How Far RSS Has Fallen

Yesterday’s announcement that Google is shutting down Reader was a little bit of a shock to me, personally. I use it daily. I rely on it to follow a couple of hundred blogs and websites all in one place. Over the years, Reader has been the go-to RSS reader for most users, all but eliminating any useful competitors. (Especially for those of us who line in the cloud using multiple devices.)

The reason given was declining usage. Some of the commentary about it says that much of that declining usage is due to Twitter, and tools based on the Twitter infrastructure, like Flipboard. Perhaps there’s something to that. Personally, I don’t think Twitter is a good RSS reader. It simply doesn’t have enough of a history to allow for me to not look at it all day and simply catch up in the evening. That’s what my RSS reader is for, and Google Reader allowed to do that catch up on any device I happened to have handy. Now, that’s going to be gone, and I don’t know that any alternative is going to help me accomplish the same thing.

The larger story though, is that the idea of using RSS has obviously fallen out of favor. People seem to be using Twitter, and Google obviously expects us to use Google Plus instead of a dedicated RSS reader. As a blogger, that does give me pause. It’s clear that people are no longer following every post from their favorite writers. They are waiting for their Twitter or Google Plus “community” to bubble up interesting posts. Even as I write this, it occurs to me that I don’t know how many people, if any, will even see this. There was a time when I could count on “x” number of people seeing this post in Google Reader. Now, I simply have to see who decides to share, retweet, like a post before I know if there will be much of an audience for it.

I think that changes things. I don’t know how, and I don’t really think I have understood this change as it has been taking place, but there’s no question that writing a blog post, and getting people to read it, has become more of a challenge. It’s no longer a matter of attracting subscribers, and trying to get those folks to share or comment on a post. Now, you have to get the smaller group of dedicated readers to use social media to spread the word for you. Without that, a post may just be the proverbial tree falling in the woods.


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  1. So I saw the post, Mike.

    Hopefully, the new “opening” in RSS allows some experimentation in presentation. Facebook (and presumably Google Plus, etc.) are investing heavily in algorithms to decide what you’d like to see — but there is heavy suspicion that the ranking is influenced by payment of money. The overwhelming amount of stuff is overwhelming RSS’s usefulness; I have plenty of sites that have a four-star post once a month. I’d never see it in Google+, or twitter, or facebook. But I’m reluctant to have all of my content served up by Google — it’s killing the part of the web where you discover something you didn’t know you wanted.

    1. No question that it does open up the possibility of some experimentation now that Google won’t be dominating the RSS reader space. Still, I have to wonder about their reasoning. If the general public really is just relying on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ to act as their news aggregator, it changes things, and it’s going to make it harder to get noticed.

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