Google announced last week that it will discontinue its popular content aggregation service, Google Reader, on the 1st of July 2013. This has caused quite a stir within the digital community. It is a huge blow to those of us that use the content syndication tool, as well as those of us who blog.
Based on RSS (Really Simple Syndication), Google Reader with its intuitive and engaging interface is easily one of the most popular content syndicators in recent years, especially amongst influencers and power users.
The fact, that most people now have Gmail accounts, only strengthened Google’s dominance in this area. It was just much easier and simpler to use Google Reader, than to have to login into any of the other available RSS readers.
What can be done? What is the overall impact of this loss?
You Will Feel the Sting
Well, for one thing, engagement on your blog is likely to suffer. The suspension of Google Reader means that your readers, if they used Google Reader, and they most probably do, will have to change the way they consume content.
Typically, when people (specifically influencers or power users) visit a blog or site and would like to remain tuned into the conversation, they would sign up, via RSS, to receive updates from that site. So every time new content was posted on the site or blog, these visitors will receive it on their RSS readers.
It was a win-win situation as readers could scan content quickly without really navigating to multiple blogs, and publishers were sure that their content was being delivered and their visitors were engaging with their blog. All that is about to change.
Now, the plug is only being pulled out on Google Reader. There are multiple other readers out there and they remain unaffected. But given the prevalence of the Reader, this is likely that this will have a big impact on the blogging community. So don’t be alarmed if from the 1st of July 2013 onwards you suddenly see a sharp decline in engagement on your blog – unless you do something about it.
There is much buzz right now about how Twitter is replacing RSS. While Twitter has its place in the customer engagement ecosystem, a nuanced understanding of each product and its impact will show that one cannot replace the other completely.
Twitter is a transient medium – if someone misses a tweet, it is probably lost forever. Twitter (and also Facebook), are proprietary, and the rules on those platforms keep changing. RSS is an open standard (like WordPress) and is therefore popular.
It is resilient and is likely to survive the vagaries of the technology world. Twitter’s resilience is relatively untested. So, while it is no doubt profitable to engage with your Twitter and Facebook platforms, they will not adequately address the issues caused by the gaping void that Google Reader once occupied.
Here’s What We Suggest You Do:
- Write a blog post and let your visitors know what they can do to move their feeds over to another RSS syndicator. There are several alternatives to Google Reader, such as Feedly etc., and many more will emerge soon. You may have to repeat this message again as D-Day approaches — 1st July 2013.
- In addition, this is a great opportunity to grow your email subscription base. This is a difficult thing to do, as most people dislike receiving too many emails. Services like Google Reader were created with the intention of helping us manage our access to information better. But if you are able to get people to sign up with their email ID’s, it will prove to be quite useful in the long run.
In conclusion, the termination of Google Reader is a blow, and we will all miss it. But change is the only constant and something newer, shinier and better is very likely to take its place.
So please continue to adopt and support open protocols and tools, so that we can replicate the same successful model that has made WordPress the success it is today.