When Google recently announced it would shut down its Reader service by June, backlash and revolt ensued, but many also questioned how many people actually used the service. Google Reader’s last product manager called the move a “missed opportunity” in a recent Forbes article. Below, I’ll share with you four legitimate Google Reader alternatives I found while searching the web. But first, my thoughts on Google’s decision to kill off Google Reader.
I’ve personally used Google Reader since about 2007, and follow hundreds of blogs to keep up with the latest and greatest. It’s my primary source of Google+ and Twitter content and I integrate it with Buffer to share content to at least 20 social channels.
Killing Reader will also kill my custom FlipBoard set-up. Reader integration is one of my favorite things about FlipBoard. Perhaps Google wants us to use Currents (Google’s answer to FlipBoard) instead, despite the fact that we’ve all but forgotten about Currents and it’s probably in the chopping block queue itself.
At one point, I used Google Reader to subscribe to podcast RSS feeds, which would conveniently auto-sync to Google Listen (until that service was killed), which was much better than downloading the audio files to the device. When I had my own podcast, I used Reader to share content with my co-host and then we would go to Docs to create the program schedule.
I use Google Reader to perform custom searches (e.g. search keywords, phrases) within folders of blogs, which is very helpful, a secret trick I’ve taught others, and much easier than a similar string that would need to be used to do the same within Google search. As a PR guy, I also tracked key stories I landed through Reader by setting custom RSS feeds for domains I was pitching with certain keyword combinations. Reader serves as fun way to share the content once it’s published. Reader is one of my favorite Google products — second only to Gmail and maybe search.
I understand that my heavy use of Google Reader is probably rare, and why should Google keep the service open for a few power users anyway? A great article on TechCrunch by MG Siegler argues the case that power users are the bees that pollinate the social web and that Google Reader is the flower from which the best content is curated before being shared across the web. More concerning to Siegler, though, is the amount of traffic blog owners will lose due to Google Reader shutting down. He found that Google Reader ranks fourth in traffic generation for Techcrunch right behind Google Search, Facebook and Twitter (and Google Reader almost beat Twitter).
I can’t see killing Reader helping Google+, and although I doubt they’ll reconsider, maybe all of this backlash will have an impact. Perhaps Reader becomes a feature in Google+ under a different name. Doubtful, though.
In the meantime, I’ve delayed the inevitable and continue to use Google Reader. I have searched out a few good alternatives though, and I’m happy to share them here.
Feedly is clearly the frontrunner in the battle among the Google Reader alternatives, even offering Reader users a way to easily transport their feeds into its service. 500,000 Google Reader users flocked to Feedly within two days of Google’s announcement to shut down Reader. They’re now up to three million users from Google Reader. Feedly’s mobile experience looks great and it appears to have some great social sharing options. I have a few friends among those who switched from Google Reader and they love it. In fact, I’m signing up for my account today to test it out.
Digg used to be one of the cool social media kids on the block, but fell off the mainstream radar and lost its cool. While the reason behind its fall is for another post, Digg has taken the opportunity of Reader’s demise to get back in shape become relevant again. It may be worth signing in to my old account there.
It’s not the prettiest of RSS readers, but Newsblur is built for journalists who can’t miss a beat. Rather than bogging the system down with an attractive user interface, Newsblur is built for speed, updating feeds every minute. Newsblur also allows for some decent organization of feeds. It’s
The Old Reader
Designed to act as much like Google Reader as possible, The Old Reader will be the most familiar experience to users coming from Google Reader, who will like the similar keyboard shortcuts and social sharing options. It’s currently in beta testing, but open to new users.
Whether you’re a stranded Google Reader user, or looking to jump into the wonder of RSS content consumption, I hope this post helps. Best of luck and let me know if you come across any other good Google Reader alternatives.
@Tim Johnson: Thanks for your feedback. I hope you find the right fit!
@Marc Copeland: I think you’ll like it.
@Steven Spenser: I’ll have to check out Netvibes, thanks for the addition. How do you like Feedly?