RSS: A good idea at the time but there are better ways now

RSS: A good idea at the time but there are better ways now

Summary: The Google Reader team posted a blog entry today with some results of a survey it conducted. The team wanted to know what an elite group of "Power Readers" were reading online - presumably using their Google Reader account - and so they asked them and have highlighted some suggested reading on the site.

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The Google Reader team posted a blog entry today with some results of a survey it conducted. The team wanted to know what an elite group of "Power Readers" were reading online - presumably using their Google Reader account - and so they asked them and have highlighted some suggested reading on the site.

It's an interesting little post for those who are interested in these power readers and what interests them - but what struck me was the attempt that company made to bring get people interested in Google Reader again.

Once a big advocate for Google Reader, I have to admit that I haven't logged in in weeks, maybe months. That's not to say I'm not reading. Sometimes I feel like reading - and writing this blog - are the only things I do. But my sources of for reading material are scattered across the Web, not in one aggregated spot.

I catch headlines on Yahoo News and Google News. I have a pretty extensive lineup of browser bookmarks to take me to sites that I scan throughout the day. Techmeme is always in one of my browser tabs so I can keep a pulse on what others in my industry are talking about. And then there are Twitter and Facebook. I actually pick up a lot of interesting reading material from people I'm following on Twitter and some friends on Facebook, with some of it becoming fodder for blog posts here.

The truth of the matter is that RSS readers are a Web 1.0 tool, an aggregator of news headlines that never really caught on with the mainstream the way Twitter and Facebook have. According to a Forrester Research study about the reach of social technologies, only nine percent of U.S. online adults said they use an RSS feed monthly, down from 11 percent the year before. By contrast, 50 percent are visiting social networking sites, up from 34 percent last year and 39 percent are reading blogs, up from 37 percent a year ago.

The official name for RSS was Really Simple Syndication but for the many people, including those I helped set up with an RSS reader, it never really was that simple. It wasn't that it just needed to be populated with subscriptions to what you wanted to read, but then came the task of keeping it organized, otherwise your local headlines were mixed with last night's baseball scores, which was alongside political news and off-color commentary.

It all became too much - especially when you log on and see that you have 1,000+ unread items. Sigh. Who has time to sift through all of that?

And so, Google is doing what it can to keep people interested in what they can do with Google Reader. I can't speak for others, but I moved on a long time ago.

Topics: Google, Browser, Social Enterprise

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57 comments
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  • I find it hard to believe that RRS

    usage was ever as high as 9%.

    I have a high-tech B2B client who had 1 person reading their RSS feed. But, within a week, had 15+ followers on Twitter.

    Twitter is easier for me to push out info.
    Twitter is easier for me to follow interesting topics.

    I do disagree with John Dvorak that Twitter is CB radio of 2009.
    davebarnes
    • RSS is a tool

      RSS is a great way to syndicate content.
      Google Reader has a position but even when the
      web was only 1.0, RSS feeds were never used
      exclusively. Instead, an RSS reader is a
      supplement to the other tools.

      RSS excels in syndication. I have Twitter,
      Facebook, and other sites connected to my RSS
      feed to push information automatically from one
      source.

      RSS isn't dead. RSS readers aren't dead.
      They're simply another tool in the content
      toolbox as they've always been.
      AstralisLux
  • RE: RSS: A good idea at the time but there are better ways now

    I like Google reader, but I am also a fan of TweetDeck and Facebook of course... one of the problems with Twitter is the follow up and the credibility. Also how many Tweeters can you really follow. I think there are two different purposes. I use Google Reader when I want to concentrate on sources that I find reliable and when I feel like expressing my opinion regardless of making sense or not I just Tweet.

    -Teo
    thernand01
  • RE: RSS: A good idea at the time but there are better ways now

    One of the problems is how many of those followers are real? In other words how many of those do really care about your topics? I have multiple Robots retweeting my tweets. At first I was flattered that Obama and Harvard University were following me on Twitter... later I found out that are just Robots collecting information...

    Want the story scarier? Think about picture collectors... My two cents
    thernand01
  • Perhaps Relevant...

    I am reading this post now because it showed up on my RSS reader (FeedDemon). I think anyone who's serious about finding news and articles on their own is still very much interested in RSS. I'm also not sure of the dubious Web 1.0/Web 2.0 distinction. RSS seems like a very useful tool for anyone interested in bridging the gap between content creation, which is still a very "Web 1.0" activity, and content redistribution "Web 2.0". "Web 2.0" is very heavy on content distribution and light on content creation.
    gotamd@...
  • RSS: The surveyed have no idea they're using it

    You have to love surveys. 9% use RSS per your survey, but this survey:

    http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/survey_using_social_media_at_w.php

    has blog reading at an almost identical level with Facebook et al.

    What did we really survey? RSS usage? Or whether people know what RSS is even though they may use it?

    If you're getting your news every which way but blogs, why blog here? Your readers evidently would do as you do, no?

    Mark Twain was right: Lies, damned lies, and statistics.

    Cheers,

    BW
    BobWarfield
  • RE: RSS: A good idea at the time but there are better ways now

    RSS still has its uses. I use the built-in rss reader in firefox. Add them to them to the bookmarks toolbar placed along the top and I can have easy access to just the headlines. If the story is interesting enough I click on it and go to the site. There might be better ways to get the headlines now but I won't use twitter to get them.
    Loverock Davidson
  • RE: RSS: A good idea at the time but there are better ways now

    Sam - it's interesting that you have that particular
    perspective when the site you write for doesn't aggregate
    comments or feedback from offsite and has a long and slow
    process just to allow people to post a comment....

    It seems that your employer isn't so concerned about the
    aggregative model???
    benkepes
  • RE: RSS: A good idea at the time but there are better ways now

    To say it isn't simple makes no sense - it's as simple as clicking on an orange icon on the adress bar(if you have an application assigned to it).

    "came the task of keeping it organized, otherwise your local headlines were mixed "

    Seriously? what rss software are you using? I use the very simple built in rss reader in the Opera browser and never had that problem. The panel on the left lets me choose from which site i want to see the headlines, and read the whole article, watch videos and everything else as long as it's embeded in it.

    Most of the time i don't even have to leave the rss reader - i can't imagine visiting 20 + sites just to check what's new and find something i'm interested about.











    pcavalcanti2009
  • RSS vs. Applications

    The error of your article is confusing RSS standard with applications (or reader) that use RSS. The beauty of RSS is RSS is theoretically independent of the application. For example, I use IE, Firefox or one I developed myself. The problem is some who create feed do not follow the RSS standard or use non standard tags or items.
    Scatcatpdx
  • RE: RSS: A good idea at the time but there are better ways now

    Twitter is the new RSS feed. (E.g. CCNbrk). With the option for personal feed.
    johancgrobler@...
  • RE: RSS: A good idea at the time but there are better ways now

    I've got to disagree with the original poster on pretty much every point. I love RSS. It's trivial to use, and I won't use a site that doesn't have it. I say this even though I use one of the least functional RSS readers, the IE Feed Reader. RSS lets you rapidly cut through the crap, and isn't a trendy toy like Twitter or a privacy-violator like Facebook. In fact, it's the sole reason I even found this article to read it. Most importantly, any website can have an RSS feed, because it's a protocol, not a product. RSS is here to stay.
    rgcustomer@...
  • RE: RSS: A good idea at the time but there are better ways now

    I couldn't disagree more with almost every point made in the article. Having said that, it might be useful to have an RSS reader that can also fetch data (seamlessly) from Facebook, Twitter, etc.
    alexis.argyris@...
  • RE: RSS: A good idea at the time but there are better ways now

    I read this article because I spotted it in my RSS reader. Mostly everything I post on Twitter originated from a source I found in RSS.

    Using Twitter in place of RSS doesn't even compute with me. I certainly do find some interesting things in my Twitter stream, but just as often I am reading about someone's puppy or what they ate for dinner. It would be easy to say that I should simply change who I follow to get more relevant "news" but this, for me at least, defeats the social purposes of Twitter. Facebook doesn't even belong in the discussion in my opinion.

    RSS is not, in my opinion difficult. If people can figure out how to set up and use their Twitter account they should be able to use RSS. If they use something like Feedly they can have more of a magazine/Twitter like experience even.

    I find RSS an invaluable tool and could not ever see giving it up.
    awessendorf
    • Totally agreed

      The article proposes a better way but it sure isn't tweets and fb.

      Sure, there is so much out there but what you choose is under ones control. Similarly, you don't have to subscribe to 50 magazines and then complain you don't have time to read them.

      I periodically "tune" my RSS subscriptions to reflect what interests me most and keep it manageable.
      Prognosticator
      • True...

        True. I have heard others complain of having "1000 articles to wade through" but I personally don't use RSS this way. I quickly would become overwhelmed if I did I am sure. I scan and click on things that interest me and feel no pressure to read everything that comes in. Also, like Prognosticator I regularly hone my RSS dropping sources I find that I am not getting good information from and adding new.
        awessendorf
        • RSS useful and easy, here to stay.

          I use RSS mainly for following Web comics, but I also have some other feeds, like security bulletins for my OS distro and CraigsList postings in certain areas.
          I cannot fathom the article author's difficulty in keeping feeds organized. In Akregator, I just make folders and put the feeds in the appropriate folders. I can view feeds on any folder level, from individual feeds to all feeds in one stream. I suppose, if you're reading feeds from a Web site, it might be less user friendly, but that seems like a waste of bandwidth, to me, loading the Web site's layout every time you want to look at the feeds...
          RSS is here to stay. Like everything else, it's not a panacea to fill all your information needs, but it does a great job of conserving bandwidth and getting most of my content feeds in one place. If these sites stopped offering RSS, I'd stop reading about half of them, because I don't have time to visit each site and see if there's new content.
          over2sd
          • Not necessarily the issue...

            I don't understand what bandwidth conservation has to do with anything in today's world, unless we're talking about mobile devices such as blackberries. I personally use RSS, but in a very different way than apparently most of the people here do. I have RSS feeds from my favorite, daily news sites on my first iGoogle page, and have several tech magazine feeds on a separate iGoogle page. This keeps them organized, and I have access to exactly what I want to see no matter where I am, be it mobile or at home or at work. I don't have to set up several RSS readers, and never really liked them anyway to be honest. But having them on my iGoogle, Google does it's job in deleting old ones, and only displaying however many of the new posts I tell it to. So, IMHO, RSS still serves a great purpose, but it's all in how you manage the feeds. You have to make it fit your lifestyle.
            chris.gray@...
          • Bandwidth is finite, no matter how much you have.

            And people who are on personal ISP connections might get bumped to a more expensive level if they aren't careful, but more than that, RSS saves bandwidth for the server, which is a bigger issue.
            It also saves time. I can check a hundred RSS feeds in a few seconds, while visiting a hundred sites would take at least 100 seconds.
            over2sd
  • Better way is to get news from twitter, fb?

    Don't think so. If I wanted to get random news it seems most efficient to RSS the top news of the day than to scan through tweets and fb links.

    I have not seen a better way to easily and categorically obtain information than RSS.
    Prognosticator