Sunday, 17 March 2013

Google Reader - RIP. Now go try something new!

There’s been a lot of column inches online and offline dedicated to the demise of Google Reader. Lots of sadness.

Lots of outrage, too. Mainly from bloggers, who seem to think that this, the final putrid gasp from the fetid corpse that is RSS, signals the end of their blog, and will suddenly cut off their readership, who won’t be able to find their content anymore.

I think it’s a good thing.

Speaking from my perspective, the audience that I receive via RSS has always been incredibly small. I don’t even think it’s in double figures. And that’s not something I’m particularly ashamed of.

I like having regular readers to my blog. Most of my readers come from one of a number of non-rss sources: Hacker News, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Stumbleupon and G+. Maybe Reddit if I’m lucky.

I would much rather have somebody come through to my blog post whilst they are actively out seeking relevant content, rather than passively reading my blog posts via their RSS reader.

I get much more value out of cultivating a social media presence than encouraging people to sign up via my RSS feed.

You may say that’s a bit of a no-brainer given my profession, but you’d be wrong. I do rely on aggregation services and RSS readers like Feedly and Prismatic to get my daily news fix throughout the day. But where am I increasingly finding the really interesting content?

  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Hacker News
  • Facebook
  • G+
  • LinkedIn

When somebody shares a piece of content, they are actively participating in the process. They are interested enough in the content to not only read it, but also share it. This makes me much happier than when somebody skim-reads my entry in Reader.

When I am logged into an RSS reader, I am not always in ‘share mode’ - I’m in ‘passive consumption’ mode, and I want to binge on as many blogs as humanly possible, in lots of different subjects.

I get more of a kick out of people participating in the sharing of my content than simply consuming it and then moving on.

What about you? What do you think? What does the death of Google Reader mean for your blog and readership?


  1. I think you should drop your RSS feed from your blog for say a month and see if that yields anything meaningful?

    But don't cheat! Remove it from the blog, and remove it from services like Twitterfeed, IFTTT, etc.
    Ideally even, just remove the XML that's in it.

    I'd love to see what consequences it has in terms of readership, in terms of content shared (or not!), in terms of SEO... etc.

  2. The shared content comes as a result of someone at sometime consuming the feed. The value is the source, and that's RSS.

  3. Buddy Whittenburg17 March 2013 at 16:21

    I'm actually getting a bit tired of having to evangelize google reader and RSS in general. I personally don't believe that this is the end of the world, and I believe that the most harm was actually done by Google when they neglected reader for years so that it couldn't grow along with the internet.

    That being said, I'm getting the feeling that you don't understand how these social sites, and the blogosphere actually work. There is a point in time before your story is on reddit or HN where it will eventually get most of it's eyeballs. At this point your content still needs to be discovered. You have only a few options:

    1.) I check my RSS feeds and read your story (not necessarily skim - unless it sucks)

    2.) You post a headline on twitter (definitely skimming here) AND I happen to be watching the stream the moment you post.

    3.) You get lucky and facebook doesn't hide your hard work from me, or you pay facebook to distribute it.

    4.) I happen to see the post during my bi-annual checking of G+.

    From a user perspective, RSS is hands down the most reliable way to keep up with sources that I really care about. Everything else causes me to miss articles from sources that I love all together.

  4. This is opinion, of course, but I disagree and I think a combination of social media AND RSS is useful

    1) RSS is not a 'fetid corpse'. It has many other uses than allowing people to read blogs and news. Podcasts, for one.
    2) You may well get lots of traffic from social networks, but do you know how many of those originate from an RSS feed? I.e. someone reading and RSS feed shares your posts on social media, and others pick up on it and re-share. Genuine question, I have no stats.
    3 Why do you think that people on social media are 'seeking out relevant content', but people using a feed reader are not? I find social media is full of noise and that's the thing that I skim through. The feeds that I follow, however, are the things I've selected to read regularly and in detail. Items in my RSS reader are pre-selected for relevance.

    In fact, I'm totally the opposite to you. I skim read social media - engaging briefly where necessary; but I read my feeds in detail, looking for deeper engagement. I would much rather someone left a long comment on my blog and added me to Reader so they can come back when I next post, than they just Tweet a link and forget about me.

    I wonder who is typical here, if anyone? Should we dismiss RSS as dead? Or keep it in our toolbox for engaging with people?

  5. plugger lockett18 March 2013 at 02:48

    So you're advocating 6+ separate platforms to find content in 2013? Why can't those six platforms instead provide open standard feeds that could be aggregated into one service? I can tell you why, it makes too much sense and there's no money in it.

  6. Maybe I should. I think that I still get most of my hits from social discovery and search. I'm just making the point that RSS has never really been very useful to me with regards to people discovering my content. I'm not shedding any tears over Reader closing.

  7. Hi Plugger. There are thousands of ways to discover content online, and RSS is only one of them. I know that Netvibes and Feedly are mostly picking up the slack where Google is dropping services. You pick the one you enjoy, and personally, I enjoy discovery, rather than delivery.

    This is personal preference speaking - I use RSS myself, I'm just picking a very specific area of it - the community element. It's just not working for me.

  8. Hi Ross,

    Thanks for being so focussed in your response.

    1) No, you're right, it's not - I've been reading Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, and the florid language used might have inadvertantly seeped into my blogging. Consider this my Mea Culpa! :-)

    2) That's a very good question: the short answer is that I don't.

    3) I think this because we go to social media sites for a reason. RSS to me is about filtered consumption, whereas social media is primarily about community. I would rather ensure that my blog resides in the latter. This is a personal opinion of course.

    Looks like we are opposites. I consume media in a different way to you, and I think that you're right - no one person is typical in their consumption pattern.

    I'm really glad that my post sparked a bit of debate, and thanks for your contribution to this.

  9. You won't have to evangelise Google Reader for much longer Buddy! It's going! ;-)

    I do understand how these social sites work - it's my bread and butter. I think we just have differing opinions, and your use of the phrase 'evangelise' tells me everything I need to know.

    We just prefer different delivery mechanics. It's not you, it's me. ;-)

    PS: On point 4 - you should check Google+ a bit more - it's fantastic.