I’m an admitted RSS geek. Back in 2008 I wrote a series of blog posts extolling the emerging virtues of RSS technology. Prior to Google Reader I used tools like Bloglines, FeedDemon and NewsGator to subscribe to and read blogs.
In that time most tools, services and networks have essentially turned RSS into the plumbing that makes everyday things like Facebook and Eventbrite work.
I have been telling people to subscribe to blogs using RSS readers to stay informed, learn about specific industries, get inspiration for blog posts and monitor customer and competitor content for years and won’t stop any time soon.
This behavior is still an essential element of any complete listening strategy and that doesn’t change simply because one of the most popular tools for doing so goes away.
In fact, being forced to move beyond Google Reader may be a very good thing for long time users like me. There are plenty of alternatives for reading RSS feeds and this should spark the development of even better ones.
Google has valid reasoning for shutting down Reader and frankly I was little surprised with the violent reaction to the news. My take is that when an organization offers to let you use a free tool you’re not a customer, you’re a part of the product and in that regard you’re entitled to very little say. (Think Facebook)
Google has bet the social farm on Google+ and all signs point to decisions being made on two fronts only: How to continue to make a killing selling advertising and how to make users dependent upon Google+. To think otherwise is naïve.
So, what is an avid newsreader to do moving forward.
The need to find an alternative way to easily scan and read daily blog posts has me reconsidering the utility of the practice. Part of the reason Google stated for shuttering Reader is decreased usage. (Of course when you don’t update a tool and actually strip away the more useful parts people will find a better tool.)
A growing number of people have also turned to RSS aggregator tools like Flipboard and Pulse that can spoon feed more visually appealing content based on chosen topics. Heck, Google even has one of these called Google Currents.
For me, I still prefer discovering and building a custom collection of feeds and am busy trying out the newer breed of RSS readers that combines many of the social behaviors that Reader simply ignored.
Tools like Netvibes (Okay this is an oldie, but it’s kept up) present feeds in a dashboard style and add paid features such as alerts, curation, monitoring and analytics to your reading. With a little work you can turn NetVibes into a full blown listening station for most of your social networking.
Feedly, another popular alternative, combines bookmarking with feed reading and sharing.
NewsBlur is a simple interface that includes mobile apps and ability to share stories your find on popular sites such as Evernote.
Note: Many of these once small services are getting crushed with traffic from Reader migration right now so be prepared for some quirkiness.
Most of the services mentioned have out of the box transfer of your current Google Reader set up but you can also export your Reader Feeds using the Google Takeout tool and then upload the OPML file to your chosen service.
And look to see some new tools coming online in the near future.