a few missteps along the way relegated it to a read later also-ran). Google sees it, which is why it recently tossed Contributor against the wall to see if it will stick.

But newsreaders like Feedly, Feedbin, and Pocket are missing a massive opportunity to become couriers between publishers and readers who want to pay for content. They don’t want hideous websites filled with new-age popup ads—er, sorry: “JavaScript bullshit”—and social buttons and Taboola garbage, they want to read content with apps in a clean, gorgeous, comfortable, offline-able, and customizable setting, and they’re willing to pay for it.

Why aren’t there newsreaders that let us pay—somewhere between the barrel-scraping price of Netflix and the premiums of New York Times and Wall Street Journal paywalls—to get full content feeds for all (or most of) the sites we care about, read-later services, and maybe even the ability to comment on articles?

The system could distrubite funds to participating members, clearly label participants so readers know who’s in, offer open enrollment for sites large and small, and fall back on providing limited-content feeds for sites that do not yet or choose not to participate. It would need a team of people that reach out to publishers to clue them into the future and get them on board. It would also need great apps.

Feedly and Digg immediately come to mind, Digg especially. It’s a decent feed reader and it has a smart ‘layer’ on top that surfaces interesting and trending articles from around the web. But whichever the app, this needs to happen.