How to Survive a Google Reader Shutdown

It's official. Google announced that it was time for a Google Reader shutdown, the RSS aggregator used by millions to keep up to date with countless blogs, like mine. I have a plan.

In case you missed it, here's a bit of the announcement that came from Google about the Google Reader shutdown.

We launched Google Reader in 2005 in an effort to make it easy for people to discover and keep tabs on their favorite websites. While the product has a loyal following, over the years usage has declined. So, on July 1, 2013, we will retire Google Reader. Users and developers interested in RSS alternatives can export their data, including their subscriptions, with Google Takeout over the course of the next four months.

As an avid user of Google Reader, this news really blows! It's probably my most used Google tool. It's a simple, clean interface that allows me to quickly peruse a number of articles, yet keep up with the content of each site that is important to me.

Other services are eager to fill the gap. Feedly announced its method to migrate your Google Reader subscriptions to its services, but I'm just not feeling it. Not only because Feedly doesn't seem to run on Safari (my preferred browser), but for a more important reason that's revealed by the Google Reader shutdown.

You Can't Trust a Middle Man

Here's the crux of it. When you put some business between a provider and a consumer, the middle-man has no loyalty to either side. It's just there to serve its own interests. That's not a bright way to do business, even if the business is free. As we see, Google is shutting down its middle-man service. That leaves millions of users and web content providers out in the cold. The conduit for consumption just got yanked out from under their feet. It hurts the reader and the content provider.  Google doesn't care about either.

What options do you have left? Are you going to visit each one of those sites every day to see if there's new, fresh content? Unlikely. The advantage of an RSS service is that it brings the content to you when it's available.  If only there were some other Internet service that could to the same thing.  Hmmm.

How to Survive a Google Reader Shutdown

Here's my advice, both as a user of Google Reader and a web content provider who delivered content by RSS. Don't sign up for Feedly, Flipboard or any other service that's going to try and take advantage of the gap that the Google Reader shutdown just created. All that does is move your vulnerability from one pothole to another.

Instead, start subscribing to your favorite blogs by e-mail.  Yes, that's right. E-mail.  It's reliable and vendor-neutral. You still get content delivered straight to you and there are plenty of free e-mail providers – even GMail. Build some rules to filter your content by each subscription and you can very quickly & easily keep up with your blog posts. If you use GMail, it even works with the same keyboard shortcuts as Google Reader to move from one message to the next.

If you look at the top of my web site, you'll see a big Subscribe button. Go ahead, click it and subscribe. When I create a new post, you'll get it delivered right to your email. You can read it on practically any device that connects to the Internet. It's old-school and direct. Not only that, but you can easily keep articles from web content providers that you like and delete the rest. Your old RSS subscription didn't make it that easy to go back and find the stuff you liked, did it?

If you ever decide you don't want to get posts anymore, there's a URL at the bottom of each e-mail to unsubscribe without any hassle at all. I don't spam my readers, I never trade or sell their e-mail addresses to anyone. It's all private between you and me.

Trust me!

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  • Torben Christiansen March 14, 2013   Reply →

    Google Reader is great tool and it is a very sad day that they are taking it down. Email just isn’t an option. If I had to email subscription to all those things I have in Google Reader my inbox would died. Google Reader lets be find 1/10 articles that I want to read in a quick and easy way and it is often different feeds that are giving me this articles. I hope that Google changes its mind (but unlikely) and if the don’t I might just switch to Feedly or something differently to get a bit of the same UI experience. It is not as perfect as Google Reader, but it is at least a lot like it.

    • William Beem March 15, 2013   Reply →

      Filters are your friends. Besides, who says you have to use the same email account as your everyday email? Set up one just for reading blogs.

      Try it. It’s easier than you think.

  • Michelle Hedstrom March 14, 2013   Reply →

    I agree, I don’t think email is a good option. For blogs like yours where it’s 1 post a day, I could deal with that, and filter stuff into folders and such, but Techcrunch has hundreds of posts a day. It’s nice just to be able to do a quick scroll and only click on what’s interesting to me. There’s no way I want to deal with that in my email, even in some sort of digest form (which I have no idea if they offer). I think it just shows less than dealing with a middle man sucks, but dealing with Google sucks more. I don’t see any reason for the shutdown.

    • William Beem March 15, 2013   Reply →

      That’s because you’re used to RSS. More people read blogs by e-mail than RSS, though. Most users understand email, so it’s easy to subscribe and easier than setting up another service or visiting the site all the time to check.

      Besides, there’s no reason you can’t setup a filter to put blog posts in a folder and then just scan the header, or perhaps the first couple of lines. Do it in a GMail account just for your blogs and you can run through them with the same shortcut keys.

  • Charles Putnam, March 14, 2013   Reply →

    Also…Google immediately discontinued the desktop version of Snapseed….hmmmmm

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