In the Wake of Google Reader’s Retirement

If you are anything like me, you were quite disappointed to learn that as of July 1, 2013 Google Reader will retire.  My first thought was once Google Reader is gone, what do I do with those hundreds (if not thousands) of RSS feeds I have captured and managed via Google Reader.  Rather than rely solely on the petition to “Keep Google Reader Running”, I began to explore how I would save and export my feeds from Google Reader, and to seek alternatives to manage and read my feeds.

First, I learned that in order to save all my feeds, I could use Google TakeOut to export my data.  I found this video on Mashable to be helpful.  Your feeds will all export from Google through a .zip file containing an .xml file with a listing of your feeds.  You can then use this .xml file to import into a new RSS manager and reader.

Second, I began to explore alternatives to Google Reader for both managing and reading my feeds.  I used Google Reader primarily as my manager – a tool to subscribe to new feeds and organize feeds – and infrequently to read feeds on my desktop and laptop via a web browser.  To read my feeds, I often use a variety of apps on my mobile devices.  Two of my favorite reader apps, Flipboard and Mr. Reader, currently work through a connection with my Google Reader account.  Mr. Reader’s interface is similar to Google Reader, sorts my feeds as I did in Google Reader, allows for social sharing, and provides different views for reading feeds, including a condensed view for easy scrolling through multiple feeds.  Flipboard, a magazine style reader, does not act solely as an RSS reader, but also a social media and news aggregator, integrating LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, and more.  As far as I am aware, both apps synchronize with Google Reader, but cannot currently import RSS feeds directly from an .xml file.  Therefore, I questioned whether I would be able to continue to use these readers once Google Reader retired.  A note from the developer on the Mr. Reader website indicated that they are currently looking for a Google Reader alternative service to support.  Flipboard, on the other hand, states on its blog that if you sign into your Google Reader account through Flipboard (or already have your Google Reader account connected), all your Google Reader RSS feeds will be saved and thus you will be able to continue to access your feeds via Flipboard after Google Reader’s retirement.  To add new RSS feeds to Flipboard, you can use Flipboard’s bookmarklet with your browser.  That’s good news to my ears!

While Flipboard may still be an option, I wondered what other Google Reader alternatives were out there.  My research pointed me to the following popular alternatives:  NewsBlur, feedly, The Old Reader, NetNewsWire, and NetVibes.  I then investigated each service.  Read below to learn what I discovered through research and testing.

NewsBlurNow marketing directly to Google Reader “expats”, according to its website, this service has added new servers for the purpose of supporting growth due to the retirement of Google Reader.  However, don’t try to set up a free account right now because due to high demand, all free accounts are currently suspended.  Hopefully this will change after the hype over the news of Google Reader subsides.  Free accounts do have some limitations in terms of the number of blogs you can actively follow, the number of stories you can read at one time, and limited sharing options.  NewsBlur also offers premium accounts that remove many of the limitations of its free accounts.  NewsBlur can be used via a web browser to view and manage feeds, much like Google Reader.  When service is initiated, NewsBlur gives the option of integrating with Google Reader or uploading files from an .xml file.  The service accommodates categories, tags, and folders, again like Google Reader.  Moreover, NewsBlur also has apps for the iPhone, iPad, and Android.  In my opinion, barring the limitations of the free accounts, this service is an adequate replacement for Google Reader both for managing and reading feeds.

feedly.  It is no surprise that this service is also going after Google Reader subscribers seeking alternatives, stating on its website that “More than 500,000 Google Reader users have switched to feedly.”  With its photo centric magazine style interface and functional apps for mobile use, this service gained popularity even prior to Google’s announcement of its retirement of Reader.  On its blog, feedly provides tips to Google Reader users on how to migrate to feedly and how to configure it to function like Google Reader.  While feedly’s aesthetic photo layout is appeasing to the eye, the service also provides for multiple layout views, including a list view for quick scanning.  Feedly is free, works through a web interface, and has apps for iPhone, iPad, and Android.  Feeds can be added directly from your browser.  Feedly also integrates robust social sharing features, and accommodates tags and folders for organizing feeds.  Again, I believe that this is also an adequate replacement for Google Reader both for managing and reading feeds.

The Old Reader.  This is a free web-based only service (no mobile apps).  The Old Reader can import Google Reader feeds and its interface looks much like Google Reader.  However, The Old Reader, which started as an organic donation-based community project, is quite simple without many of the bells and whistles that other services accommodate, such as social sharing (among external services such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.), tags, mobile apps, and more.  According to The Old Reader blog, users have experienced some issues importing feeds due to the increase in new users.  However, the developers note that they are currently adding more capacity to handle these issues and hope to increase functionality by offering paid accounts, although they haven’t started developing those yet.  For a simple web-based alternative to Google Reader, The Old Reader is a good choice.

NetNewsWireThis service is available only for Mac, iPhone, and iPad users.  Rather than web based, this service works as a desktop application, which is free for Mac users (although it includes advertisements, which can be avoided by buying its premium app).  Your Google Reader feeds can be imported via an .xml file.  The desktop interface looks similar to Google Reader and provides for quick scrolling through feeds.  Other than the option to send to Instapaper for later reading, the desktop version does not integrate with social networks.  NetNewsWire’s website states that its iPhone app is also free and that the iPad app costs $9.99, however I was neither able to download the iPhone nor iPad app.  The website also states that the developers have been working on new iPhone and iPad apps.  According to Black Pixel’s blog (the developers of NetNewsWire), they are working on finding alternatives to replace Google Reader’s RSS sync functionality.  There is also some chatter on the web that Black Pixel may develop its own RSS syncing service to replace Google Reader’s sync functionality and thus broadening Black Pixel’s reach, but Black Pixel has yet to make an official announcement.  All in all, this is yet another good alternative to Google Reader.

NetVibes.  This is a web-based social aggregation and dashboard service that can be used as an RSS reader and manager.  NetVibes provides both free and premium options, but the free option is sufficient to act as a replacement to Google Reader.  Google Reader feeds can easily be imported into NetVibes via an .xml file.  The functionality is similar to Google Reader when using the “reader” view rather than the “widgets” view.  NetVibes provides options to share via e-mail, Facebook, and Twitter.  Currently, there are no mobile apps for this product, but NetVibes has optimized its web-based dashboard for mobile browser viewing.  Again, this is also a sufficient web-based replacement for Google Reader.

This list is in no way comprehensive of all the possible RSS reader options available.  Based on my research and user experience, the readers above rose to the top of my personal list of options.  For a more comprehensive list of Google Reader alternatives, check out this spreadsheet referenced by Alex Kantrowitz in an article for Forbes.com.

Image courtesy of mattgalligan on Flickr.