Instapaper, Ars Technica and Money Dollars

Last year when Ars Technica published the behemoth review of OS X Lion by John Siracusa, I wanted to read it on my iPad without having to visit 20-something different pages on the Ars site. So, I paid $5 for the Ars Premier membership (which, among other things, lets you download the Siracusa reviews as single PDFs). I downloaded the PDF of the review and promptly canceled my subscription. They got my $5 and I got to not be annoyed by the pagination on Ars’ site.

This year, it’s a little different. I use Instapaper for most of my longer-form article consumption and, as of recently, this service is able to figure out if an article has been spread across multiple pages. If it is, each page is captured and the article is rebuilt into a single document, suitable for viewing in the Instapaper app (or on the Web site).

I can’t help but think that Ars (and sites like Ars) must be a little miffed at Instapaper (and services like Instapaper). Naturally, the reason Ars spreads the article out over so many pages is so they can get 20-something ad impressions per reader of the article. Or, as described earlier, you can pay some dough and get a PDF without ads. Instapaper (and services like it) effectively sidestep both monetization efforts by offering the equivalent of the paid option for free.

I’m not singling out Instapaper here as there are many competing services that perform similar functions (though, to be fair, Instapaper created this class of application). I guess I just find it curious and wonder if sites like Ars are doing anything to impede services like Instapaper.