Bloglines, one of the big RSS readers before Google Reader, just headed to the dead pool. Surprisingly, even “visits to Google Reader are down 27 percent year-over-year“. Competitors for RSS reader services have all died long ago. While Bloglines let the product slip into neglect, it’s still quite shocking to see that we are now left with Google Reader alone. The most telling part is that, as of now, not many of the major blogs are even talking about the shutdown of Bloglines. What happened to RSS readers?
The prevalent argument is that social news networks have replaced the need for RSS readers. In fact, according to a recent CNN survey, 75% of people get their news from email or social media. The argument is if you don’t hear about it from the people you’re connected with, it’s probably not worth knowing. Twitter is definitely a wealth for news because you have links and updates. You literally have access to people experiencing it in real time and the analysis and reactions to these events coming at you real-time. Sites that aggregate the flow of information to show you what’s hot like Tweetmeme are really useful and the results are always fresh though it might not have the personal touch of TechMeme.
At the end of the day, RSS readers stop scaling very fast when you have a steady stream of content from a growing number of sources. Pruning and tending to your RSS subscription list can be a task of its own and you need to be constantly on the lookout for great content. However, no matter how you try, even with one hundred feeds or so there’s no way you can stay on top of all your feeds.
There are many companies trying to innovate by making it easier to discover news that’s relevant to you, usually in combination with your social graph such as Flipboard. The need for information that is both timely and relevant is a fundamental need for us as social creatures. We will continue to see innovation in this space but now that Google is the almost the last RSS reader standing, I hope we see something great rise from the ashes.