UPDATE: Wow, was this post prescient or what! I posted this on 11 March. 2 days later Google officially announces the closure of Google Reader. And, just as I predicted below, there’s a virulent backlash amongst current Google Reader users. Hey Google, you wanna hire me for strategy brainstorming?
The “RSS is dead” meme doesn’t die. Yes, RSS never went mainstream, but here are my reasons why I still use and value RSS every day:
My RSS Reader stats for the last 30 days
WORTHY OF A POST
Composing a tweet or Facebook comment takes very little effort (and thought…). Composing a blogpost on the other hand requires considerably more effort. The result is that what-to-blog-about is more selectively chosen and invariably more worthy of the effort (for both writer and reader). You can see this perfectly in practice by following some of your fav blogs twitter accounts. Yes, they will tweet every time they post a new blog article, but they often tweet a lot of extraneous stuff in between.
OK, so Twitter will beat almost any other medium when it comes to Breaking News. But we don’t always need to be the very first people to know everything thats going on. In fact the news at the cutting edge is invariably full of rumours, noise and kneejerks. Often a more considered and balanced opinion occurs a few hours, or even days later.
DON’T MISS A THING
There is a time and place for serendipity. But there are also times when I need to be sure that I haven’t missed something. By following a good blog like Techcrunch, for example, I can rest assured that if there is any piece of important Tech news that I have missed, it will be there in my unread posts from Techcrunch. I can catch up any time. Nothing will escape me. Go away for a week and try backtrack everything important you may have missed on Twitter or Google+ and… well… good luck with that.
It is evident that Google has moved its engineering resources away from Google Reader. And speculation that they will close it down completely (as part of Larry Page’s Big Cull), are strengthening. Here’s why Google would be making a big mistake:
A QUALITY AUDIENCE
In the race for “numbers of users”, many of the big platforms have overlooked a more important metric – quality of users. There is no doubt that the regular users of Google Reader are definitely skewed on the tech-savy, media-influential side. To piss this user-base off would just be plain crazy. And hopefully if Google ever made the mistake somebody would be waiting in the wings with a new RSS service to snap up this prime piece of the pie. Which brings me to my next point…
THE GOOGLE SCORCHED-EARTH LANDSCAPE
…Actually, wait, there were some really good RSS readers out there once upon a time (Newsgator, for one jumps to mind). How come they’re all in the dead (or nearly dead) pool? Simple – because Google muscled into the RSS reader arena with its enormous resources and free offerings, pretty much rendering it unviable for anyone else. Its one thing closing down a new service that didnt take off (like Buzz), but entirely another to leave a watseland behind, where there was once a burgeoning fertile valley. Google will surely generate a lot of badwill from such a move.
My personal guess is that rather than winding Google Reader down, they will somehow assimilate it into G+. I just hope that in doing they don’t ruin the clean, tightly-focused and functional experience that many of us daily RSS consumers are accustomed too.