Saving web content for later has been growing in popularity over the last few years, with several new players entering the game and the functionality being added even to Apple’s own web browser. Most recently, Readability went to a free model after its attempt to offer premium subscription service fizzled.
Now well-known web-clipping app Read It Later has renamed itself to “Pocket” and and taken the same route—going from a $2.99 paid app to free. In a post to his blog, developer Nate Weiner explains his company had already decided to move to a new revenue model because it was hard to get people to pay for something they didn’t understand, and also because the application provides so much increased value over time that it doesn’t make sense to charge up front for it.
What that new revenue model is, Weiner doesn’t say. My guess is either it will be advertising and referral supported, or add some sort of subscription-based premium program, or both. After getting $2.5 million in venture capital, however, Weiner insists the company does have a plan, and it’s not just “We’ll figure it out later.”
The rebranding is a little puzzling, though. As “Read It Later”, the app had built up a lot of name recognition, and changing the name means it will have to start over from scratch. Of course, it is true that “Read It Later” is a bit of a generic name—heck, the bookmarklet my installation of its competitor Instapaper created said “Read it later”—but “Pocket” is just as generic, if not more so. You would have thought they’d pick a more original construction, something easier to defend as a trademark like “InstaPaper” or “Evernote”.
Regardless, it will be interesting to see what the new Pocket business model is, whenever Weiner finally reveals it.
Was it ever revealed what that plan would be? Not much on the interwebs about it. That $2.5 million’s going to dry up eventually. Playing coy with what your business model is for this long doesn’t do much to instill confidence in your most loyal users, Pocket.
I remember what happened to del.icio.us. That debacle prompted me to become a paid Pinboard customer because I want to trust that a service I depend on will still be around in 10 years. I have an Instapaper subscription for the same reason.
I’m of the opinion that if you love a web service (streaming music service, cloud storage service, whatever)—and want it to stick around—you need to prove it with money. Unless you’re okay with being the product (i.e., a member of any ad-supported free service) and don’t care what gets shoved down your throat as a result.
Once they’ve reached crtitical mass, free services no longer owe you anything, certainly not tech support; if you leave, there will be a thousand others behind you willing to endure the rebrands and redesigns and increasingly intrusive advertising methods. Is Pocket headed down that path?