The Death of Google Reader, Growth Opportunity for RSS?

Post Published on March 17, 2013.
Last Updated on April 3, 2016 by davemackey.

I know, I know, I’m a little late to this conversation. The news about Google Reader‘s imminent demise has been circling the web and lighting discussions on fire for a few days now, but I figured I’d throw in a few brief comments anyways.

Image representing Google Reader
Image via CrunchBase

First off, I’ve been using Google Reader for years and my first response was disappointment – though perhaps not as much as I’d expect of myself. Why? Because as many have so astutely pointed out, this may be the end of Google Reader, but Google Reader was long ago abandoned by Google. There hasn’t been innovation on the Google Reader front for some time now.

Secondly, a few weeks ago I began using Feedly – somewhat out of the blue. I’m not sure why, I just did and quickly moved away from Google Reader and used Feedly as my primary RSS reader. This happened before the news about Reader’s execution, so I had something to replace the essential Google Reader already in place.

Now, a few days later, after my initial grief – and yes, I think grief is the right word – over the passing of yet another venerable web product, I’m beginning to feel excited. The market has suddenly opened up and innovation can occur again. Unlike many who think RSS is dead, I think RSS is waiting to mature. It has been a baby for years, used only by technophiles, but it is time for it to permeate technology users generally.

I don’t care how much folks claim that new discovery engines can show us the news we want before we even know we want it – they can’t. And I don’t care how much social networking like Facebook and Twitter provide news – they can’t provide the news I’m looking for, in the quantity and quality I desire – its too easy to miss stories, and I have far too many friends on Facebook whose interests are diverse from mine…causing stories I don’t care about to rise to the surface. Nothing can replace RSS at this juncture, and I don’t expect anything to in the near future either.

The major competitors for this space, that I know of, are Feedly, NewsBlur, and The Old Reader. Of these, I think Feedly has the most potential, with NewsBlur in a close second. Any service which bases itself on the past (The Old Reader) may have some trouble gaining momentum – though if it were to change its name, I can see it moving forward as well. Really, the next days and weeks will make or break things here. I don’t know how many folks Feedly has working for them, but I think I read somewhere NewsBlur is a one-man show and I’d guess The Old Reader is similar?

In any case, lets talk about the features I’m hoping for in a blog reader – I mean beyond the standard, “Hey everybody has that” features:

  • Story Clouding – I’m thinking something similar to TechMeme. Lets say I subscribe to TechCrunch, Mashable, VentureBeat, and GigaOm and a big story comes out about Samsung’s Galaxy S4, rather than having me page through every story it’d be nice to see one story highlighted and then the other stories appearing below it. I can view them all if I want, but I can also choose a “mark all as read” option that will make all stories under the header story marked as read. This reduces the amount of time I spend on redundant stories. Now, honestly, if its about the S4 I’m probably going to at least browse all of the articles, but if it is about the latest gaming device, I may not even read the top article and getting rid of all articles on that topic with one click would be huge.
  • Related Stories – It’d also be cool to see related stories automatically subsumed under heading stories like above. For example, if I’m reading TechCrunch’s coverage of Microsoft’s latest OS release and I don’t subscribe to ReadWrite or BetaNews (I do, to both) and they have an article on the subject – it could appear as a subsumed article under my main article as well. This adds an element of discovery to the feed reading process.
  • WordPress Reblog – Okay, okay, I know I’m being selfish here, but I’d also really like an integration with WordPress (self-hosted) which would allow me to “reblog” content in my reader or alternatively to create a list of “must-read” articles for a specific day I mark in some way that is then auto-posted to my blog. This would be a great help in expediting the blogging process.

Finally, let me make a shout out to Feedly about one minor annoyance that is a major problem right now – you can’t subscribe to Feedly’s blog using Feedly! Ack, what the heck is up with that?


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