So the really big news yesterday, outstripping that of a new Pope is the news that Google is Powering Down Google Reader, which for many people is a total disaster. Google's hypocrisy is taken to entirely new heights in their post on the matter; they say "We know Reader has a devoted following who will be very sad to see it go. We’re sad too." No, what they really mean is 'we don't care'. This is the usual typical stance that Google takes - a regretful 'but there's nothing we can do about it'. They are citing the decreased use of the product as the reason for closure, but if they'd wanted to I am absolutely sure that they could have done something to stop that decrease - there was some integration into G+ but they could have done a great deal more. I also love the line "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." Tell me, how are self drive cars going to make my user experience better? At least be honest enough to say that 'we're pouring our energy into products that make more money for us' because that's the real bottom line. Google Reader doesn't bring in the eyeballs on adverts, so it's got to go. It really IS that simple.
So, what are the alternatives? There are surprisingly a fair number of them, but it depends on the platform that you use.
If you use tablets, you have an interesting array of choices. You can pull up news via Zite, which is an excellent tool and one that I use daily. It has recently had a makeover, which makes it even more interesting. It works in a rather different way to Google Reader, in that it pulls together stories for you based on your interests, which it presents in a visual magazine type format on the screen for you. You can then touch a story to see the entire thing, and tell Zite if you want to see more or less stories like that in the future, and if you like it. You can also highlight the source and ask for more or less from that source.
You can quickly flick through pages, open your list of resources on the top right hand side, and search for new material. However, you cannot import content from Google Reader, and you can't customise to the same extent.
Pulse is another alternative that works well with tablets. This is a more traditional RSS type reader in that you can set up a number of tabs, and then choose feeds to populate them. The posts appear in magazine format again, and it's easy enough to flick through them as needed, clicking to view the entire story. This is also available on the web, which makes a nice change. It looks like this:
There is the ever favourite Flipboard, which lots of people rave about, but I've never particularly cared for. This one allows you to link your social media accounts to it, so it's easier to see what your friends and colleagues are doing.
Alternatively, you can try News 360, Trap!t which works with social media accounts, Sulia, or Relevance. Or if you don't like those, try Feedly, which does pull content directly from your Google Reader account AND works on Firefox as well. Another very similar product is The Feed, which also takes content directly from your Reader account and displays it very neatly. If you really want to keep the Google Reader feel, these are the two that I would be inclined to look at first.
This is Feedly - don't be put off by the dark main part of the screen, it does this only when the user is concentrating on the list of feeds:
This is the screenshot from The Feed:
Web based news curation tools
There are a number of tools that you can use to pull information directly into your email accounts. Agreed, not the same thing as a Google Reader, but if we're looking at alternatives, we need to widen the net a little.
You can have News.Me which pulls data down based on your social media networks, but it only looks at the really big stories, so this is really more of an adjunct rather than replacement. Scoop.it is a great tool, but you do have to really go to the pages that have been created by people, so it's more like visiting their weblogs directly. Curate.me again pulls up stories for you in your email, but also on a web page, but it doesn't give you the same control that Google Reader does. Paper.li is a fun tool and it pulls up interesting resources for you, and you can personalise it - here's The Phil Bradley Daily for example. However, once again it's a rather different concept.
RSS Reader alternatives
So if you're not happy with anything I've looked at so far, lets go for some more traditional RSS readers. The first one that I would really recommend looking at is Netvibes. I love Netvibes with a passion - it's a start page, you can publish your own content for the world to see, and it's a pretty good RSS reader as well. More to the point, it looks like a traditional reader as well, although if you prefer, these can also look like widgets too.
A beta outfit, The Old Reader is just starting up (so no screenshot!) but it does allow you to pull your Google Reader content right into their service. Another new entrant into the field is Taptu, available for web and tablet, plus smartphone. I have not used this myself, but it's getting good reviews, but it's another primarily news aggregation tool, pulling content from Twitter and Facebook contacts.
How about an oldie and a goodie? Yes, I'm thinking of Bloglines. It's still out there, and you can still use it. I haven't been back to it in quite some time, but it's a possible that's worth trying.
You could take a look at News Is Free, which you can use without creating an account if you just want headline stuff, but you can obviously open an account to use on the web. There are over 30K of RSS feeds you can choose from, but if you want to add your own, you'll have to go down the premium route.
As I mentioned, Feedly works on the web as well as tablet and they have a very handy blog entry on migrating your Google Reader account directly to their product. Newsblur is also quite traditional in its approach, but you can only have 64 feeds, unless you pay them $1 a month, which provides unlimited feeds, which sounds like a good deal to me. It also has a nice traditional feel about it.
How about downloading your own reader onto your desktop? It's a bit of a weird idea I agree, but when I first started out using RSS I used a product that was on the desktop, though it's so long ago I can't remember the name. Feedreader is a download, and it's also available on the web too.
None of these tools are going to be exactly what you want. But then at some point in the dim and distant past you hadn't tried Google Reader, and it was a new experience. If it's any consolation I haven't used Google Reader in a while, though I would peek at it maybe once or twice a week. I prefer to use the tablet tools that I mentioned, and I get most of what I need from Zite, Pulse and Twitter. It takes a while to get used to the idea that you might be missing news, because you can't tailor the tool to your exact requirements, but then I always worried if I was missing really good blogs, so the worry stays, just about something slightly different. The important point in all of this is the networks that you have created. If you have good networks on Twitter and Facebook for example, that's key to a Google Reader free world, since your contacts will find the good stuff and keep you up to date. So yes, it's going to be a real wrench, but there are other options available to you.