The knock-on effects of Google Reader being closed

I’m an RSS-feed addict (there, I’ve said it). If you have a list of websites and blogs whose new additions you want to follow, doing it by monitoring the sites’ RSS feeds is the most sensible way to do it. Most nights, I’ll sit down with my iPad for 20 minutes and scroll through that day’s additions to the more than 250 websites I follow, with subjects ranging from music to football to online marketing. However obscure a particular interest, I’m always on top of any new information.

This is all done through an RSS Reader. Every site which has regular updates (including yours, quite possibly) has an “RSS feed” behind the scenes. An RSS Reader simply checks up on every site which you’ve listed, and presents any previously unseen content to you. Gradually, over a few years, I’ve built up a long list of websites which I’d like to be informed about whenever there’s an update. Here’s what I see at the moment (and if I scroll down the list on the left, there are probably another 100 articles released in the past 24 hours):

RSS Feeds

Apart from gathering information from websites in one place without you having to visit the websites themselves, an RSS Reader also presents the content in a clear, consistent format. If this sort of display is a bit too dull for you, there are some wonderful apps such as Flipboard which present things in a really attractive way. But they’re still effectively RSS feed readers.

Now, what’s happening with RSS and how might this affect you? Well, the big news this week is that Google is closing its RSS feed reading product, Google Reader. This is sad, but the company regularly closes products which it can’t see being part of its commercial future, and there are alternative products. The concept of having RSS feeds in the background of most websites isn’t going away.

However, RSS feeds power various other products, and we fear for the future of another Google product which uses RSS feeds, and that’s Feedburner. This is a free service which has been seriously neglected over the past few years, but which many companies use to power their email update lists. If you’ve ever subscribed to receive updates from a website by email, there’s a good chance that the site might be using Feedburner to run this service. And I can’t believe it’s going to be with us much longer.

So if your company uses Feedburner to provide website updates by email to your customers, I believe you need to start thinking about an alternative. You will need to pay a few pounds a month, but you’ll have a degree of reliability and support which none of us have any right to expect from a free service like Feedburner. I would recommend looking at a dedicated “RSS-to-email” service such as Feedblitz or an email service such as MailChimp which has the capability of automatically sending out emails, using the RSS feed, whenever there’s an update to your site. We’ve used both of these to run the very mailing list you’re reading now, and they work well.

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Discussion

  1. Jason D

    Absolutely gutted, Chris.

    I was only saying to a few guys on LinkedIn last week that I much prefer RSS to Twitter – to demonstrate, I even discovered how to download a folder as an OPML file and broadcast it on my Blogger blog.

    Then they go close it down – devastated, honestly, mate.

    Reader has been my first port of call as blogger-come-journalist every day for 3 years.

    Not only do I use it follow topics I’m currently freelancing about, but also to feed me new jobs on freelance sites as they happen, not as a daily digest when the element of ‘first-in’ has passed by.

    I’ve used Feedly in the past to display Reader in a Magazine format. It’s pretty good, but it still relies on Google Reader, as do many of the RSS extensions & apps in Chrome.

    I’m now looking at blogtrottr as an alternative. Being of Irish descent, how could I not?

    And, yep – I remember when Feedburner announced its incorporation into the Google suite of products a couple of years back – it was very much a suck-it-and-see announcement, as I recall. I think they’ll have a plan b, for sure.

    There are other reasons I’m tempted to look at Mailchimp, Chris – Paper.Li or Scoop.It (can’t remember which) has just announced circulation/distribution using Mailchimp, so I’m off to toddle that way and have a gander.

    My first time here, but thanks for a great first read, one very close to my heart.

    All the best,
    Jason D.

  2. Chris Rand Post author

    Hi Jason

    Thanks. I suspect that most of the commercial products which rely on Google Reader will be reconfigured to run their own databases of RSS feeds. Apparently Reeder (my RSS reader of choice) will be doing just that. But the main thing is how Google has just crashed around with size 15 boots in an area which could comfortably have been left to others. This brilliant article says it all.

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