Thursday, June 27, 2013

Deathwatch: Google Reader has four days left!

     Three months ago, Google announced it was shutting down Google Reader, arguably the best RSS feed service on the web for collecting news from various sources that interest you. 

What is an RSS feeder and why should you care?

RSS feed button
     Most websites and blogs have this funny little orange button that links you to their RSS feed.  It’s basically a separate webpage that lists all their articles and a brief summary of each.  You can copy the shortcut to that page, enter it in an RSS feeder, such as Google Reader, and all your various sources are in one place.  You can put them in categories such as news, entertainment, computer, church, or anything you can think of.  You can have your daily news from a number of sources, and at the same time have a whole separate section that brings in articles about your favorite hobby.  This allows you to skim through a vast amount of material, focusing only on articles of interest.

Have you planned your escape? 

     The first step is to download your feeds so you can import them into another service.  Click here to find out how: “How can I download my Reader data?”   The next step is to find an alternative (See my reviews of other services and recommendations below.)

Why you need to set up an RSS feeder:

     Well-educated people used to have subscriptions to two
or maybe three newspapers and a handful of magazines, but with an RSS feeder like Google Reader, it is nothing for me, over my morning coffee, to scroll through news from the New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, my beloved Washington Post, and what is charitably called a newspaper in my hometown Reno, Nevada.  I actually think it keeps you better informed because I can read an article about an event from the New York Times point of view, and then compare it to how other sources see it — I get a more well-rounded opinion.  Since we all have areas of specific interest, you can also tailor your feed to bring you news in specific areas.  Naturally, as a priest, I have an entire section that pulls from the religious columns in major newspapers, private blogs, magazines like Christian Century, and schools of divinity such as the one at Duke University — you just can’t collect that kind of broad information in any other way.

Why did Google murder Google Reader?

      There is the reason they’re giving, and what I believe to be the real reason.  Publicly they’re saying that they want to focus their resources, and that most people get their news through social media.  They want you to migrate to Google+ and get all your news there all jumbled together with your friends’ postings of the latest five hundred pictures of their cats.  While I will often discover an article because a friend recommended it on Facebook, it’s a pretty inefficient way to gather the kind of information I want to read.  My personal belief is the real reason they have ended Google Reader is they haven’t been able to monetize it — when you get to select articles from various sources, over which Google has no control, it’s tough to push ads.

So what are the alternatives out there?

     In my post in March, I surveyed the landscape of what was available immediately after Google’s announcement.  My recommendation was to hold tight — with Google Reader going out of business, it was likely other companies would step forward.  That has turned out to be the case.  Unfortunately, I would have to say the majority of the RSS feeders out there have simply stepped up their advertising without making any significant changes to their product.  The majority of them either are available only on a few platforms (Mac, but not PC; Mac and PC, but not on your smart phone; on your smart phone, but not Mac or PC, etc.) or they try to make money off you by limiting the number of feeds you can have, and then charging you a monthly fee.

My recommendation: Feedly

Feedly Android Menu
Feedly wins!
     As much as I hate going with the crowd, Feedly has been the front runner everyone has recommended all along.  Initially, I was put off by it because it was not a separate program, but an extension to the Firefox browser.  Now I have no objections to Firefox, but I didn’t want to go into a completely separate browser to read my news.  The other concern was Feedly was directly linked to Google Reader, and everyone wondered what would happen once Google Reader was shuttered.  They have corrected both these concerns just this last week by putting Feedly on the web for everyone.  You can find it here:  It also has a fantastic app for my Android phone that syncs seamlessly and apparently immediately between the web and my phone. My requirements for a replacement to Google Reader were it had to be available both on my PC and my smart phone… and, oh yeah, I wanted it for free.  I have not tested Feedly on an iPhone, but it has good reviews — perhaps someone with an iPhone who uses Feedly can post in the comments how it works for them.

Other services available:

Old Reader

     Since Google’s announcement of the end of Google Reader, there been a lot of services angling for the attention of the public.  Here are my reviews of other services I did in March with updates where appropriate:
  • Fever: Apple only; $30 for service.
  • Netvibes: This is the initial service I recommended.  I take it back… I really take it back… I repent of this recommendation in dust and ashes!  I used the service for months, putting up with it freezing constantly on my PC when I scrolled too quickly through articles, not working, not updating, or simply crashing on my smart phone.  It really doesn’t have an app for Android or iPhone, it’s just a really clunky webpage.  Don’t waste your time.
  • Newsblur: Only 12 feeds allowed, then you pay (Only 12 feeds? Really?!)
  • The Old Reader: Supposedly like Google Reader, but no Android app.  I eventually got this working, but it was slow as molasses both on the web and on my phone.  I eventually dumped it.
  • Pulse: Useless — Controlled from Android app; you can't import on the web or your PC; ten feeds fills up a category; I have more than that under almost every subject.
  • Taptu: Only allows up to 100 feeds from Google Reader.
      You too can become a more informed, well-rounded, and organized consumer of information by using an RSS feed service.  Now, I have to go to the hospital to give Google Reader last rites.


  1. What! I had no idea that it was due to end.

  2. Yep. Word is it's still functioning, but I'd export my feeds as fast as you can. It only takes a few moments. Of course you could relocate and subscribe your feeds into whatever new service you use, but what a hassle, huh?


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