Marketwired Blog

What’s Behind the Demise of Google Reader

By Steve Read, Senior Pre Sales Consultant

There are now just a few days left for regular RSS consumers to find a replacement for the soon-to-be-retired Google Reader. But you knew that, right? Or maybe you didn’t. When Google announced it would be closing Reader on July 1, 2013 there were two reactions: “Wow, Google Reader is still going?” and “Nooooo!!!!”

In fact, if Google is to be believed, and it does hold a fair amount of data on web consumption, then Google Reader had long become a seldom-frequented backwater of the Internet.

So, why have people stopped using Google Reader?

In order to understand why people stopped using Google Reader you need to look at what attracted them to it in the first place. The way in which people consumed media changed dramatically as the digital age dawned and news content became widely available online. Traditionally, people received their news fix from their morning newspaper or a TV news bulletin. Back then even the most fanatical news junkies would have admitted to struggling to read every article contained in their paper each and every day. On top of this, journalists knew that space limitations meant that not every story they wrote would find its way into the paper.

Add to this the fact that news doesn’t come in a one-size-fits-all format, a fact we know better than most here at Marketwired. What excites the Financial Times isn’t necessarily news to The Journal of Fish Diseases. At Marketwired we strive to ensure that we distribute relevant information to the right people. But today there are as many distribution options as there are stars in the night sky. Well maybe not that many, but trust me, there’s a lot of variety in there.

While there has always been plenty of news out there, traditional news distribution models often made it hard for consumers to find everything that was relevant to them, especially if they were only looking in one place.

The evolution of digital news meant that newsrooms were no longer confined to the print space available within their papers. This meant that it was possible to publish every story that each desk produced. Add to this news sites adopting the RSS technology that powered Google Reader and for the first time users could view news with the same level of granularity that Marketwired distributes. It also meant people could effectively build their own newspapers from a variety of diverse sources.

Even if (like me) you followed a football team that didn’t light up the headlines with their news you had access to their news despite the fact they didn’t make it into the print edition or the morning bulletin. Rather than wade through the whole sports section it was now possible to cherry pick the content that you were interested in and have it delivered throughout the day, moments after it was published.

Into this world of cherry-picked content came social media. Where Google Reader rationalised the news consumption process, social media took things a step further. It became possible to not just read news written about your favourite team but to get updates from the team itself, even the players if you wanted. And social media offered more than a push relationship; for the first time it was possible to interact directly with the news.

The changes in news consumption that pulled people to Google Reader now pulled people to social media. News consumers were still able to design their own feeds, but now they had the ability to hear from the protagonists as well as those writing the analysis. Rather than just read the match reports I could hear what my team had to say and I also had the opportunity to berate the players directly, as appropriate.

Almost overnight a number of social channels were providing the same news-tailoring service that Google Reader offered, with a whole host of additional functionality thrown in.

And as far as poor old Google Reader is concerned, the rest is history. So, should we expect RSS itself to disappear too? Hardly. RSS combined with tools like Twitterfeed still powers the flow of information to social channels. And for news junkies like me who want to enjoy our fix of lean-back journalism alongside what’s breaking on social, thankfully there are plenty of RSS readers who welcome to opportunity to step up and fill Google Readers’ shoes. Have you found your replacement yet?

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