After a long and faithful service we decided from Feedburner that it was time to look for a replacement. Especially as it’s been over a year since Google stopped updating and/or working on Feedburner and we’ve been seeing increasingly wide fluctuations in our subscriber numbers. We’ve been looking at replacement options for a wee while now and finally settled on what we felt was the best choice for us and our audience.
In my last post I looked at why, when faced with information overload, we need to be focused on the tools to filter that information rather than holding our hands up in despair at there being too much information.
Fast forward four weeks and we hear that one of those filtering tools – Google Reader – is being shut down on 1 July this year.
On the Google Reader blog (http://googlereader.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/powering-down-google-reader.html), Google says it is closing the service down for two reasons:
“There are two simple reasons for this: usage of Google Reader has declined, and as a company we’re pouring all of our energy into fewer products. We think that kind of focus will make for a better user experience.”
The news was met with howls of disapproval from fans of the service, of which I am one. I’m not going to lament its passing here but the news tells us something about the tools we use to find and filter information:
1. The developers of filtering tools can shut them down just as easily as they set them up. We – as users – are very much in ‘their’ hands
2. Using RSS readers is a niche activity – as a journalist I need to stay informed so have a need to use the tool.
3. There is no defacto tool for searching and filtering multiple web sources.
Many times I have explained my use of RSS readers to peers, clients and even friends and family only to be met with a blank face. Anecdotally it certainly seems to me that using an RSS reader is a niche activity.
That does not take away its importance however. I have hundreds of content sources currently feeding into my RSS reader. At a glance I can see what’s happening in the areas I follow – be it content marketing, news or UX – and from there I can share links.
My RSS reader is where I find things out – direct from the source of information. This is quite different to the Twitter firehose, which although enables me to do the same thing comes with additional noise which requires more work to filter.
For example, 500 feeds in an RSS reader only get updated when new content is published. Those very same 500 people on Twitter might be averaging 20 tweets a day and yet only publish new content once every two or three days. You get the idea of how much more there is to filter . . .
This point is well made by content strategist Adam Tinworth, who says:
“Twitter is where I go to find out what’s happening. My RSS reader is where I go to become informed.”
So what’s the future? Well, for me it is to find myself a new RSS reader. There are no end of lists of replacements so finding an alternative to Google Reader won’t be a problem.
But I am already comfortable using the technology. What about all of our friends, family, colleagues and customers who are not? Coming back to the scale of information on the web, the issue comes down to the skills – digital literacies, if you like – that will be required to find, filter and share information and data that is relevant to those in our networks and communities.
The people, the information, the data we need to learn, to perform better, to do better business is all out there in some shape or form. The challenge is to be able to find it and use it.
A final thought. What of the technology itself, what is the future of RSS? It is work in progress, a point well made by Joe Moreno (http://blog.joemoreno.com/2013/03/RSS-Future.html):
What seems obvious to me is that RSS will not go away; instead, it will (and already is) being built upon. In the near future, it will no longer be a consumer facing technology anymore than DOS or a Unix shell is today, but RSS will be the glue to tie together publisher and consumer. Could you seriously see a completely different feed standard being developed from scratch in the near future? Baby steps to stand on the shoulders of giants.
If like me, you are search for a new RSS reader, then here are 40 alternatives (http://econsultancy.com/uk/blog/62356-40-alternatives-to-google-reader?utm_medium=feeds&utm_source=blog) to whet your appetite.
Unlike my usual “where’s the catch” outlook when faced with Google+ or Facebook changes, my initial reaction was positive when the news came out that Google Reader was getting updated. Reader was getting a new design and being brought closer together with Google+, sounds good.
However I’m not an expert Reader user; yes I’ll visit it regularly during the week and I couldn’t manage to scan read or store the amount of information that I do using another tool. It is the easiest way I know to scan read and store lots of information from many blogs and feeds, my on line library of all manner of articles from arts & craft through to anti-spam measures.
My initial, “ah that makes sense getting to integrate Google+ for sharing”, gave way to “doh! there’s the catch” and then “oh darn it, that sucks” when I realised that:
- the sharing activities like friending, following and sharing were going to be “retired”
- there was a whole world of communities sharing news and stories via Google Reader
- for countries like where social networks are banned, Reader was essentially a news feed and social network
So basically, as described by Google Operating System
Having now read more articles about Google Reader, I understand the value that users gained from Reader and appreciate why so many are upset at these changes. Thanks goes to Sarah Perez from TechCrunch, it was your article that got me reading more about the reaction to the planned changes.
What is harder to understand is why Google is forcing sharing through Google+. Yes Google wants to focus on fewer areas but how does shutting down sharing help that, or is this the first step in “retiring” the Reader? It’s worth noting at this point that I’m not even going to talk about the new design, (it’s going to take some getting used to, and I miss the colours), so I’m including this link to a review by Brian Shih, ex-PM on Google Reader. Check out the updated and comments at the end of the article to see how to share via Google+ without publicly +1-ing everything.
Google made it clear from the first announcement that they expected losses as some may not want to continue with the Product and flagged that they would be extending the Reader’s export feature; allowing users to take their data with them. But I’ve realised that Google has missed the point: these users have years of experience invested in using Google Reader and the sharing networks/communities that they have helped grow…and more importantly, these users don’t want to go and are taking action.
Some are marching to occupy Google Reader, some are looking at other readers, Francis Cleary is creating HiveMined (an RSS feed with some social bits) and the rest of us are are looking at the best ways to share both via and avoiding Google+.
I’ve also joined the 14,000+ who’ve signed the Save Google Reader Petition.
**If you are trying to work out how to find your previously shared items – check out Alex Chitu’s post**
However, have you also had issues with your feed’s URL being indexed in Google at all? I am not sure why I didn’t catch this before but if you login to your FeedBurner account >> go to publicize >> then go the very last link on the bottom left titled: “No Index.” By default, “Indicate that your feed should not be indexed by search engines” is checked and therefore your Feed will not be indexed in any Search Engine.
One thing you should consider before changing this default option is whether your content is updated frequently enough so that you don’t trip any duplicate content filters (between your blog and your FeedBurner feed). You should also consider the number of items you display on your blog’s home page vs. your feed – this may also get you into some duplicate content issues if they are too alike. However if you post unique content and you post often, you shouldn’t have too much trouble.
“As the ecosystem of media consumption points on the Net broadens, advertisers will come to expect that they can measure their distributed media campaigns including video, podcasts, press releases, whitepapers and more through any online real estate; widget, blog or website,” states Bill Flitter, CEO of Pheedo. “This is an important next step for distributed content advertising to evolve. RSS has already proven that it can exponentially change the way ad content is distributed and consumed. Now that same ad content can be tracked anywhere, at any time with distributed analytics technology from Pheedo.”
Active User Analysis – Track the number of feed subscribers and feed subscription growth trends.
Content Engagement – Track the number of views and clicks on editorial items. Determine which content is most popular with your readers. Track interaction rates to Social Media outlets like Digg, Reddit and Facebook.
Advertising Stats – Monitor ad impressions, clicks and CTR on feed content ads.
Social Media Distribution – Understand the consumption points readers are using to consume the content.
RSS Subscription Page Optimization – Page dedicated and optimized to increase RSS subscribers
Subscription Options – Enable readers to subscribe to RSS feeds via email. RSS/Email subscribers and actions are tracked.
Feed Management API – Create and update settings on Pheedo managed feeds via API.
“Pheedo allows us to provide our clients with a highly effective new marketing vehicle within a distributed media environment,” said Howard J. Sewell, President of Connect Direct Inc. “The Pheedo platform provides a unique engagement map that enables our clients to interact with prospects, customers and partners in a more meaningful dialogue within a social media setting. We can track new subscriptions to our clients feeds and follow the activity of those subscribers, gaining a clear measurement of the impact from our clients’ advertising spend, an impact that will continue to resonate well beyond the initial response.”