Instapaper drops monthly subscriptions

Instapaper is dropping its monthly subscription and will begin offering its service ad-free to all users. All of Instapaper’s Premium features, including full-text article searches and speed-reading, will also be opened up to everyone.

This is a big shift for Instapaper, and one that’s clearly driven by its recent acquisition by Pinterest. Before today, Instapaper offered a $2.99 per month (or $29.99 per year) subscription to support itself. But in doing so, it placed some of the service’s unique and helpful features behind a paywall, making it harder to stand out from its much-loved competitor, Pocket.

In opening those features up to everyone, Instapaper starts presenting a more compelling offering. It’s now including various features for free — like full-text searches and ad-free browsing — that Pocket charges for. The services are more-or-less equivalent, so that might be enough to win over people undecided on which read-it-later app to start using.

The question going forward is how, or if, Pinterest wants Instapaper to support itself. Without ads, subscriptions, or an up-front price, Instapaper is only losing money. Though it’s probably fair to suspect that Instapaper wasn’t doing particularly well before now.

The app has gone through several different business models — free with ads, paid only, paid with optional subscription, free with optional subscription — and gone through three different owners (its founder, then Betaworks, now Pinterest). If subscriptions were bringing in a meaningful amount of revenue, Pinterest probably would have let them be.

Pinterest says it has “no new monetization plans to share at this time” for Instapaper. The decision to drop subscriptions, Pinterest says, was simply a matter of the app being “better resourced,” so that it can “offer everyone the best version.” Those resources may be Instapaper’s best chance at taking on Pocket.


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