Technology

Replace Google Reader: Three New Ways to Read Your Feeds

By / Jul 2, 2013 (iStockphoto/Thinkstock)

We’ve finally reached the end of the line: Google Reader is gone. But on the plus side, several companies are working on solutions worth keeping an eye on. Even AOL.

You know the type: The die-hard. The late adopter. The last person in the room after the party’s already died.

Here’s the problem. Recently, a lot of late adopters have seen something like this  during their daily web-browsing:

Screen Shot 2013-06-27 at 4.32.51 PM

Yeah, you really should have given up Google Reader already, because now that screenshot looks like this:

Screen Shot 2013-07-02 at 7.09.55 AM

We understand why you might not have wanted this dependable tool to disappear—but we come packed with ideas on what  to use now. We’ve already covered Feedly as a potential alternative as well as some of the other existing options. But in recent days, some new players have surfaced in the RSS reader field to replace Google Reader.

Glorious, glorious white space. (Digg Reader screenshot)

Glorious, glorious white space. (Digg Reader screenshot)

Digg’s Data = Great Reader?

If there’s one company that could stand to gain more than any other from Google Reader’s demise, it’s Betaworks, the parent of Digg.

Betaworks’ strong point, as its convincing revamp of the former Reddit competitor last year proved, is its ability to use actionable data to create great products. (Another example is its iPhone app Dots, which may be the most addictive game ever.) So after Google made the news of Reader’s demise public in March, Digg asked users what they wanted from an app and surfaced at the end of June with a web platform and an iOS app, both ready for your feeds … in beta. They worked quickly, though, moving from blank slate to launch in just three months.

Anyway, the bad news about the app? You have to import your feeds directly from Reader at this juncture—manual imports don’t work, and that might be problematic considering Google just shut the service down. (On my iPhone, I did have to delete the app and reinstall to get it to work.) The good news? Once you get your feeds imported, the experience is pretty clean. Digg took its research findings that people didn’t want a magazine-like experience to heart and designed a platform that’s lightweight and breezy. The upside, as well, is huge: Betaworks has made some acquisitions that dovetail nicely into a reader platform, including Digg itself  and the popular Instapaper app. Betaworks is already using some of this data in the app—to tell RSS readers which articles are picking up steam.

With the quick turnaround don’t expect much in the way of features as of yet. Down the road, however, this might be where to focus your attention.

While there's always a banner ad on the side of AOL's reader, it doesn't get in the way. (AOL Reader screenshot)

While there’s always a banner ad on the side of AOL’s reader, it doesn’t get in the way. (AOL Reader screenshot)

Call AOL. Really.

While AOL has struggled to draw attention to its tech efforts in recent years (the company makes an email client that’s very good—really!), that hasn’t stopped it from trying. And that’s why AOL Reader, though its launch was definitely unexpected, shouldn’t really have been that much of a surprise.

The app, which is currently available in beta form, sticks to the traditional tropes of RSS readers, albeit with a slightly fresher interface than Google Reader used. It’s also much less busy than Feedly, which is a good thing for a certain audience, but the bells and whistles are a bit lacking at this point. One problem you may run into: The search bar up top offers up unexpected behavior, as searches don’t scour through your RSS feeds but refer to AOL’s own search offering. Not a bad start, though, considering it came out of nowhere.

HootSuite Gives a Hoot

OK, you’re a social media maven. You spend half your day in HootSuite already. So why not spend the other half there?

That’s the idea behind HootSuite’s new Syndicator app, which treats the process of reading RSS feeds the same way it treats everything else in its app—as a selection of easy-to-follow, highly shareable content—on a platform already designed for easy sharing, as it turns out.

On top of this, the company’s Hootlet extension for Chrome will get an update that allows you to easily turn any site into an RSS feed readable in Hootsuite—a nice shot in the arm that gives entire sites the flexibility of a Twitter feed, making sharing incredibly simple.

Or, at least, it should.

The idea sounds really useful in principle. But in practice, the system was glitchy, taking much longer to import content than other RSS reader platforms, and not as easily skimmable as a traditional reader. But the long-term potential is clear. Even if it’s not all the way there now, it could be eventually.

As you can see, these options are clearly early in their lifespans. What have you tried to replace Google Reader? Let us know below.

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now and a former newspaper guy. More »

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