Thursday, April 4, 2013

My Take on the Death of Google Reader

For those who don't know, I work with computers as my day job. There is a saying in my field: the only constant in computers is change. I'm sure that also applies to life, and it is certainly a current reality with the writing industry.

There were two recent changes that kind of took me by surprise. I was going to share my reaction to both the death of Google Reader and Amazon acquiring Goodreads, but I'll save the latter for later since the former topic is getting pretty long.

Google Kills Google Reader and Google Friend Connect

A few weeks ago, Google announced that Google Reader will be shutting down on July 1st as part of their spring cleaning.
Bye-bye, Reader
My first thought, and I suspect I'm not alone, is how I'll be able to keep up with all of the blogs that I commonly read. A few replacements have stepped up to the plate, and one of them caught my eye since it seemed well developed and (most importantly now) supported. So I've converted to Feedly, which allowed me to import my feeds list and my favorites.
Hello, Feedly. Thanks for saving the day!
I'm a big fan of Evernote, so I'm slowly going through my favorites and storing the posts I really want to keep in Evernote. This will make these posts more accessible to me, and take away my reliance on maintaining favorites.

Okay, with that squared away, I then thought of the other side of the coin. What is going to happen to my followers? As of this writing, I have 209 followers, which is managed by the Google Friend Connect. Will they disappear with Google Reader? Sure enough, Friend Connect is also going the way of the dodo bird. I don't know if most bloggers realize this is headed their way. I had to dig around to confirm it's eminent departure since it isn't receiving the publicity and reaction that Google Reader's death has received.

And what of RSS in general? Some say that the death of Google Reader and Friend Connect, which made RSS management easy, could be the final nail in RSS's coffin. I'm inclined to agree. As great as I'm finding Feedly to be, I don't think it is enough to save RSS.

Why? It all comes back to why Google Reader is being shut down to begin with. Google says that usage is down and that social media is what drives people to your content, not Google Reader. And... I think they're right. If I make a blog post and don't mention it on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, I'm most likely to receive a small handful of hits, comments, and other social interactions.

In fact, I'll test that with this post... I'll not advertise on my social connections and see what kind of response I get for 24 hours. Then I'll hit the social networks as I usually do and see what that does. If I were to put money on it, driving people to my blogs via social media is going to be a lot more effective than waiting for my followers to catch me through their RSS feeds.

A side effect is that I'm going to have to change my blog around. I won't bore you with the details, but pardon the dust while this blog goes through some changes. I've already done some behind-the-scenes testing and changes and I look forward to pushing out my new look and feel. Soon. It is part of why I plastered my face all over a recent blog post.

So, what do you guys think? Are you going to miss Google reader? Are you ready for the disappearance of Google Friend Connect? What have you done to prepare for July 1st?

Update 1:

I went about a day and a half to see what my buddy list did. I got 32 visits and five comments, though one of those comments were mine and two of the comments was from the same person. Now, I'll make mention of it on social media and see what that does.

Update 2:

Well, another day and a half (roughly) has gone by, and I threw things up on Twitter, G+, and Facebook. The number of people who visited rose to 70 and I got one more comment.

I know, this isn't scientific, but I now think Google has got it wrong. Google Friend Connect does help drive people to my blog, and it seems to do a better job of driving people willing to comment. I'm wondering how this will impact Google themselves, since Google Friend Connect drives people to Blogger, which is owned by Google.

Conclusion: Nobody wins.


  1. Feedly! That's the software you mentioned. I'm going to get that. Thanks for this post.

  2. Feedly is not impressing me. It imported my blogs easily, but even when I click "today," it only shows me a few selected blog posts. Apparently it thinks it has magical powers to guess what I really want to read. If you have any suggestions about how to just make it show me all my posts, I'd love it. I was going to try The Old Reader, but I can't import my feed file from Google Reader because as of yesterday, it's already gone for me.

    As far as whether people seek out blogs through readers or social media, I think it depends on the nature of the person's relationship with the content. If an individual blog post is significant in some way, like it announces a major milestone or addresses an interesting issue, then yes, I think it's most likely to be accessed through social media. If, however, the blog is just one of the stops people make to see what's happening over on ol' Whatever Blog today, then social media links are a terrible way to get that content to people every morning. You think Howard Tayler tweets and Facebooks "Shlock is up again today!" every morning? No! That'd be a terrible system. Almost as terrible as me having to actually navigate to the URL every day to read the comic.

    Since I tend to read blogs in the latter way, RSS readers are very important to me. I want to check what about 50 different people are up to every day, and I don't want to have to wait for them to tweet or facebook it it know what they're up to, especially since most of them won't do that.

    1. I have the same discouragement about the today view on Feedly. I avoid that and just click on all, and it shows it in a way similar to reader. I can even press J and K to move down and up the reading list.

  3. PS: Even though I FOUND your blog through social media, now that I've accessed it, I want to subscribe to it through an RSS reader. Unfortunately, I know that even if I sub, Feedly probably won't let me read it anyway.

  4. Hey, I found it. Or it found me. Or we found each other. Still, I'm here. See you in a few weeks at Storymakers!