Seen at the Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden ~ Chinese proverb

Friday, 12 April 2013

Google Reader: The Hunt for an Alternative


So, farewell Google Reader.

It's served me well for over 5 years. I've kept up with around 300 blogs without going insane. I've even filed away long-gone favourites in there in the hope they'd be revived some day - and to my delight some are from time to time.

So like many others in the blogosphere I've started the work this week to see the potential impact and what needs to be done ahead of Google Reader's demise in July.

Looking at my subscription rates*, around 700 of my subscribers might go. Thanks for subscribing if you're reading this via your Google Reader BTW! So what are the options for you going forward?

I've come up with the following possibilities so far:

1. Use one of the other facilities you have to hand

I already use the Google Follow facility (as shown in my left sidebar) to read lots of blogs. It isn't just confined to Blogger blogs either as I've successfully added my WordPress and Typepad faves. This means I see the latest from everyone on my Blogger dashboard whenever I go in to write a post. In fact, I usually have a good read - and comment - before I start my own blogging! I also use the blogrolls on the right of my blog in a similar way as I have a couple of them configured to show post titles and to move them around according to what my blogging buddies are publishing.

If you're on Blogger, you could use these options. Wordpress has a Follow facility too, though I don't know whether it works in the same way as the Blogger one does. Let me know in the comments and I'll update this post :)

Update: I've had a play with the Follow facility in WordPress and found it's very easy to copy and paste the URL of a non-Wordpress blog using the Edit facility.

However, if you want to file your reading away into various categories or you don't blog, then these options aren't really for you.

2. Sign up for posts by email or blog newsletters

Only really viable if you read a few blogs, or to catch those which are more random in their posting frequency, otherwise your inbox will get full very quickly. It's also dependent on bloggers having these facilities on their blogs. I like the flexibility Wordpress offers for its email signups as you can elect to have them on a weekly basis and on a particular day.

Update: Janet helpfully said in the comments that email filtering can be used to categorise and store blog posts for later reading.

3. Use Twitter/Facebook

It's dependent on you using these forms of social media and the blogger tweeting or sharing their posts to them, but I do catch a fair few of my favourites (and others spotted and shared) this way. I also use paper.li to combine tweeted links into various virtual newspapers on a daily or weekly basis, which are great to catch up with over a cup of coffee. It also means I don't have to hunt through twitter to find the blog posts I've missed.

I showed you how paper.li works here. Not on Twitter, or don't want to join paper.li? You can  subscribe to my Plotting Daily instead if you like :)

I'm also going to have a look at what Google+ has to offer, especially as I have a feeling it may replace Google Follow sometime... I'd appreciate your comments if you have any experience of reading blogs in this way.

4. Sign-up to another reader

The only real option if you want to continue reading blogs in a similar way to now...

The candidates available are in the dozens if not hundreds. So how to choose? I'm playing a wait and see game at the moment, but looking at the random straw polls that are my Feedburner and blog stats, I can see the following are proving to be early leaders:
  • Bloglovin' - and this is how Veg Plotting looks on there :)
  • Feedly - which claims over 3 million have switched over from Google Reader so far
  • Netvibes - which is also one of the options Google presents if you click on my feed button
  • The Old Reader - probably the closest to the Google Reader experience
From what I've read from people who've already made the switch, these all offer an easy import facility from Google Reader. I haven't got a handle on which ones work well with mobile phones though, so any information you can add would be great! The first 3 offer an app; the Old Reader doesn't but claims it works fine on mobiles.

Update: Wordpress has since announced its own Reader option which works with the Follow option mentioned above.

Not impressed with my straw poll? Then read Lifehacker's more considered list of the best Reader alternatives.

Other things I'll be doing in the run up to July
  • Backing up my Google Reader data just in case the switch over to my new one doesn't go as smoothly as advertised. You can find out how to do that here.
  • Consolidating my various methods of reading blogs into fewer options!
Have you made the switch yet? Which reader did you go for, or which ones are you considering?

* = to find your subscription numbers, go into your Google Reader, then click on View all Recommendations under the Explore option (you can see this option to the left in the picture at the top of this post) and then perform a Search on your own blog name.

Update: Helen has commented Feedly doesn't support Internet Explorer, so you also need to factor in browser compatibility with your choice of new reader. She reports it works fine in Firefox, the transfer went smoothly and she prefers it to Google Reader.

Matt says he uses Apple Mail to manage his RSS feeds. He likes having feeds and emails in one place, but points out this will only work at the desktop level, which is fine for him. I also have a number of feeds showing in my stats which are associated with Macs or particular browsers - another example of making use of what you already have to hand :)

Janet has reminded me that using filters to automatically forward new posts to a separate folder is a great way to handle lots of email subscriptions. As a result it's her favourite way of keeping up with blogs. A very useful tip, thanks Janet :)

Also, don't consider using iGoogle, as this is due to go towards the end of 2013.

44 comments:

  1. Hi
    I have used feedly for about a month having had it recommended to me by Karen. The transfer from google reader was simple and took seconds and everything came through. I have had to update feedly once but I think this is because they are constantly improving it. It doesnt work on internet explorer but I use firefox which is fine. I much prefer it to google reader which I found cumbersome

    Sorry if this is a repeat comment but my first one didnt appear

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  2. Plus when I left twitter I signed up for lots of email notifications of new blog posts but I find that often these arrive a day after the post has gone up and they are rather sporadic so I dont really recommend that.

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  3. Hi Helen - thanks for both comments, especially the heads up re Feedly and Internet Explorer. I wonder why it's not available for the most popular browser? Interesting.

    Is your email problem with Blogger or WordPress blogs? If it's the latter it might be worth looking at the frequency setting. If you have it set to weekly, say, and the blogger only posts a couple of times a week and not on a regular basis, then their posts could easily miss your email setting window and look sporadic.

    I'm finding I use my sidebar notifications and Following choices on my dashboard the most. In a way these have replaced my use of Reader already.

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    1. Hi

      Feedly doesnt support internet explorer as they are more interested in developing technologies for phones and mobile devices.
      I think the problem is blogger posts but its not a problem any more as I dont use email subscriptions :)
      I like the layout of feedly it is very visual which appeals to me

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    2. Hi Helen - I thought that might be their reason. However, looking at my blog stats it means they're ignoring a huge potential readership. Mobile phones are only making up around 5% of my hits and IE is around 60%. Of course my stats may not be typical and we all know that mobile readership is set to grow and grow and grow...

      Judging by my subscription to my own posts (for backup purposes), Blogger sends through its emails around midday. So if someone posts at lunchtime, then it probably won't get picked up until the next day. Sporadic does need looking into - I'll see if a problem's been raised on Google's forum.

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    3. If you go into the feedly webpages you will see there is a whole host of people complaining about the lack of internet explorer support or provision but feedly's response is that they are a small team and have to be quite foccused in order to ensure that what they provide is good rather than too spread out.
      Interestingly when talking to my sons, one who is a real tech geek, their attitude was that internet explorer is old hat and they werent surprised feedly were taking the approach they were.

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    4. That's interesting and seeing they have 3 million takers, they're not doing too badly!

      The Old Reader's going the other way with no special mobile support. I wonder if that's why I'm seeing an anecdotal split along feedly/Old Reader lines re popularity?

      Your sons are right - mobile is the future. But only about a third of website reads are via mobile at the moment. Feedly are taking a punt on how quickly that's changing and playing a longer term game (in view of their small team too) methinks.

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  4. This is a really good summary of the options. Thanks for posting it, VP.

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    1. Thanks Emma - as my blogging guru that's a very nice compliment :D

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  5. Thanks for this post. I too have been looking for a good Reader alternative before it bites the dust (sadly, my current routine is viewing Google Reader through iGoogle!). I'm trying out The Old Reader for now - basically I want something as much like Reader as possible ;)

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    1. Ahh, a double whammy for you! :(

      Looking at the Netvibes proposition that seems to offer a dual desktop come Reader proposition. Though I'm sure others do too.

      And yes, that is The Old Reader's USP!

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  6. Thanks for this VP, please may I link back to your post as it is an excellent summary of the position so far. I have gone with Bloglovin for now, but am considering one of the alternatives, also.( just to be on the safe side!)

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    1. I'd be delighted :) Bloglovin' looks good for blogs, but I'm not sure how it would handle reading newspaper feeds, for example.

      I think a look at the alternatives is most wise! As ever there'll be pros and cons to each of them. Helen's already pointed out a big con with feedly. It'll be interesting to see how it and the other reader options develop their propositions over the next few months.

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  7. If you're on a Mac you can use Apple Mail to manage RSS feeds. I’ve tried it for a while and quite like having feeds and email in one place. You can't use it on multiple devices like Google Reader but I really only ever read feeds from my desktop in any case.

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    1. Hi Matt - good point. I have a sprinkling of subscribers who are using a reader associated with a Mac or a particular browser, but they're so small in number, I wasn't sure whether they're current offerings or any good.

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  8. Hi
    I use Blogger for my writings, when I sign in to my Blogger dashboard there is a reading list on the left hand side and a short preview of the latest blogs I subscribe to so that is the first place I look.
    Like you I generally take a look at others before starting my own.

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    1. Michael - welcome :) I think my use of reading via my dashboard and sidebar is helping my procrastination in finding a new reader ;)

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  9. I am still cross about google axing the reader. I love feedly, and am a happy convert now.

    Re subscribing by email, this is my favourite method of keeping up, but I use filters to automatically forward the new posts to a separate folder so that my main inbox isn't clogged. It works really well for me, it is the same method I used to use at work to maintain sanity in the face of hundreds of new emails a day, I filtered out by theme or author to separate wheat from chaff and minimise the chances of me missing something important amidst the noise of modern working life. I am so glad I gave up working before the advent of twitter, I think I would be in a padded cell right about now!

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    1. Hi Janet - that's a really good point about automated forwarding. Keeps things well under your control. I'll add this to the update :)

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  10. PS I don't regard "not working with IE" as a con for feedly, just a sign of good taste, dreadful browser!!

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    1. Agreed, but it's proving to be remarkably tenacious!

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  11. I like your suggestions for completely different alternatives like Follow. I do use feedr on my Android phone, and it's fine for a few subscriptions. Otherwise, I just remember to check blogs I'm following, or I find posts in Google. Well over half my readers find archive posts via search engines.

    This is a great post, and there are a lot of good ideas in the comments too!

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    1. Thanks Patrick - there's so many articles on the reader alternatives, but I felt some of the other options were being ignored or forgotten about. Good point about posts being found via search engines - I think that particularly applies to blogs like yours which have a rich wealth of content :)

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  12. I migrated all my info easily in Feedly and Bloglovin and both have apps. I use Chrome as a browser. I like Bloglovin's badge for your blog so people can easily sign up.

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    1. Hi Donna - thanks for adding your experiences. I tend not to use the various badges available - I have too much sidebar clutter already and the use of lots of images can slow a blog down. People reading via their mobile won't see them either - hence this post!

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  13. I already have you on Bloglovin, as well as BlogSpot. Already on G+....I like the site, it just isn't as busy as FB. I haven't worked with Feedly, yet.

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    1. aha - thanks for adding me to your Bloglovin' list :)

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  14. I'm still ruminating over this dilemma so your post is most useful VP. I was about to instal 'Feedly' on to my desktop computer when I noticed the words" It can access your data on all websites" so I halted to investigate further. Not so bothered about using a replacement on my phone as I can't cope with commenting on the phone but am probably in a minority there. Think that I will hold on a while longer before deciding.

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    1. Ahhh, that would put me off too :(

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    2. here is Feedly's updated 2011 info about privacy
      http://blog.feedly.com/2008/06/18/feedly-and-privacy/

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  15. I have just recently started using Bloglovin after recommendations for an alternative on another blog (can't for the life of me remember who it was) and find it easy to use. I use the mobile version too - especially as I tend to catch up with blogs when I have spare time at work. I find it easy enough to use, being a technophobe - I like easy :)

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    1. Hi Angie - thanks for telling us about your experiences. There's plenty of others who like easy too :)

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  16. I've just starte using Old Reader and am satisfied.
    I do still miss Google Reader but c'est la vie.
    Thought I should warn all concerned that The Old Reader does take a LONG time to import your feeds from GR (They say it's due to the rush if new users since GR's demise.)
    Takes at least a few days to a week depending on demand so could be a problem if you can't go that long without blogs! :)

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    1. Welcome! A useful tip - I'm sure plenty of people (probably including me!) will leave it until the last minute when all of the popular providers are swamped. If it's done early enough any delay on the receiver's part should be negated by still being able to read blogs via Google Reader?

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  17. You can, as I did, set Feedly to a compact just titles no images view, as I had my Google Reader. Or you can choose 2 more visual options. I have an uneasy feeling that I read Following blogs was also a sunsetting option (never used it so I'm not sure). I spend a lot of time on G+, but as it is, it's not an option to follow blog posts. But we presume that there will be a new possibility there coming soon.

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    1. That's useful to know Diana, especially for anyone wanting simplicity of presentation.

      The Follow option's demise has been rumoured for at least 2 years, so who knows when it'll finally sunset. I see some blogs are already showing some kind of G+ Follows display (or is it just who they have in their circles?), so I imagine Google will want to amalgamate the 2 at some point in the future.

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    2. It's 'I am in so and so many G+ circles'. Depends on which widget you display.

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  18. Thanks for listing all the options available. I signed up to Bloglovin a few weeks back now, the transfer of all the blogs I follow via GFC was very easy. I have also found the mobile app very useful, its really convenient for catching up on the blogs you follow whilst on the go.

    I also like the fact you can have a Bloglovin follow icon on my blog.

    Angela

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    1. Hi Angela - welcome :) Another vote for Bloglovin' I see!

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  19. I've just switched to Feedly and so far I think I prefer it to Google Reader. I like the way it looks and for the first time I've even put blogs I follow into categories. Though I don't think I'm completely hooked yet, we'll have to see how it looks/works on my mobile, as I do spend quite a bit of time reading posts on the move.

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  20. Hi Helen - welcome :)

    So far we have 3 for Feedly, 2 for The Old Reader and 5 for Bloglovin', plus the odd one for email, Follow and Apple. Highly unscientific I know, but interesting nevertheless.

    I realise I haven't looked at the likes of Digg, Reddit etc. Do any of these allow for subscriptions to specific blogs? I think they're more for individual posts? I've also had stuff of mine come up in Sulia, but as far as I can see that's just a post aggregator by category rather than allowing individuals to select which blogs they'd like to see on a regular basis.

    Lots of information, tips and experiences from everyone. Thank You :)

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  21. I'm just doing that right now, so it was funny to have found you posting about the very thing!
    I've been adding my favourites, like your blog, to my RSS feeds, My Yahoo, as well as making sure to follow along as a member if that option is possible.
    I'll miss Google reader for sure.
    Cheers,
    Karen

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  22. I use bloglovin and think it is fine but not a real substitute for Reader. Will explore Feedly. I have found that email subscriptions don't really suit me. Even when I have subscribed in this way to blogs I really enjoy I find that quite often the emails arrive at times when I am not able to read and then I lose it somehow!

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  23. WFS - welcome! I'm sure plenty of us are going through the same thing and I wanted to show there are alternatives to the reader alternatives most of the techie blogs are writing up. Good to see you've worked that out too :)

    Elizabeth - I'm with you re email subscriptions, but because some people asked for it, I offered it as an option. Now if I was as methodical as Janet, then I think it might work for me too.

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