Does the death of Google Reader mean the death of blogging?

The difficulty was that Reader users, while hyperengaged with the product, never snowballed into the tens or hundreds of millions.

- Rob Fishman

So I heard the news last night via twitter that Google Reader is being retired in July. I promptly checked the source and then RTed it with my first reaction (“Nooo! Don’t take away my reader!”), then posted a comment about it on my favourite bboard which noted the news story and asked for suggestions about a replacement. I may also have whined about it on Facebook and signed a petition or two. There is of course also a twitter tag for #savegooglereader.

Only now, finally,  am I mentioning it in a blogpost which could show up in other people’s Google Reader RSS feeds.

Such is the social media landscape in 2013. And frankly, the fact I’m writing this on a wordpress blog and not a tumblr, and that I haven’t pinned the story on pinterest just shows where I’m lagging behind the times. None of this is remotely likely to change the decision, it’s just how we communicate these days.

It is perhaps interesting that many of my favourite MMO bloggers had pretty much the same reaction; my Reader is full of posts about the death of Reader today. I guess we all used Google Reader a lot to keep up with the various press releases, community blogs, online publications, and personal blogs so that we could pull them into a community of sorts, and write about them in our blogs. If you ever liked reading my link posts, for example, thank Google Reader. (There will be many more link posts before July as I try to get through all the marked posts in my backlog!)

You would be excused at this point for thinking that Google Reader was the only RSS reader in the world. Of course there are others, and if we love our RSS habits then we’ll pick one and transfer. But it was a very well loved application by the people who used it, and may take a place in history as one of the things that Google got very right, and then fairly wrong, and then ditched. (The fairly wrong was when they neutered the sharing facilities –- you used to be able to add small comments on stories in your news feed and then share them with your friends.)

Even though G+ does offer some of the same functionality, it’s just not as neat and focussed on sharing websites as Reader used to be. People have not, in general, warmed to it.

Some analysis by other people

Google Reader’s former product manager commented on Quora that Reader had been under threat for years and links the decision to Google+.

Rob Fishman has a comprehensive, lively post on buzzfeed around the what could have beens of Google Reader, the social network that google built without meaning to. He’s included a lot about the history of RSS and Google Reader.

Never rely on the cloud

We all know that relying on free programmes and resources made by third parties is kind of a foolish thing to do – or at least unreliable. What is given can be taken away. Yet we all do it, we assume perhaps that they know what they are doing and if they aren’t asking us for money it’s because they have something else figured out.

We all know, also, that loving the product isn’t enough if there aren’t enough like-minded people out there and the money isn’t either. And yet, I’d have happily paid for Google Reader and I will miss it when it is gone. And you have to wonder what will go next if the userbase isn’t large enough, blogger perhaps?

Bloggers and RSS Readers

So a lot of bloggers adore their favourite RSS reader. It’s not surprising, blogs (weblogs) originally started as online journals where people could share their favourite links that they had discovered from around the web. Finding links to articles that other people have written and then reading and commenting on them has always been the nuts and bolts of blogging.  All the standard blogging platforms offer an RSS feed, it’s probably displayed prominently on your favourite blogs.

Without Google Reader, people can always find alternatives, but such a huge lack of confidence in the medium from a big name company cannot bode well for the ecosystem.

It may be that blogging’s day in the sun is  waning. I don’t entirely know. People do still very much want to share their thoughts, and those thoughts don’t always fit into small messages. Self publishing your own content and being able to create your own curated newsfeed is also the very stuff of Web 2.0, and RSS happens to do it very well. Specialist newsreaders can handle much higher density of usage than a pretty graphical magazine-style front end –  you can skim headlines in a list much faster than wading through 17 pages of headers, paragraphs, and (of course) images.

Anyhow, I am checking out some alternatives. I am quite inclined to pick an open source or paid for service (theoldreader.com, feedly and newsblur are on my list to try), and this is a crowd sourced list of current readers if anyone is curious.

Do you use RSS Readers to support your blog reading/ writing?

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26 thoughts on “Does the death of Google Reader mean the death of blogging?

  1. I rely on Google Reader for almost all of my news and blog reading, and more importantly, I rely on it as a service to sync my reading across various devices. On my desktop and laptop I use the web app, but on my phone I use Newsify to connect to it, and I’d probably have done the same if I got an iPad.

    The back-end service part is what I think most people will miss about Google Reader, as there are plenty of choices around for RSS clients.

    I’m giving Feedly a go too at the moment, and so far it’s… ok, I guess? The layout and functionality is a bit different, but it does essentially the same thing as the Google Reader web app. On my phone I’ll have to wait and see what the Newsify devs decide to do (Reeder’s devs have stated the app will continue to work once GR is killed, but I prefer Newsify).

  2. I was using a stand alone RSS reader for years before I picked up Google Reader. The problem with the stand alone for me was that sometimes I want to read at work, sometimes at home, and there was no easy way to sync them. (At one point I put the reader on a memory stick, but then I would leave it behind. Go me.)

    My habits are such that I won’t go read sites that do not update regularly unless I have a reader. Unfortunately, such sites are often the most interesting, so I need some way to trigger a visit when there is new content. RSS fills the bill perfectly. Without it I would read fewer blogs.

    As for writing. I usually write my posts THEN go read my RSS feed so I can then say, “DOH! I should have said that!”

    • I have been using chrome sync’d at home and work for google reader but feedly has a chrome and ios app that right now tie into google reader to seamlessly transfer your feeds. It appears to work in this capacity exactly as google reader did. Like Andy above, I used newsify but now that I am migrating apps, I’d like a consistent interface across all three work, home, mobile.

  3. I don’t think it’s a lack of confidence involved here. I think there are two major factors involved in this decision.

    1) Google weren’t making a lot of money here. Or, probably more precisely, couldn’t figure out how to make money from it. There were some attempts, but obviously unsuccessful since they were discontinued.

    2) Google wants more users on Google+. I think this is the main reason. Adoption of plus has been slow. Much slower than Google wants, but this is not Readers fault, it’s just that Facebook had so much more of a head start and that momentum is hard to overcome. One way to grow will be to force Reader users into G+.

    Watch this space, but I suspect Google will announce some form of transfer of feeds into Google Plus at some point.

    One thing that does occur to me is the opportunity that Google has handed out on a silver platter to the company that comes up with a feed reader that is as good or better than Google’s soon to be defunct offering.

    But as to your headline question: No, I doubt this will kill blogging. Someone will come up with a new innovative solution that keeps the feed alive.

    Then Google will buy them out, merge the new reader into their lineup, and then after a few years will close it down again. Kinda like EA buying game studios. ;-)

    • I think they’d like people to use Google+ as their blogging platform rather than blogger, wordpress, et al.

      It may be they will transfer feeds into it but they’ve had ages to plan this, and I’d have thought they would announce it at the same time.

      • The thing is, Google+ isn’t a good format for writing long-form posts. I think that it could have potentially picked up more of the original Reader community if they had integrated RSS feeds and the sharing features early on, but without leveraging their existing community at all, it’s been really hard to even transition into sharing on G+.

        The second best feature about Reader pre-sharing changes was that I only had to go to one place for both my consumption and sharing needs. The best feature was that all my friends were using it. G+ had neither of those things going for it, and even if they try to absorb the feeds now, I’m not sure I would follow.

    • I’m not buying into the “this an attempt to force people to Google+”. Google+ is doing fine, the problem is that every journalist hack that writes about social media visits Google+, sees no activity, and declares it “dead”. The reality is that Google+’s default is set to share with limited people, not public like Facebook, etc. If you take some time to find a good community, you’ll find really great conversations. For example, I follow a number of independent tabletop RPG developers and players, and that’s a tremendously lively group. But, very few post publicly, only to circles they’ve created that include other tabletop RPGers.

      I think if they really wanted to make Reader users go to Google+, they would have made the transition more direct. “Go read RSS feeds in Google+!”

      I think your first reason is the primary one. This is the beancounters being in charge, and they have declared that not enough return on investment has been made from Reader. Theyre ignoring the ill-will this will fuel by the more tech savvy, and how people might be a little more hesitant about trusting Google with another service.

      • The problem Google face now is, people who were using RSS are not going to mysteriously move to G+, in fact they are now going to move away from Google entirely and use a standalone service like Feedly (Feedly is already in the process of launching a Google Reader clone to aggregate your RSS Feeds).

        So where i was actually logging into Google , jumping to Google Reader to read a few feeds, jumping over to Google News (which is pretty cool too) to read some pre-packaged news feeds and then “because i’m there” i might have a look into G+ .

        What will happen now? I will end up logging into Feedly/Netvibes , make THAT my homepage and never use Google services other than reading my email .

        This move i feel is a net-loss for google, they should’ve created an RSS replacement mechanism BEFORE dropping this.

        The already made me look into alternative “dashboard” or “home page” platforms when they started to kill of iGoogle . I looked into Netvibes but i didn’t want to manage my RSS Feeds there -and- in Google Reader, but now Google is actually giving me that push off their platform!

  4. Yes, I rely on RSS to gather news. I simply cannot get to every newsite I need to. I also use other social functions to get MMO blogger news, but I would say RSS is my subscriptions to blog I want to read constantly.

    I don’t think it will affect blogging much. I think this might lead to a culling of blogs and bloggers not cut for it anyway…

  5. I’ve used Google Reader every day for years :) I’m really sad that it’s going away, but I’m finding that there are a lot of cool RSS readers out there. I’m sad to lose the Google integration and natural tie in with my Android phone, but I’m excited to try out some new options and see what cool features I didn’t even know I needed!

    Thanks for the blog plug on your pet battle list too! I’m Josh from The Game Diplomat :)

  6. I don’t think blogging will suffer from Google Reader going away (as has been said, there are alternatives). I’m more worried now about the fate of Blogger, being that my own blog is hosted there.

  7. It’s a gloomy prospect but it’s true – Google never really seemed to care for blogger. when they took over I had high hopes that much needed change and features would follow for blogger, but to this day hardly anything happened. Google never took reigns to ‘attack’ WP or similar. Instead, the introduced Google+ which is basically blogger competition.
    So, you might be on to something here, although it’s saddening. It would mean I transfer my blog to WP.

    As for blogging itself, I don’t see that being threatened at presence. yeah, there are more channels now than used to and faster ones, but bloggers will always be an important part of the internet, all those independent sources and voices existing next to big sites and services. that’s what makes the web so worthwhile and interesting to me and why we can find virtually anything.

    • Yeah, I think blogging will be fine. I wouldn’t be surprised if WordPress doesn’t come out with a Reader-like service as well, as they’re pretty well invested into blogs.

      Anyway, I think if Google has little confidence in RSS, then Blogger’s days are numbered as well. Probably smart to think about transferring away from that platform sooner rather than being forced to later.

      • WordPress has a reader if you use a WordPress.com hosted blog.

        However, it is awkward and unpleasant to use and only works with other WordPress.com hosted blogs. So there is that. The WordPress.com dev people tend to be inwardly focused.

  8. I did try to use Google Reader, but ultimately it just didn’t work. I must be supremely old fashioned since generally I still manually type in a lot of the web addresses of the blogs I read.

  9. I’ve been using Reader for at least a year now, its cross-platform nature is the big selling point. Keeping my read/unread list across my phone, work desktop and gaming laptop. The platform specific (wordpress’) or feature rich alternatives cannot beat a good RSS reader especially for mobile reading while on the underground.

  10. I’ve never been able to get Google Reader to work – either as a blogger or a person who reads blogs. That’s part of the reason I never knew how many subscribers I had when I was writing @ The Stories Of O. I couldn’t get the damn technology to work to do so!

    But, I agree with what others have said. I keep the blogs I peruse the most in my Favorites folder, with a specific one for this purpose. If I like your blog enough, I’ll find a way or make the time to read it. I think if someone is going to cut back on or stop reading blogs altogether because of this, that just makes them lazy and I think it’s sad.

  11. I don’t even know what to do without google reader. I use iGoogle as my homepage and apparently iGoogle is going away in November or something. So I guess my entire life is going to change. Is this part of being an old?

  12. I’ve transitioned more or less to Feedly. It doesn’t work exactly the same, but with enough fiddling it works close enough. TheOldReader is cool, but its server backend was just not ready for this global forced unveiling. I think the best part about the feedly switch is that overall it is a much better mobile reader, and I am actually using that more.

  13. I went to TheOldReader, because it’s in the same format as Google Reader (prioritized for mass consumption), instead of trying to make things bubbly and visually attractive like some of the other offerings.

    As for RSS.. I don’t see any other way I could keep up with over a hundred websites without losing a great deal more time. It has a purpose, and there are people who use it for that purpose, and so long as they do I trust it’ll exist. It’s just that other methods of consumption have come along that work better for other people.

  14. Pingback: Replacing Google Reader with some other RSS reader I can stand the face of | Reality AFK: Priesting Downunder

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