Google Reader, please don’t go — I need you to do my job

27 Comments

When I learned Wednesday night that Google Reader is shutting down, I literally broke into a sweat. Like many journalists, I’ve come to rely on the 242 RSS subscriptions I manage through Google (s GOOG) Reader. It’s the first thing I check every morning — second only to making a cup of coffee — and, along with Twitter and email, one of the top three resources I use to do my job. And honestly, if I had to get rid of one of those, it would be the email.

Instead, Google’s making the choice for me: As of July 1, Google Reader will be no more. “While the product has a loyal following, over the years usage has declined,” the company wrote on its blog. I’d bet that journalists are among the most loyal followers of all, and this morning we are a very unhappy bunch. “Google Reader” is the number-one trending topic on Twitter right now.

The loss of Google Reader could change the way a lot of web journalists, like me, do our jobs. Here are some of the reasons we love the service — and why there’s an opportunity for other companies to step up and serve us (assuming we’re not somehow able to convince Google to keep Reader alivewe’ll even pay for it!).

Twitter isn’t a substitute for RSS…

The best thing about Google Reader, from my point of view, is that it allows me to scan a lot of information quickly, with the assurance that I’m not missing anything. That’s why, for me, it fills a completely different role than the (equally useful) Twitter does. Twitter provides a snapshot of a moment in time, and you’re likely to miss tweets as they whiz by; Google Reader stores everything. The search on Google Reader is also vastly better than the search on Twitter, and it goes back indefinitely.

…and neither is Flipboard

Services like Flipboard are great if you want to see the most popular stories on a given topic. But as someone who really geeks out digital book publishing, I don’t just want to see the stories that an aggregator recommends for me because they’ve reached a critical mass. I want to keep up with the little blogs, the niche blogs that rarely surface but that do occasionally pick up on some story or emerging trend that I would simply have never learned about otherwise. Google Reader helps me keep track of what’s going on at the roots of my beat. I choose the sources I’ll follow there, and I know that I won’t miss out on one of their stories. I trust Flipboard (kind of) to link me to some big political or tech story, but I don’t trust it to “discover” the nitty-gritty stuff for me, and for good reason: It doesn’t.

In addition, Flipboard is a lean-back kind of service. I use it when I want to curl up and read. In the mornings when I’m looking for stories, I don’t want to tap through a pretty magazine-like interface on my iPad. I just want to scan headlines and text fast, and I want to do it on my laptop.

So what’s next?

Now that the panic’s subsiding a little bit, it looks as if viable alternatives to Google Reader are going to emerge. In fact, Instapaper’s Marco Arment actually thinks the closure of Reader could be a good thing for people who rely on RSS: “We’ll be forced to fill the hole that Reader will leave behind…We’re finally likely to see substantial innovation and competition in RSS desktop apps and sync platforms for the first time in almost a decade.”

Alternatives are sure to pop up in coming days. Search Engine Marketing Land has a big list here. Digg is apparently working on a Reader-like service. Feedly and Reeder, two apps that integrate with Google Reader, have already promised that they won’t die off just because the service does. “A lot of Google Reader users use their reader as a research/curation tool and need to be able to crunch through a lot of articles very fast,” Feedly wrote on its blog Thursday morning — and explained how customers can use Feedly to do just that. Reeder also tweeted that it’s staying in business, though it hasn’t explained how yet.

“I think that there is still a lot of value a service like Reader could provide — particularly in a world with increasing information overload coming us from many different sources,” Brian Shih, a former Google Reader product manager, writes on Quora. “But Reader at Google was pigeonholed as an RSS-reader explicitly, and didn’t have a chance to grow beyond that to explore that space.” Similarly, Chris Wetherell, an early creator of Google Reader, told Om that the service missed early monetization opportunities that other companies still might be able to tap into.

The good news for journalists and others who rely on Google Reader is that, while Google clearly doesn’t see a business opportunity in the legions of Reader fans, other companies do. And over the next couple of months, they’re going to be competing for our business.

27 Comments

Alison @Alisoncorp.com

Hey guys! Don’t panic!! Look at Flud;I think it will solve your dilemma, and it is great.. even if Google Reader was still here.

http://www.flud.it

תיקון אייפון

I would like to recommend Netvibes. I have been using it for a while now, ever since I decided to leave the iGoogle page, which I was using to aggregate my RSS feeds. I like the developments on Netvibes, though there are a few features that make it feel old. But there still seems to be development going on. Maybe you guys at paidcontent and gigaom can find out how the future looks for netvibes…? ;)

Josh

I know you say you don’t want to use an iPad, but if you don’t know the speed you can reach until you’ve seen how slick Feedly is. Currently syncs with Google Reader, and already planning for life after Google. One flick auto mark as read and already onto the next group of stories … Great interface for organizing feeds and high volume consumption, as well as sending to other services post-filter. Desktop app as well…

Christian Fuchs

I fully agree. Google reader is my main news source for years now – or better said the API.
Used several apps… lately Reeder and dotdotdot.me are my first choice.
I hope their will be an API for all this services to stay up online…

Joe Clark

The Google Reader interface is a joke for serious newsreading; the fact you don’t recognize this says volumes. Flipboard works great as an RSS reader, but what exactly will happen after Google Reader–hosted feeds stop working is another story.

Also, true to form for linkbait blogs, your slug is also a joke.

Feller

I started using Feedly this morning. It does the endless headline list like our beloved Google Reader, and also has a pretty nice newspaper-like layout when you’ve got time to scan a little closer.

Laura Hazard Owen

@Feller and @Maggie Young Yep, it looks as if Feedly is going to be what I switch over to (and hopefully I’ll be able to keep using Reeder on the iPad — I really like it). One of the best parts of Feedly is that it uses the same keyboard shortcuts as Google Reader, so if you’re used to typing “j” and “k” to move from one post to the next, you don’t have to break that habit.

Tom Wilson

Big lesson – don’t use Google for anything if you can find something else to do the job.
Outlook.com instead of Gmail is a reasonable alternative, Duck-duck-go instead of Google search, etc. etc. etc. Google cannot be relied upon to maintain its services so the answer is to stop using Google!

socaltech

Well said, I spend more time in Google Reader than Gmail!

Neublek

I have been using Netvibes as my primary rss reader since it started and would highly recommend it. It is really easy to use and highly customizable. It is also quite attractive.

http://www.netvibes.com/

Maggie Young

I just saw the news this morning when I logged in for my morning ritual and had the same reaction as you…I literally broke into a sweat. I jumped on some research and it looks like I’ll be using Feedly from now on.

Rolio

Rolio (http://www.rolio.com) is an alternative to Google Reader which, in addition to RSS, also supports the integration of Facebook and Twitter into your timeline for real-time updates. Rolio also supports the importing of your Google Reader feeds.

Frank A NYC

I’m sure some enterprising company will come up with an alternative. How did journalist do their jobs before google reader, perhaps go back to that?

ronald

Sorry a statistically relevant number of users don’t use it, please go in line. Or the reality of dumb numbers, thought people like big data Joe SixPack decision systems.

Matthis Drolet

I would like to recommend Netvibes. I have been using it for a while now, ever since I decided to leave the iGoogle page, which I was using to aggregate my RSS feeds. I like the developments on Netvibes, though there are a few features that make it feel old. But there still seems to be development going on. Maybe you guys at paidcontent and gigaom can find out how the future looks for netvibes…? ;)

alpholio

> As a journalist, Google Reader is one of the top-three tools…

Taken literally, this sentence implies that the Google Reader is a journalist. Grammar please, Ms. Journalist.

PharmaceuticalOnline

I echo your emotions!!! I can’t function for a big portion of my job without my Google Reader *sigh* If anyone finds any other helpful tool, keep me posted….

Anonymous

Please tell us you knew RSS and Google Reader were two separate layers of service…

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