I consider myself a pretty heavy user of Google Reader, and wake up every day to hundreds of unread items. In addition to the freshly pressed articles, there are older unread stories piled up over the years.
Yet, I can’t remember the last time I actually logged into the Google Reader website. Its interface seems like a relic of the past, and its features have remained stagnant for some time now. Google last gave the portal a proper update way back in October 2011, and added only the ability to +1 articles in Reader.
Instead, I rely on the countless third-party apps out there taking advantage of Google Reader’s API to present my feeds and stories in far more pleasing ways.
But that’s still not perfect. Does manually subscribing to individual feeds not seem archaic in today’s buzzword-filled Web landscape? Thus it is no surprise really, despite the howls of protest, that Google is ending the Reader service come July.
News readers such as Flipboard, Pulse, and Zite are leaping ahead with more user-friendly and personalised experiences. There’s no messing around with importing feeds or managing categories. The apps do it all for you, and offer great discovery features as well.
On the social front, Facebook, Twitter and related services are driving massive amounts of traffic to other websites. All the stories shared by my friends and the pages I’ve liked are more than sufficient to keep me up to date with the latest goings-on in the world.
Google Reader hasn’t quite kept up with these developments. The fact that it looks like my Gmail inbox should be a major point against it. I already have to comb through dozens of e-mail messages every day, why would I want to do it again for my daily fix of stories?
Sure, with Reader you can subscribe to exactly the sites you want, and organise it precisely the way you desire. But how many average iPad users will want to spend the time to do that when they can fire up Flipboard, log in to Facebook and Twitter, and immediately set up a news feed tailored according to their tastes and social circles?
Thus it’s not surprising that the usage of Google Reader has declined. In a blog post, the company revealed that it will focus its energy on other products instead of trying to modernise Google Reader.
Indeed, this could be the perfect opportunity for Google to build a killer news reader.
If you think about it, Google already possesses the necessary ingredients. It has its own fledging social network, possibly the world’s largest news aggregator, and of course, a powerful search engine.
Topping it all off is the Play store, a perfect channel for integrating newspaper and magazine subscriptions.
Will we see a new offering from Google in the near future that bundles everything the good ol’ reader has to offer, and more? Its loyal users will certainly hope so.