Sunday, June 16, 2013

Bye Bye Google Reader, hello paid RSS reader!

It's not the first time that Google has pulled the plug on its users and it won't be the last. They will be shuttering Google Reader on July 1st. I have been a victim of their shutdowns in the past and I usually take it philosophically but this one has hit me very very hard. I am very invested in Google Reader. Here's why. 

My job as a digital consultant requires me to be on top of the tech news. I keep track of 40-50 tech websites and blogs on a regular basis. It's not possible to go through this list everyday. Increasingly, I catch up on my reading in a few spare minutes in a taxi, while waiting at a coffee shop. And it's almost exclusively happening on mobile devices. 

 Initially, I was lured by the exciting magazine like appearance of Pulse, Zite and Flipboard. And on my iPad, Flipboard initially lured me. But with time, I felt these options did not work for me. I used to keep missing interesting articles from certain subscriptions.  I did not need a glossy magazine. I needed a school bag with clearly labelled text books. And that is exactly what Google Reader is - a vanilla interface designed to make sure you see every article and know exactly what you have read, or need to read. 

It is ok, but not fantastic on mobile, and non-existent on iPad so I tried out different readers. Finally, I settled for the paid Mr. Reader app on my iPad. The iPad is the device where I read, and from where I tweet the most, and Mr. Reader has a fabulous user interface to facilitate it.

The shutting of  Google Reader has taught me a valuable lesson - it's really not safe to keep your data in a 'free' place. Yes, Google always gives enough advance notification when they close a service and they faciliate easy export of data, but I would not trust a smaller service, it might close down any time.

When I started looking for alternatives, I realised that the best ones are paid, and not free. Paid Google Reader alternatives charge subscription rates averaging $12-$19 per year. They also offer the advantage of being ad-free and keeping your data confidential. Though they cannot rival Google's huge server advantage, they also do their best to maintain reliability and uptime. Most importantly, a service which takes your money, will owe you a responsibility to inform you and save your data if they plan to close down.

I also realised that it's important for me to choose a Reader alternative which has a Google compatible API as it will enable me to keep using the mobile apps like Mr. Reader. I can compromise on my desktop experience, but its extremely important to have a mobile RSS reader app with an excellent User interface. It really saves time and effort.

I am currently evaluating 3 paid RSS readers - BazQuxFeedly and Feed Wrangler. I have to admit that all of them have done a great job of giving you the comfort of the familiar Google interface while making heaps of improvements, the most important one being better mobile access, and easy sharing and saving.

I have a 30 day free trial ongoing with each of these services, and I will update at the end of the period which one I decided to go ahead with.