Google Reader is popular, so why discontinue it?

Lynne Kiesling

I am fascinated by all of the discussion of Google’s decision yesterday to terminate Google Reader effective July 1. I recall Reader’s origins in 2004, when I was thrilled to find a way to scan news items and blog posts, mark some for further, deeper reading, and organize my reading into my several topic areas of deep interest.

I’ve always presumed that most people use RSS readers, and read Knowledge Problem and other blogs via an RSS reader. Apparently I am mistaken, and a lot of reading has transitioned from RSS readers to more magazine-style applications, like Flipboard and Zite (and Google’s offering, Currents, which I have on my iPad but don’t use). While I like reading casually using Flipboard and Zite on my iPad, Google Reader has been my mainstay because it integrates across my iPad, Android phone, and our various desktops of various operating systems. It’s clean and simple, and enables me to get informed when and how I want.

There are two interesting dynamics in play here. One is how Google stripped Reader of its community/social features in 2011, moving social network link sharing to Google+ (which I use occasionally, but it hasn’t captivated my scarce attention). Reader’s continued popularity among a set of goal-oriented users is an indication that not all online readers want their reading experience to be social. Sure, it’s pretty easy to share items on other platforms if you so choose, but if you don’t value the integrated social aspect of an RSS reader then, Reader was a good choice.

I don’t think the potentially niche aspect of the Reader population was its death-knell, though (heck, aren’t we living in the long tail? Paging Chris Anderson …). The second dynamic is the one that I think is Reader’s death-knell: it’s not an advertising-friendly platform. As noted in this post, the RSS model is dying, at least as a Google platform, because it is not very compatible with advertising (hat tip to Tyler Cowen in his Twitter feed for the link).

I suspect that we’ll find other alternatives emerge, and perhaps even some advertising-friendly ones to pay for themselves, as the July date approaches. The existing options (Reeder, Feedly, etc.) will adapt, to their benefit. In my case, I’ll be dusting the cobwebs off of my old NetVibes account and porting over my links.

Do you use Reader? Another RSS reader? Rely on bookmarks within your browser? How do you consume online content?

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18 thoughts on “Google Reader is popular, so why discontinue it?

  1. i love google reader due to the lack of advertising. flipboard is the next best for reading what i have already established as good content producers, zite is for expanding and exploring

  2. That’s a real bummer, I may just give up on RSS feeds once Reader goes away, it was so simple and perfect. Guess I won’t see Knowledge Problem anymore after that. I just don’t have time to go to every website every day looking for new posts.

  3. Oh, Lance, don’t do that! You can export your Google Reader feeds and use them in Feedly or Reeder or NetVibes!

  4. I use Google reader ALL the time. Thanks for the analysis. As one user posted on a Google board, “You are not Google’s customer. Advertisers are the customer. You are the product.” Perhaps Google should change their motto to “Do no evil – to our customers”.

  5. Why do people keep saying you can’t monetize RSS? Every website RSS feed I have subscribed to only has a few sentences or a couple paragraphs in Reader, and if I want to read more of the story (because you know, the first few lines are good enough for me to click through) I click and presto I am taken to a webpage with ads. If anything, RSS and Reader fuel web traffic and posts onto Twitter, Facebook, and yes even G+.

  6. I have used Reader for quite a while. When they removed the social options, I didn’t use it as much and eventually started using FlipBoard on my phone over the Reader App. I still think that over half of my content on FlipBoard come through the Reader Api. I do prefer the presentation in FlipBoard. My biggest issue FlipBoard is no Web App.

    I going to try a few of the alternatives that I have seen suggested like Feedly and Pulse. I’m curious to see what LinkedIn does with Pulse if they are successful with the buyout.

    @Harry Forbes – Nice meme. 🙂 I’m curious, what is this Reeder Hitler refers to at the very end. 😉

  7. I too am bummed about Reader. It suited my habits very well. I really would like a web based solution to replace it. But, I didn’t see anything that attracted me. One of the web based ones I looked at said that I had to agree to let them go through my e-mail address book. Sorry dudes.

    I use Mozilla Thunderbird as my mail program for my POP3 mail account. It has a built in RSS reader module that works like a news reader module from the old days. So I just down loaded my subscriptions from Reader and opened them up in Thunderbird.

    It works, but it will be hard to synch with my laptop. So, I am still looking for a web based solution. If anybody out there finds one. Please share your experience with us.

  8. NewsBlur is starting to work, and I like it so far. I paid for the premium account, $24 for a year. Once nice feature is that is finding new versions of old feeds. I didn’t realize, for example that the Breitbart sites had changed. NewsBlur found the new feeds and pulled them all in.

    It’s still slow, however.

    I’ll give Smashing Reader a look as well.

  9. I’ve been using RSS readers as browser add-ins since they were first launched, but never warmed to Google Reader. I started using Feedly (so my Android phone and computers could use the same thing), and only signed onto G Reader because it was Feedly’s back end. Lynn’s right – not a great platform for Google to monetize.

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