Why the Shuttering of Google Reader Might Be a Good Thing

This week’s announcement that Google Reader is shutting down has me and many others waxing a bit nostalgic.

I’m an admitted RSS geek. Back in 2008 I wrote a series of blog posts extolling the emerging virtues of RSS technology. Prior to Google Reader I used tools like Bloglines, FeedDemon and NewsGator to subscribe to and read blogs.

In that time most tools, services and networks have essentially turned RSS into the plumbing that makes everyday things like Facebook and Eventbrite work.

I have been telling people to subscribe to blogs using RSS readers to stay informed, learn about specific industries, get inspiration for blog posts and monitor customer and competitor content for years and won’t stop any time soon.

This behavior is still an essential element of any complete listening strategy and that doesn’t change simply because one of the most popular tools for doing so goes away.

In fact, being forced to move beyond Google Reader may be a very good thing for long time users like me. There are plenty of alternatives for reading RSS feeds and this should spark the development of even better ones.

I’ll continue to keep on eye on Reeder at they have pledged to keep the tool alive without dependency on Reader. (Buffer users might want to catch this update from Buffer)

Google has valid reasoning for shutting down Reader and frankly I was little surprised with the violent reaction to the news. My take is that when an organization offers to let you use a free tool you’re not a customer, you’re a part of the product and in that regard you’re entitled to very little say. (Think Facebook)

Google has bet the social farm on Google+ and all signs point to decisions being made on two fronts only: How to continue to make a killing selling advertising and how to make users dependent upon Google+. To think otherwise is naïve.

So, what is an avid newsreader to do moving forward.

The need to find an alternative way to easily scan and read daily blog posts has me reconsidering the utility of the practice. Part of the reason Google stated for shuttering Reader is decreased usage. (Of course when you don’t update a tool and actually strip away the more useful parts people will find a better tool.)

A growing number of people have also turned to RSS aggregator tools like Flipboard and Pulse that can spoon feed more visually appealing content based on chosen topics. Heck, Google even has one of these called Google Currents.

For me, I still prefer discovering and building a custom collection of feeds and am busy trying out the newer breed of RSS readers that combines many of the social behaviors that Reader simply ignored.

Tools like Netvibes (Okay this is an oldie, but it’s kept up) present feeds in a dashboard style and add paid features such as alerts, curation, monitoring and analytics to your reading. With a little work you can turn NetVibes into a a full blown listening station for most of your social networking.

Feedly, another popular alternative, combines bookmarking with feed reading and sharing.

NewsBlur is a simple interface that includes mobile apps and ability to share stories your find on popular sites such as Evernote.

Note: Many of these once small services are getting crushed with traffic from Reader migration right now so be prepared for some quirkiness.

Most of the services mentioned have out of the box transfer of your current Google Reader set up but you can also export your Reader Feeds using the Google Takeout tool and then upload the OPML file to your chosen service.

And look to see some new tools coming online in the near future.

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John Jantsch

John Jantsch is a marketing consultant, speaker and author of Duct Tape Marketing, Duct Tape Selling, The Commitment Engine and The Referral Engine and the founder of the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network.
  • Keith Marshall

    I love my google reader for the same reasons you mention above.
    For the past couple of days, I’ve been wondering why readers and RSS feeds never caught on. It’s such a great way to power through news and blogs. I’ve always found I’m half a day or more ahead of most people I know. If this is the beginning of the end its a very sad day.

  • Werner Siemens

    Big fan of Reader and sad to see it go. But you’re right … the angry outpouring is entirely misplaced. It was free (as in beer). Couple points though John that I’d like to correct — Feedly doesn’t combine bookmarking with rss. Its a nice skin to Google Reader. The bookmarking part is actually more like “starring” articles you like. The interesting thing about these folks is they already have a custom backend end in place to replace Reader as the source. Their mobile apps are beautiful too — definitely worth a look for anyone looking for a new service. Secondly – You refer to Newsblur as a simple interface. John – you just exposed yourself. Newsblur’s interface is anything but simple. Its a mess of bling bling. I’m absolutely certain the bling will be what puts off most folks from even considering it. Free version allows tracking of only 12 feeds … you pay for more (like 2 or 3 $ a mo). To me, its not an option. One that your readers might like is The Old Reader (theoldreader.com) which simulates Google Reader look and feel of a few revisions back when they still had a social element integrated with reader feeds. Its probably a great alternative, but has a couple negatives: (1) no mobile version (bad) and (2) the “import from google reader” queue now has something on the order of 30K (yes thats a “K” as in 000s) backlogged. Might take a few days for a new signup to get in unless they start fresh (very bad).