Almost 15 months have passed since Google announced that they were shuttering Google Reader, and yesterday marked the one year anniversary of its demise. Mashable was the first to notice the anniversary, and they inspired me to look back and see just how much has changed.
I for one am still reading RSS feeds in much the same way I did the day before Google announced the Readerpocalypse, but while I have stood still the industry as a whole has changed.
In the months following the March announcement, dozens of existing feed readers came out of the woodwork or were launched in response to the news. Everyone from Digg to AOL launched a feed reader (and even Zite and Flipboard made plays for former Google Reader users). Some of the news readers were good, others were bad, but of the multitude only one managed to end up on top.
On the day before the announcement, Feedly had a set of reading themes which were prettier than they were functional, and a service which was dependent on Google Reader. But they had 3 aces up their sleeve; a crack marketing dept, a beta project which would enable Feedly to break free of Google Reader, and the engineering talent to back it up.
In 3 weeks Feedly grew from 4 million users to 7 million, eventually growing to 15 million users and 24,000 paying customers in February 2014 and earning the crown of leading Google Reader replacement.
Feedly took that title because they had the tech and luck, but not all feed readers were as blessed by the demise of Google Reader. Some were unable to cope with the growth, while others were acquired.
The Old Reader, for example, was a niche service with 10,000 users the day before the announcement, and 130,000 users a week later. The team behind that service were left scrambling to keep it functional as it ballooned to 420,000. The Old Reader came perilously close to being shut down before being sold to a new owner which had the skills and funds to keep it operational.
And they’re not the only ones to be acquired; LinkedIn surprised us all when they acquired Pulse in April 2013. But when Flipboard acquired Zite in March 2014, I doubt anyone was surprised. Both of these services had made bids for casual readers, but with over 100 million users Flipboard was by far the larger service.
In the year since they bought it, LinkedIn used Pulse to build LinkedIn’s own internal blogging platform, but they’re not the only one to make a nontraditional play for the attention of readers.
In addition to trying to push readers into finding new content on Google Now and Google+, Google also launched Google Newsstand in November 2013. The new app combined the Flipboard-esque Google Currents with the existing Google Magazines app, giving readers a single place to read both the content they paid to subscribe to and the articles which Google found for them.
Shortly after Google announced the Readerpocalypse, many pundits proclaimed that the end of Google Reader as a sign of the imminent death of RSS feeds as redundant and outdated tech. But a year later and all that I can see that is different is that Zite is now Flipboard, Google Newsstand is now Zite, and Feedly is now Google Reader.
There are also incremental changes, including the increased reliance on robot reporters and and the changes to platforms like Medium as they grow, but those are really incidental to the closure of Google Reader.
It’s been some 15 months since the announcement and aside from the changing of name tags (and the fragmentation of the market among dozens of small competitors), I would say that little has changed in the news reader market. People are still using news reader apps, and some readers are paying for the service (but that’s not new).
Or am I wrong? Tell me, did the end of Google Reader drastically change your reading habits? How do you follow the news?
P.S. If I missed an important event that should have been mentioned in this post, please let me know in the comments.