With Google Reader about to be killed, — why is everyone getting on the “news reader bandwagon? What do Feedly, Digg, AOL, Facebook and LinkedIn know that Google doesn’t?


I have been baffled by Google’s decision in March to euthanize the Google Reader instead of trying to reinvent it for the mobile/tablet age and use its strong (if small) community of users to build a new news reading experience. It is ironic because everyone seems to be getting into the reader business. Digg. Feedly. AOL. Even Facebook thinks it can be a player in the news reader game. The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday that this rumored reader is:

  • A year old and centered on mobile reading experience.
  • An attempt by Facebook to go after Flipboard experience.
  • The work of Michael Matas, a well known designer who previously worked for Apple and Nest Labs and is project lead.

I wonder if this is yet another proof of Facebook’s Twitter envy! Jokes aside, as far as I am concerned, unless Facebook can figure out a way to work with Twitter and generally embrace RSS, any Facebook reader experience is going to be fairly limited. More importantly, Facebook has yet to show that it can actually build a new type of social behavior inside its walled garden. Facebook is following in the footsteps of LinkedIn, which recently acquired Pulse, a news reader app that allows them to keep a closer engagement with their social network.

Mark Zuckerberg checks out one of the new phones with the Facebook Home at Menlo Park headquarters.

Mark Zuckerberg checks out one of the new phones with the Facebook Home at Menlo Park headquarters.

Reading news is still one of the daily essential activities — just ask Yahoo, which has benefited from Yahoo News and Sports, allowing the company to make money from advertising and at the same time, push other Yahoo services to their customers. If LinkedIn and Facebook can keep the people reading inside their apps, they can boost their engagement with their community.

Social (and web) platforms become more useful if people keep coming back to them, again and again. After you have poked, liked and LOL-ed about people’s dogs, photos of their kids and responded to dinner party invitations, you quickly run out of things to do. So, you leave and try new things on the web. On the mobile, you leave faster, as something new is just merely an app away. Reading news is something that can bring people back into an application multiple times a day.

Bradford CrossIn order to understand the importance of a reader, one doesn’t have to look further than Bradford Cross’ Prismatic, which uses social signals from networks such as Twitter and creates a constantly changing newspaper. And while it isn’t the prettiest, it is a much more intelligent “reader” application than even Flipboard.

Here is what he told my colleague Mathew Ingram last year:

It’s not just about personalization… it’s about how media is consumed now. In the old days, you could just go to the New York Times and get all your news, or whatever. But that’s not the case any more, and it will likely never be the case again. The news is all distributed now, to a thousand different places. We want to be like the daily newspaper for our generation, and so we wanted to see people visiting multiple times a day and hopefully about six days a week at least — and we are definitely seeing that, which really shows our concept is working.

“Google won’t get this right, Twitter won’t get this right, Facebook won’t get this quite right, Amazon won’t even get this right — the company that gets it right needs to have it in its DNA. We think this is a Trojan horse into a much bigger thing… in five years time or 10 years time, AI will be all over our daily lives, everything we interact with will be intelligent, and the interfaces to it will be completely different. Backtracking from that very distant kind of vision led us to start in this place.”

Google executives, obviously, missed that part about engagement and I don’t blame them. Google’s DNA as a company is to send people somewhere else from Google’s search bar. In order to be an engagement-centric company, it needs to think like Facebook and keep people constantly locked into its ecosystem.

If Google was thinking along those lines, it could see that with Google Reader, Google News and Google+, it could have built a truly interesting and highly social reader experience that could be addictive, and yes, a good place for selling advertising. Of course, we shouldn’t be surprised — creator Chris Wetherell told us that Google Reader was living on borrowed time even before it was launched to the world.

Here is the GigaOM Guide to best options to Google Reader and some good suggestions in the comments section of the post. I am personally leaning towards Newsblur for now.

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  1. They want you to use Google+ instead.

    1. What is Google+ Dan (#joke)

  2. Reblogged this on STORY 2 SUCCESS BLOG and commented:
    I read some time ago that google reader is not bringing any revenue to justify the investment google puts into it ,and you know google shuts down any service that those not bring in any revenue.

  3. i dont get..why would google not want engagement, but others would? and you say google’s dna is about getting people somewhere else, rss is the same right? and google news must be popular, publishers want to kill google over it…the topic was intriguing, but i got no answers.

    1. That is exactly what am saying —

      Google News — go somewhere.
      Google Search – go somewhere
      Google RSS – go somewhere

      Facebook – news + RSS + community (stay engaged.)

      Hopefully that helps

      1. Is Mr. Malik a FB lover?

      2. Except it is Facebook so i am not engaged. And from what i have read about FB, you might not be sure what you will be engaged about.

        1. Mark

          I am not sure you were responding to my reply or others, but I think the decreasing engagement is something FB is trying to stem and will look at something like news to counter that behavior.

  4. dellinger80 Monday, June 24, 2013

    Reblogged this on Cantankerous Gentlemen and commented:
    Decent question, considering they had the best one

  5. My work (and personal inclination) is highly dependent on monitoring news. Twitter has become my main aggregator. Is there something else that is as efficient and comprehensive at the publication/individual writer/reporter/thinker/actor level?

    1. Not yet, but good old Prismatic might be a good one to try for you

  6. fyi, twitter is how I came across this article…and 9/10 times how I access gigaom articles. 1/10 through the website directly.

    1. I am sure, others find what they want on Facebook and many might use the RSS reader.

  7. It maybe be more of a question of what google knows the others don’t? That or maybe Google doesn’t see enough money in it to bother with.

  8. Nikolaos Nanas Monday, June 24, 2013

    Everyone wants to build a reader, because no one is going to be reading dead trees in a few years and traditional publishers will become producers of branded content, which they are going to distribute via third party channels. At http://www.noowit.com we built a reader that combines both the looks and the brains and takes content personalization to new levels. It also allow users to create their own intelligent magazine that adapts to the interests of each individual user.

  9. Don Daszkowski Monday, June 24, 2013

    Google should have layered Google Reader into Google+. Google is where you go for content and Facebook is where you go for friends. Google News and Google Reader (both) layered somehow into Google+ I think would make people actually have to visit Google+.

    They shut down Google+ Sparks in late 2012 and it seemed they didn’t even give that a chance… which would be the step in the direction of getting your news via Google+. When they shut down Sparks people were actually asking for Google News to merge somehow with Google+. And… what ever happened to Google News badges? Did they dump that too? It seems Google knows something we don’t know about not wanting to “be the next Flipboard.”

    This article is right, news is news and social is social. But… I do feel that a true “social” news aggregator is a happy medium. I have been working for 2 years to figure this out. At Comunitee (http://www.comunitee.com) our goal is to become be pure “social news network” a social network focused on news only. Our regular users love the idea of reading with others without the typical social media posts of your friends dinner, cats and other memes.

    1. I remember thinking that Sparks had some potential when I first joined Google+, but it suffered from being too unfocused, trawling in literally everything matching your search terms. Ironically, they were doing curation of links based on what your friends on Google+ liked, but that was over in Google Search.

      Things like this make me wonder if Google actually know what they’re doing with social.

  10. I think the push comes from the people who are long-time Google Reader users (addicts) like myself that don’t want or need personalization, smart aggregation and social aspects as a part of their blog reading experience. We have the blogs we follow, and we want the cleanest, quickest way to consume those blogs. That’s it. Google Reader provided one of the best solutions for this and we all scrambled in response. I built a replica this week (http://redtreereader.com) just because I wanted the exact same experience I’ve been used to for so long.

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