So Google Reader is no more. And has been off the grid for more than a week now. Google Reader had been part of my daily ritual almost since its inception in 2005. The demise of Google Reader hasn’t been as disruptive as when the Oprah Show (another part of my daily ritual) went off the air, but finding a suitable replacement has been a challenge.
In a Google Reader Rut
I have to admit to having been in somewhat of a Google Reader rut. For years. I used it daily (many times a day) to keep up with my favorite websites in a way that felt to me to be an efficient use of my time.
I loved that for a long time most of the feeds included the entire article (with pictures) and I didn’t have to be sucked into a full website experience that would just end up with me going even further down a rabbit hole that wasn’t originally intended. Then many sites and their feed services got smart and would only put up partial articles, maybe with some, but not all of the images and I would then be forced to go to the site to get the full article. That was still better than visiting 60-70+ sites a day.
Skimming the headlines in a feed reader is enough for me to take the temperature of a site’s offerings and decide if I want to dig for more. It was great to also be able to do that on my iPhone, iPad or using the Google Reader web app on both those devices. A perfect time killer when waiting in line at the Department of Licensing, right?
But back to my Google Reader rut. I tried other RSS feed readers, mostly on iOS devices and really never stuck with an alternate for the time it would take to get through the learning curve. I just kept going back to Google Reader. And I’ve heard that some people actually receive their RSS feeds through Outlook? What a nightmare for your inbox! I’m subscribed to approximately 70 feeds at any one time. No, Google Reader worked just fine for my needs.
Next Steps and Alternatives
Despite the Google Reader shutdown being announced in March of this year, I dragged my feet almost to the bitter end. In mid-June I cleaned out my Google Reader faves (starred items) etc. Then exported my OPML file using Google Takeout (which apparently Google will allow you to do until July 15). I researched alternatives to Google Reader including Feedly (free…for now), Feedbin ($2/month or $20/year), Newsblur (limited free account or $24/year for premium), NetNewsWire ($10 while app is in beta, $20 after), and Feed Wrangler FeedWrangler ($19/year), just to name a few. There are several additional alternatives to Google Reader out there that you can try out for yourself if you’re able to invest the time.
And the Winner Is…Only Time Will Tell
I started using Feedly more than two weeks ago because it was being recommended by several podcasters I regularly follow and whose opinions I respect. Feedly seems to be the most popular right now because it’s currently free and they made it super easy to transfer all my feeds over. Feedly also has iPad and iPhone apps that sync so that you can hop from device to device—just like I used to do with Google Reader. It’s most glaring drawback for me is the lack of search functionality–the ability to search through all my past feeds. Feedly support reports that it’s a feature they are working on for the future. A nice feature is that now my faves (aka. saved, starred, etc.) can save to my Pocket account to read/refer to later.
I took a hard look at a paid option such as Feed Wrangler with it’s less than elegant interface, but with sync between and free Feed Wrangler apps for iPhone and iPad. It would be nice to have a 10-day trial for some of these paid options. And…Feedbin looks good too, comparably priced, but without the iOS apps (at the time this article was written).
Even internet biggies like Digg and AOL have come out with their own free feed aggregators. I’ve played with them a bit and and Digg may end up being my back up, but in my brief time with it, the feeds weren’t updating fast enough. It’ll also be interesting to see the social media spin they each will include in future updates given their origins.
The Future of Feed Readers
But my question remains: if Google couldn’t make a go of it with a free RSS reader, then how will any other company succeed with a free offering? Or another way to pose that question is: how long will these options remain free? Or how will the advertising landscape change within the screen real estate of this new crop of RSS readers? Given what the paid offerings are currently, I would actually have paid Google a couple of dollars a month to keep Google Reader going.
Don’t Look to Replace, Look for the Next New Thing
Okay. Change is hard. For me, there was no replacement for Oprah. I never switched to Ellen or Katie Couric or any other daily TV talk show. I fill that time with audio podcasts now, of which the range and quality of topics and discussion make the daily TV talk show format seem so 1994. (…my addiction to audio podcasts is a topic for another article). My point is along the same lines: Google Reader was so 2009, right? It’s time has come and gone and now there’s room for a new generation of RSS readers that may turn out to be easier to use, more in tune with emerging social media trends and will better facilitate my engagement with my online interests and their related communities.
Now It’s Your Turn…
Were you a Google Reader user? If yes, what are you using now? If no, how do you currently consume your favorite blogs and other websites?