The end of Google Reader, but not for RSS feeds
The end of Google Reader, but not for RSS feeds

In a recent blog post Google announced the closure of Google Reader. The service, which is an aggregator of content served by web feeds, will cease on 1st July.

Google reader has become an essential tool for journalists, PRs and those in communications roles in business and the public sector. It has allowed users to subscribe to websites and content that used RSS web feed formats.

The announcement by Google in it’s blog ‘A Second Spring Cleaning‘ took many by surprise as the service is still very popular with influencers in media and communications. In a Sysomos blog post a few days back Mark Evans states, ‘When It Comes to Digital Influencers, Blogs Rule.’

Google Reader went live in October 2005. It was created by by Google engineer Chris Wetherell (@cw), Mihai Parparita (@mihai) and Jason Shellen (@shellen). Former Google Labs Product Marketing Manager and now Instagram founder Kevin Systrom (@kevin) was also responsible for pushing it out of the Google Labs team.

In the past five years, Reader has been adopted by a wide group of people, especially journalists and those working in communications roles in business or the public sectors.

Journalists have been using Google Reader to aggregate RSS links. It has enabled them to be alerted when an organisation in a sector they cover updates their website. Reader has also allowed them to monitor independent bloggers that could be first with insight and so be valuable independent commentators. And while we have taken to Twitter and other social networks, RSS feeds today still enable us to get the content, from the coal face, and without the noise.

Visiting Professor at London’s City University’s School of Journalism Professor Paul Bradshaw (@PaulBradshaw) is a fan of RSS feeds, having taught students about the value of feeds in his Online Journalism Courses.

Even for PRs, Google Reader has become an essential tool for monitoring content online. And the fact that Google Reader is cloud based is another reason why those working in-house or agency-side have it as a default tool on their desktop, mobile and tablet.

The fact is that while Google has killed Reader, it has not killed RSS feeds. And while a campaign has been started that asks Google to save Reader, it is unlikely to change the search giants decision.

If you are scratching you head and wandering what to do, then for the time being you need not panic. Google has given us three and a half months until 1st July to export our feeds and find an alternative service.

I use Silvio Rizzi ReederApp (@ReederApp). On Twitter, Silvio posted  yesterday, ‘Don’t worry, Reeder won’t die with Google Reader.’ This app enables me keep my feeds synced while I am on the go, hence the value of it being cloud based.

Paul Bradshaw has a Google Doc that lists all alternative RSS aggregators. A great document and one that’s worth a look.

And once you have found you alternative this Lifehacker post gives you details on how to export your feeds from Google Reader and import them to your new service.

For me, the essentials for an alternative include:

  • Be a cloud service – you can access your feeds from you desktop, mobile and tablet
  • You can star and tag content that you read
  • You can share content across your networks – Twitter, Evernote, Delicious
  • It have a Bitly functionality
  • It has search capability.

So, in short, what I want is for Google Reader to stay with us!!

***UPDATE 17/03/2013***

Social Times reports in a post ‘Why Google Is Really Pulling The Plug On Readerthat the reason behind Google’s decision to kill Reader is ‘that Google will launch mobile news subscriptions to compete with Apple’s lucrative Newsstand.’

Writing in Social Times Cameron Scott (@ConcertoMates) reports, ‘A former Google Reader product manager offered a different, but complementary, analysis on Quora. Brian Shih argues that Google repeatedly endeavored to pull technical staff from Reader and reassign the staffers to social products.

Shih’s account suggests that Google saw Reader as competition for Google+. The company may want its users to rely on Google+ to get more Web content in one place.’

Meanwhile BuzzFeed is reporting that Google Reader drives more traffic than Google+.

Research unveiled today by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism reveals how smartphones are starting to ‘play a significant role in the consumption of news.’  The institute’s 2012  Digital News Report (#risjdigital2012) tells how more than one in four of those questioned accessed news stories via a mobile device or tablet.

While traditional journalism providers like the BBC, Sky News and individual print outlets remain central sources amongst consumers of news, the size of the audience getting their news from unverified sources is growing, especially amongst the 16-24 age group.  The report additionally reveals how outlets in the UK have been ‘relatively quick to innovate, with developments such as live blogging, social media, and data journalism – leaving little space for new providers.’

These findings not only put questions on how news organisations deliver content to the public, but how, through public relations, governments, companies and other organisations can better engage and communicate with their respective audiences.  Traditional PR in this 21st Century is no longer an option.  Reaching the audience has to be done by understanding where the public is and when and what they want to receive.

Considering the speed of news dissemination through Facebook and Twitter, especially when content is verified, it is becoming essential to change the approach that brands use to engage with their individual publics.

Newman also reveals in the report how news spreads through social networks, with 78 per cent saying they were more likely to click on a link from friends and other people they knew if they had shared content during the past week.  Newman adds in the report that Facebook is still key to disseminating of news online, with 55 per cent using this platform, against 33 per cent using email and 23 per cent using Twitter.

Further details can be found in the report, which will be unveiled at MSN this evening, 11 July 2012 from 18.00.  Follow the Hashtag #risjdigital2012 then for comment and discussion.

Reuters Institute Digital Report 2012


NeverSeconds Blogger Martha Payne with Chef Nick Nairn

Argyll and Bute Scottish local council made headlines today after banning a 9 year old from blogging about her school meals, a decision which they then promptly reversed after a global social media campaign.  Their initial decision smacked of a #PRfail by council officials, confirming the outdated type of PR knowledge they have.

Nine-year old Martha Payne set up her Never Seconds blog in April this year to record the meals at her school and give each tray a score out of ten while raising money for charity.  The blog immediately attracted the interest of chef Jamie Oliver, who campaigns for healthier school meals.  As a result, the number of visitors to Martha’s school food diary swelled to over 1 million in it’s first month with international titles such as Forbes, MSNBC and The Toronto Star highlighting the blog for everything that is good about the internet.

In June though, and after the ‘Time to fire the dinner ladies..‘ tongue-in-cheek headline in The Daily Record, the local council weighed in, telling the school to get the nine-year-old to stop blogging.  The order was duly passed, without any understanding of the support that Martha had built online.

In a very matter of fact way, council bosses, more used to issuing corporate diktat, told the media that their reason for censoring the blog were because they wanted to ‘protect staff who were concerned for their jobs.’  Hmm, really?

The fact is that their lack of understanding of online audiences and communities by council officials led them to make a rod for their own back, further damaging their reputation and confirming how traditional public relations is dying a slow death.

Social media just connected the dots, but the lack of understanding by council leaders and their public relations professionals confirms that they are not the only issues out in the wide world.  Public relations today is about audiences and making decisions knowing full well how people in groups will react to these.

As for Martha, well, to date she has raised over £48,000 for work in Malawi.  The audience which can judge, can also help!

This time last year I made a series of predictions about social media and public relations.  I suggested that while 2010 was a year of discovery, the past 2011 was going to be about sharing and engaging.  About communities being empowered by the knowledge they will have pooled together.  I highlighted from my perspective the challenges and opportunities that Facebook, Twitter and YouTube will pose for companies and individuals.  The impact that social networking has had on events during the past year has truly been beyond what anybody could have expected.

While 2010 was about Wikileaks, the past year has been about challenging the reputation of companies, organisations and individuals that used the law to hide their indiscretions.  Twitter and other social networks came into their own as members of the legal profession struggled to grasp the structure of communications across international jurisdictions.

In my post ‘2011, A Year Of Change In Public Relations,’ I said that the coming year was going to be about communities that were engaged and empowered.  Wikileaks showed what you could do privately.  Facebook, Twitter and YouTube were the channels through which you could anonymously share content and opinion.  They are the channels that gathered a community together, empowering them to seek the transparency that was far too often absent.  Even the once trusted media estate came under the gaze of the community.

The Arab Spring in North Africa was an occasion that surprised many commentators. Sharing of stories on Twitter about high-profile individuals was going to happen.  Managing reputations has now moved into a real-time business.  In fact, if something wrong has been done it is today best expected that such an act will become public.

Last year I also raised the point about the power of mobile, of cellphones.  Wherever you are you have a cellphone.  You are connected to a world of real time information that reaches you as quickly as you wish to access the news that is available.  News shared by the network that you are connected to.  Reliance on traditional news channels is long gone.  News is shaped by members of the communities that we trust, which is why from a public relations perspective crises are today that when audiences go negative on a brand, cause or individual.

As I stated, news organisations are not dead and they are certainly not dying.  They are just changing and adapting to become what their primary audience wants of them.  An adoption that will continue in the 2012.

But what about the coming year?  Well, I am finishing my thoughts on this and will share these with you pretty soon.

Facebook is moving into the news business, hoping to capitalise on news outlets latest refocus on social networking.  It’s Edition’s project will see the networking giant face-up to Apple and Google, who are both working on project to monitise our appetite for news in real-time.

Fifteen years ago news outlets opted to make the content that had a cover-price free online, a strategy based trying to get a slice of the then large online advertising pie.  Then, after putting all of it’s eggs in one basket, it faced with a severe decline in advertising revenue, forcing many newsrooms to cut their staff.  Then, after much strategising some outlets opted for paywalls, a decision that to this day still causes plenty of debate in the news industry.  Some outlets, like the The Times, Sunday Times, New York Times and the Financial Times delivered various options – fully restrictive or freemium services.  It all appears to have provided some security for the medium-term.

Enter Facebook, who with over 750 million members has decided to move into the news business with it’s Facebook Editions – an app that allows users to consume news within it’s walls.

News outlets had been working with Apple and it’s Newsstand offering which would update subscribers news subscriptions via an exclusive App.  I wrote a post about this in September 2009 about the ‘Changing And Charging TimesFor News.’ Many outlets have signed-up to Apple’s Newsstand.  Others haven’t, not liking the terms set out – including a 30% fee for Apple.  The Financial Times is a case whereby they have taken their content from the App Store and have developed an HTML5 site that can be accessed through iPhone, iPods and iPads.  Developed by Assanka, the HTML5 app is fluid and smooth and as a subscriber I have to say that it set’s the standard.

Facebook knows that over a third of its 750 million users access the site through mobile devices, and those who access the site on a cell-phone or tablet as active than traditional desktop users.  This explains why news outlets like CNN, The Washington Post and Rupert Murdoch’s The Daily are wanting in on Zuckerberg’s next project.

The fact is that the consumption of news has not diminished, it has most probably risen.  Start-up’s like Flipboard show how we the consumer like our news to be gathered from trusted sources that can verify content, such as journalists, as well as from friends and peers that can deliver unverified news, enabling us to be the first for news.

The speed at which news is consumed is what the PR community is going to have to focus on as outlets compete to deliver quality content.