A weekly look at a story that is defining the news.

IAC (NSDQ: IACI) notoriously let Bloglines deteriorate since buying it five years ago;…

Crystal Ball
photo: Corbis

A weekly look at a story that is defining the news.

IAC (NSDQ: IACI) notoriously let Bloglines deteriorate since buying it five years ago; the company outsourced the RSS reader’s engineering team to China several years ago and by the time it made the announcement today that it would shut down the service, Bloglines no longer had a dedicated staff at all. But Bloglines’ shut down was likely inevitable whether IAC had taken better care of it or not, as people have shifted away from RSS readers over the last two years.

There have been predictions since at least 2006, when Pluck shut its RSS reader down that “consumer RSS readers” were a dead market, because, as ReadWriteWeb wrote then, they were “rapidly becoming commodities,” as RSS reading capabilities were integrated into other products like e-mail applications and browsers. And, indeed, a number of consumer-oriented RSS readers, including News Alloy, Rojo, and News Gator, shut down in recent years.

At the same time, traffic to two RSS readers — Bloglines and Google (NSDQ: GOOG) Reader — continued to grow. As recently as mid-2008, Hitwise said that both Bloglines and Google Reader were “growing rapidly” and represented “a huge potential disruption for media companies.” Visits to Bloglines at the time were up 158 percent year-over-year, while traffic to Google Reader was up 267 percent.

But people no longer seem to be abandoning certain readers for others — or for other ways to access those same feeds. Instead, they appear to be abandoning RSS readers as a way to read the news altogether. Hitwise, for instance, tells us that visits to Google Reader are down 27 percent year-over-year, while visits to Bloglines are down 71 percent year-over-year. comScore (NSDQ: SCOR) figures show that traffic to Bloglines has largely stagnated:


Likely to blame is that people are increasingly turning to services like Facebook and Twitter to manage what they read instead instead of RSS readers. As Hitwise’s Heather Hopkins wrote last February, Facebook accounted for about 3.52 percent of all visits to news and media sites. Google Reader’s (shrinking) total back then stood at 0.01 percent.

Indeed, in its announcement, Bloglines similarly blames broader trends for its demise, saying, “As Steve Gillmor pointed out in TechCrunch last year, being locked in an RSS reader makes less and less sense to people as Twitter and Facebook dominate real-time information flow. Today RSS is the enabling technology

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  1. I can’t help thinking that this news outlet, and others, have a vested interest in undermining RSS Readers.

    Bloglines is more useful that Twitter – it’s reliable, whereas Twitter is more random in finding news. I’ve Exported my OPML as it is valuable to me.

    Yes, it’s personal to me – more than who I “follow”.

  2. This is exactly true. RSS reader is just a time-consuming application and another form of e-entertainment for people in regard to their interests or what not. It should be better integrated into Mail Application like one we have on Mac or Outlook express for PC. Although the feature is already available in those mail app more improvement is needed to cross-function as a single application that does all. Whether it is RSS, e-Newsletter, or Blog feeds, it is essentially the same thing.

  3. Google Reader ate them all up.

  4. Just paid a visit here from my Google Reader to tell you that..

  5. The steady rise in usage (until recently) of Google Reader and Bloglines could be attributed more to refugees from discontinued feed-readers than late adopters of one of Web 2.0’s groundbreaking technologies. Thanks to automation, RSS remains the easiest and most reliable way to keep track of all events of interest, if one follows the right feeds (as in twitter).

    Case in point: I discovered this article in Yahoo Finance’s GOOG RSS news feed (which provides comprehensive and fairly timely coverage on all things GOOG)

    RSS is a one-way form of communication by definition (hence the ‘syndication’). In contrast, news sites feature stories of import more prominently, and in turn users vote for their interests through facebook likes, retweets, and myriad social link-sharing sites. Editorializing (weeding out redundant/uninteresting material) is the key human element RSS lacks in its current format. Until that changes, RSS’s social influence and hence growth potential remains limited.

    Another case in point: One can better gauge responses to this (and most other stories) by viewing the twitter retweets, which outnumber comments on the actual blog post.

  6. “The Death Of The RSS Reader”. Seriously?

    Twitter and Facebook are in no way substitutes for RSS readers. Unless I’m missing the point, they don’t track website updates in any particularly co-ordinated manner, which is essential if you want to keep up to date with news. Also, while I like my friends on Facebook and contacts on Twitter, I wouldn’t trust their editorial abilities to filter out crap; indeed, some will have a natural bias towards certain stories. At their best, Facebook and Twitter are sources of miscellaneous, superfluous info. I go there to share stuff, sure, but I don’t go there to find stuff.

  7. But I use FaceBook & Twitter to see what others recommend to me and to recommend links to my network. RSS is what I recommend to myself. Very different purposes for me. Hard to dispute the stats if they bear out that most of the world is more interested only in peer networks. But for me, that’s only a piece of my information diet.

  8. I’ve heard tell of the death of RSS for some time now. It still is, for me, my central hub for all things recommended to myself. In fact, I pull my Twitter timeline into it, and all Facebook notifications, so it’s really my central hub for all news online. It’s also become a personal database of sorts, with tagging, starring, etc. Oh, and I can feed any of the items into whatever service I choose- share via Twitter, save to Instapaper, Evernote, send to delicious, etc. Not to mention the “explore” option to discover new content. If RSS dies, consider me ticked.

  9. Disagree. RSS is very useful to collect large mounts of headlines for quick review.

  10. Bloglines was the first RSS reader I ever found useful – mainly due to the web-based nature of it. And I was very happy to meet a couple of members of the team when I first attended Gnomedex.

    But then the product just sort of froze and eventually I switch over to Google Reader. Where I still go occasionally but much less often than I did a few years ago.

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