Wired has a new article this morning on Google Reader, and it might be worth a read. They scored an exclusive interview with Richard Gingras, Google’s Senior Director of News & Social Products.
This article is Google’s attempt at spinning the shut down of Google Reader (now only 24 days away), but in trying to come up with an explanation why the Readerpocalypse was a good idea, Google has actually revealed just how little they understand about how we read, and how we find content to read.
But there’s another reason Google decided to put its RSS reader to death. According to Mountain View, most of us simply consume news differently now than when Reader was launched.
“As a culture we have moved into a realm where the consumption of news is a near-constant process,” says Richard Gingras, Senior Director, News & Social Products at Google. “Users with smartphones and tablets are consuming news in bits and bites throughout the course of the day — replacing the old standard behaviors of news consumption over breakfast along with a leisurely read at the end of the day.”
That may well be true, but it doesn’t account for the sources we use to get that news. I read news all throughout the day, and I still use a news reader to do so.
But apparently Richard thinks I am doing it all wrong. According to Google we should be getting our news from Google Now and Google Plus:
Google Now‘s approach is to leverage artificial intelligence techniques to learn your tastes and habits so it can deliver headline news you’ll want to read, when you want to read it. Since it’s on mobile, it can take advantage of device sensors to consider data like your location, the time of day, and whether you’re stationary or on the road. Over time, it will learn, for example, that you like to get the top headlines during your 8 AM commute, and that you prefer stories about politics and food. If this worked perfectly, it’d be an extraordinarily efficient way to get the news. But to start, it still has to learn your preferences, and — far worse — it’s not available on many Android devices yet (oh Android fragmentation, you rear your ugly head again).
While Google Now caters to your breaking news needs, Google+ steps in for more leisurely interest reading. Google has been trying to push Google+ as a social media news source (instead of Google Reader) since 2011. At Google I/O last month, Google+ gained some functions that make it smarter about surfacing articles and images readers might be interested in checking out. Say someone posts an article on Google+ that you like. Tap (or click) it to flip it over and see an automatically generated list of related hashtags that you can click to get more related content. In this way you can explore varied sources you otherwise wouldn’t know about, or get deeper knowledge on a subject you’re interested in.
I choose to be amused by this rather than pissed.
I have to be amused by this, because otherwise I would be bothered by the suggestion that I use Google Now. It does not support web browsers (only mobile apps), making it a giant F*** You from Google. Apparently I am not supposed to be using a web browser any more, not for reading, not for work, not for anything.
And even if I could use Google Now, there’s no way that it can match my ability to sort through the feeds and find the articles worth sharing. My reading interests are based on decades of reading, and that cannot be emulated in days, weeks, or even after years of using a service like Google Now.
And as for Google+, don’t get me started. Seriously, if a social network could provide my news sources don’t you think I would have switched over by now?
So far as I can tell Google has not yet figured out that social networks get news links from news junkies, most of whom use a news reader of one kind or another. Basically the very people who feed links into Google+ are the ones that are being harmed by the shutdown of Google Reader.
But you don’t have to take my word for it; instead consider the millions of people that have fled to GR alternatives like Feedly, or the numerous services that have come out of the woodwork since Google Reader was EOLed.
And here’s one that will knock your socks off. If no one uses news reader apps any more then Why the Hell is Digg scrambling to launch a replacement to Google Reader?
Seriously, Digg is throwing resources at a product that Google claims no one will want to use. Given all that I have seen going on for the past 4 months I think that claim simply does not hold up to scrutiny.
I am going to have to agree with the general sentiment on Twitter. Google is doing their best to spin a bad decision, but sadly the excuses quoted above are the best they can come up with.