The Madness Around Building Google Reader Alternative And Why That’s Wrong

Google is NOT Killing Reader : Just Making it, Okay?
Google is NOT Killing Reader : Just Making it, Okay?

So Google is killing Google Reader and suddenly, there is a rush of activity among competitors to grab those users.

While Feedly has been trying to maximize the play, launch of AOL/Digg reader makes me ask a few questions.

Is RSS feed really that big an opportunity? RSS is dead. Not the technology, but consumerism of RSS feeds is a story that never happened. However, RSS continues to survive as a backend infrastructure.

So why is everybody trying to jump the RSS wagon again, now that Google sees no opportunity in this space?

For AOL, it’s a way to sound cool.Hip. After all, how many of us visit AOL sites (yes, you might be visiting some of their network sites, like Engadget, Techcrunch, Huffpo etc), but that’s by virtue of those brands and AOL has got nothing to do with it.

For AOL to build a reader, it means either one of the two:

1. The market is really big and AOL believes that they can get a lot of users from Google to start moving to AOL. Maybe, first touch point for AOL products.

2. AOL and others just want to ‘sound cool’.

We have got atleast 3-4 emails from startups/product companies talking about the launch of their new RSS reader. And frankly, while it’s okay to develop for the coolness of it, the truth is that there is hardly any money to be made in RSS readers.

If you think ads/CPMs will work, then you are better off starting a *ollywood (replace * with H, B, K etc) entertainment site (mass consumption, SEO traffic, pageviews – you know the beat, right?)

Going back to an important rule of Product development, there just isn’t a market big enough for RSS readers* yet.

Don’t believe me? Well, take a look at falling search traffic for the keyword (RSS reader).

RSS Reader : Keyword Traffic
RSS Reader : Keyword Traffic

*Missing the BIG Picture

Most of the Google Reader Alternatives are actually playing on same semantics as Google Reader – i.e. upload your OPML/XML file etc etc. The truth is that there is a BIG play in monetizing the reading behavior and the market has already evolved, thanks to the likes of Flipboard, Pocket (and Feedly).

Creating a look-a-like Google reader is not the most optimum approach. In this case, replacement isn’t what (most of the) people are looking for. Google Reader was a great start – Flipboard and others took content consumption to new levels and AOL/Digg, in my opinion should have focused on competing with Flipboard (and not Google Reader).

Matching up to Google Reader should have been done 3 years back. The world has moved on to newer consumption models and companies need to evolve.

What IF : Google Decides to NOT Kill Google Reader

So What if Google decides to NOT kill Google Reader on July 1st? Will these companies have enough dough to justify the effort spent in development of their RSS reader?

I bet NOT.

While this could be a great product extension strategy for existing companies like Digg, startups are better off thinking beyond RSS.


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