Since Google announced its hugely popular Google Reader service will be shutting down on July 1st, tens of millions of users have been left wondering where to turn to next to get their news fix. The web giant made the shock announcement on its developers blog last week confirming that a fall in the number of users was one of the reasons for closing down the service.
Google Reader, which launched in 2005, was one of the first free services available to enable people to keep up to date with their favorite websites. It quickly undercut and eliminated most of its competitors in the news aggregation business at that time.
The feed relies on news syndication technology known as RSS (Really Simple Syndication), a service that subscribes to various websites and pulls various bits of information through to users. While Google Reader was initially designed for desktop it has gradually become more accessible on smartphones. It is now even the basis for many other media savvy web apps and services, helping to sync news across various apps so users can access up to date content and pick up where they left off, at any time.
One of the reasons given by the web giant for Google Reader’s demise is because “the number of users has declined”. Despite more than 100,000 signatures already being submitted to one online petition set up to save the service, it’s not enough to compete with the quantity of users on other RSS feeds and social networking platforms, which many people now turn to before anything else.
So as Google looks to putting its energy “into fewer products” Google Reader users will need to seek out an alternative service. Here we take a look at some of the options that are available.
What are the options?
Whether you want to read your RSS feeds on a desktop computer or on lots of different devices between work and home, there’s a range of services that offer a similar approach to Google Reader.
Industry experts across the web are currently labelling Feedly as the “next best thing” to Google Reader. It provides a modern take on RSS, blending Flipboard which provides a newspaper like view of content, with useful features such as keyboard shortcuts and tags. Another huge advantage is that it’s the only RSS service that comes with a free companion mobile app for iOS and Android, to ensure that, like Google Reader, users are able to pick up where they left off, whether at home or on the move.
News feeds can be divided up into customizable folders to help separate the various types of feeds you’ve signed up for and users can even change Feedly’s generic colour scheme to something a bit more lively.
Aside from sharing options to the usual social networking sites users are also able to send articles to apps such as Evernote, Instapaper and Pocket. Feedly is incredibly fast at pulling through subscriptions and following Google’s announcement there’s rumour that it could be joined by a Pro version, with even more features and functionality very soon.
Similar to Google Reader, this service is pretty basic when it comes to its design, but it’s the speed at which feeds are refreshed that is particularly impressive. Updates on Newsblur come though every minute so you’ll always be able to keep on top of the latest headlines. It’s great for users who like to keep organised as an unlimited number of new folders can be created inside one another. Various shortcuts are also on board to open up the original web page of an article and check what your social networking friends are reading, as well as the option to train the app to prioritize the type of stories you like to read most.
There is however a monthly subscription charge as Newsblur has temporarily frozen free account sign ups, so unless you’re a hardcore RSS user this may not be worth the cost.
Other web-based services worth checking out include The Old Reader, which looks very similar to the original Google Reader design, although it doesn’t have any mobile apps to sync with. This means that getting regular news feeds from all your favorite sites may take some time to come through.
There’s also BlogLovin, which turns your RSS feed into a Tumblr-esque photo stream if this is more to your taste.
For Mac users there’s NetNewsWire, which is powered by your computer rather than an army of cloud-based servers. While it may not be as fast as a web client it’s very easy to use and one of only a few apps that doesn’t rely on Google Reader for syncing information.
Vienna is another Mac alternative and is not only fast at syncing data but it also ties into various sharing options like Buffer. And for social network lovers Leaf transforms your RSS feed into a layout similar to a stream of tweets.
There are certainly plenty of alternative RSS readers on the market and once you’ve found one that’s suitable you can export all of your data, including subscriptions, from Google Reader with the help of the Google Takeout data liberation platform.
As for Google its magazine inspired news browser Google Currents for Android is still going strong after recently receiving an update, which included the ability to sync content. So, it could well be that the company is simply looking to revive itself in the ever-changing news aggregation business, rather than wash its hands of it altogether.
Written by Sarah Hazelwood of Dialaphone, the home of great mobile phone contracts.