Google Reader’s Demise or How to Survive in a Post-RSS World

Mar 17

 

Google Reader is no more (starting in July 2013). And I’m not concerned. I used to be a daily user of the service, but like most everybody else on the planet, I’ve turned to my social networks for updates. Why? Because RSS was always the techie’s solution and not a consumer solution.

Back in October when there was an eruption of concern over Feedburner’s pending demise (still not official), the solution seemed simple for anyone using Feedburner: Stop using it. No need for transition plans. No need for freakouts. Simply stop using Feedburner and turn your RSS back to the native feed. (After all, the search benefits to Feedburner ended when Google introduced algorithm updates Freshness in 2011 and Caffeine in 2010.)

In fact, everything in the data for a number of accounts I was working on indicated two things:

  1. Social networks mattered more than RSS subscribers
  2. Blog email subscribers mattered most of all

RSS has been dying a slow death for years and by 2012 there was no point in caring anymore. Like the CD player that’s still in my 2008 Honda Civic, the technology may still exist, but it’s time to start ignoring it altogether.

What Can You Do in a Post-RSS World?

RSS may still be used to power back-end solutions, but for lazy bloggers and companies who hoped to let the feed do the work, it’s time to start taking alternative methods of content distribution seriously.

1. Focus on Gaining Email Subscribers

It seems old school to promote email as an alternative to the younger RSS technology. But even Google Reader loyalists will probably admit the check their email more often than their RSS feed reader. And the best part is, it’s simple to promote.

Take a look at AboutLeaders.com, for example. (Full disclosure, I worked on their website design project.) The good folks over there simply offer a leadership resource as incentive to sign-up for the blog. This tried-and-true method of gaining subscribers gets people in the door with your great content and then keeps them consuming your awesome blog updates.

2. Get on Google Plus… now

Google Plus was always going to be the replacement for Google Reader, whether people liked it or not. Unlike Google Reader, there’s profit to be made on Google Plus, so it’s the place brands, businesses and bloggers need to be right now.

For companies, remember to verify your publisher status. Simply add update the link on that Google Plus icon that appears with the other social network icons on your website:

<a href=”https://plus.google.com/BUSINESSPAGEID/posts?rel=publisher”>

And if you’re a blogger or have a number of bloggers, make sure there’s a link from their content to their GooglePlus page on every post they write that looks like this:

<a href=”https://plus.google.com/AUTHORPAGEID/posts?rel=author”>

Once these pieces are in place you can verify authorship and publisher status using Google’s Structured Data Testing tool.

3. Be Social. Like Really Social.

Unlike RSS, even Grandma is using a social network. For bloggers and companies, your audience is already online and looking for content. But are they finding yours?

It’s not enough to just be on Facebook or Twitter. And it’s not enough to feed your content out to those networks. Individuals representatives of your company (or if you’re a blogger, then just you), should build relationships with other people in your bailiwick. Those relationships will give your content even more momentum, more so than just casual followers and friends.

If you want to read more about some techniques for being social, check out this social media eBook from Kuno.

Final Thoughts

Calling this a post-RSS world is kind of dishonest. We never lived in an RSS world. But the world we’re living in now—a social content world—is here to stay for the foreseeable future. Utilizing the mature technology and maturing technologies makes more sense than worrying about a technology that hasn’t ever grown up.

5 comments

  1. That could be true coming your marketing perspective… I personally dont want 400+ emails per day instead of my feeds (simply: i want the content and not handing over my data). The newsletter-approach is also no solution, because rss enables you to read the news when they are written and not at the end of the day, when the newsletter is sent.

    Speaking of which… social media is no replacement for an rss reader. Why? Their UI isnt built to be flooded with hundreds of news entries per day. (And please dont mention twitter.. honestly: who wants to read/write a news headline + link in 160 characters? I´m always reading the preview text before clicking the link to the full article.)

    Email and social media are no solution when you are a “news-junkie” having a lot of sources and hundreds of entries per day.

    • Dan Stasiewski /

      Thanks for the comment Olli. You’re correct this does primarily come from a marketing perspective. However, I’m also a bit of a news junkie and I found myself using Reader less and less to monitor my favorite sources, instead Liking them on Facebook, adding them to a specific list on Twitter that feeds into HootSuite, and downloading the news source’s app on my phone and tablet if available. I think having 250+ websites feeding into UI, for me, was the problem. It became less efficient over the years.

  2. ah..regarding your last point: Why do you think is RSS not mature?

    • Dan Stasiewski /

      RSS never really changed over the years. The readers did, but they always seemed limited by the feeds themselves, unlike Email which integrated video, chat, casual messaging. That’s what I think keeps us going back to email more than anything, even as social rises.

      • I dont think that the amount of change is an indicator for “maturity”. My RSS feeds some times contain videos so that doesnt count as an argument towards email.

        The orginial purpose of RSS is to get a stream of updates from specified websites. Most of them are only offering a preview text and not the full article. That has the obvious reason, that the user clicks the article and spends time at the website (and clicks their advertising). In this case there is no need for chats or messaging. After clicking the article and browsing to the original website, you can interact with the website (like the comments here) and even interact “social” (if thats the goal).

        I agree with you that RSS is not a widely used technology but i have the opinion that its mature and still worth using

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