Saturday, March 16, 2013

Best RSS Reader Alternative to Google Reader



Yep, you heard right. Google is shutting down it's RSS reader, Google Reader, on July 1, 2013. Read the announcement from Google

What it means
If you haven't moved your subscriptions to a new RSS reader by July 1st, all of your subscriptions will be lost (maybe immediately or maybe Google will provide a grace period - who knows). That means, you will no longer receive updates from your favorite blogs and news sites because Google Reader will no longer deliver these updates.


Who is affected
Anyone who uses Google Reader or anyone using apps that rely on Google Reader to deliver content (i.e. apps on your iPhone, iPad or Android device). Indirectly, most bloggers will also be affected as Google Reader delivers content to millions of subscribers who will no longer receive blog updates when Google Reader goes dark on July 1st. It's a big deal, but there's an easy fix.


What now
You need to pick a new RSS reader and transfer your subscriptions to your new reader before July 1, 2013.
  • If you're subscribed to 5 blogs, no problem. Manually adding 5 blogs to a new RSS reader should take about 5 minutes. Pick any RSS reader you like because you probably won't need any fancy category filters or tags for 5 blog subscriptions. And you probably won't be too concerned about exporting your subscriptions, keeping things in sync between multiple devices, etc.
     
  • If you're subscribed to 20 or more blogs, you may have spent some time categorizing your subscriptions by food, fashion, tech, crafts, entertainment, etc. Manually re-subscribing and rebuilding your categories in a new RSS reader will be a colossal waste of time. And super tedious. So you will want to transfer all of your subscriptions (and their category structure) to a new RSS reader that can support your organizational needs.
     
  • If you enjoy reading your subscriptions on your iPhone, iPad and laptop (and you want to keep your subscriptions in sync between all of your devices), then you will want to transfer your subscriptions to an RSS reader with desktop, phone and tablet apps to support your devices so that when you favorite a subscription on one device, it is a favorite on all devices, etc.
      
  • If you're a blogger, you will want to recommend a new RSS reader to your subscribers. Many of your readers may not realize until too late that Google Reader is going away. Many readers may be using phone and desktop apps that use Google Reader as a backbone for delivering new content but rarely have need to visit the Google Reader homepage (and so will never see Google's discontinuation notice). So be proactive and help your subscribers move to a new RSS reader. And do your homework - you don't want to recommend a reader that will frustrate your subscribers or you may wind up with fewer.

Which RSS reader is the best
There are a lot of RSS readers out there and most are free (or at least have a free version). That means you have a lot of options to try. To save you time, I spent 3 days sorting through these options, testing each RSS reader's capabilities and finally selecting a new RSS reader to recommend to my subscribers. And I'm sharing everything with you.

Here's the criteria I used to evaluate each RSS reader:
  • Is it easy to sign-up for a new account?
  • Is it easy to transfer subscriptions from Google Reader to the new RSS reader?
  • Does the new RSS reader successfully import Google Reader folders (or categories)?
  • Does it offer iOS, Android and web interfaces?
  • Does it sync subscriptions between multiple devices?
  • Is it quick and responsive?
  • Is it easy to add/delete subscriptions?
  • Can the layout be customized?
  • Can subscriptions be exported?

Testing Results
  1. Best: Feedly.com
  2. Good: Netvibes.com
  3. Poor: Bloglovin.com




Best Option
Feedly.com

010 Feedly Saved View

The Good: Yes, it has a dismally uncreative name that sounds dreadfully lame. But get past the name and you'll love this reader. It's blazing fast, easy to use, offers a wide variety of slick layout options and it's super-simple to transfer your subscriptions. No exporting, no importing, no tech support required. Even better, it keeps all of your category folders in tact and already knows items you have "starred", "favorited" or "saved for later". That's so impressive and such a relief. It also offers beautiful syncing apps for iOS and Android mobile devices and is completely free. For those who want to stay organized and in-touch, Feedly's got you covered.

The Bad: Right now, you cannot export your subscriptions directly from Feedly (you have to export through Google Reader). Currently, Feedly uses Google Reader as their backbone, but when Google Reader goes dark, Feedly has a plan for a seamless transition to support your subscriptions. Hopefully Feedly will then also provide a method for exporting subscriptions.

Based on my testing and criteria, I highly recommend Feedly. And to help you get started, here's a step-by-step guide for setting up and transferring your subscriptions to Feedly.



001 Feedly Signup Screen
Go to Feedly.com and click the big button that says "Get Feedly for..." Follow the directions to install the browser plugin.

003 Feedly Login Screen
Return to feedly.com and click "Connect to Google Reader"

004 Google Sign In Screen
Enter your Google information and sign in. Feedly does the rest.

005 Feedly Today View
You will arrive on the Feedly "Today" home page. Feedly will show you items it believe you're most interested in from you subscriptions.

006 New Folders in Feedly
You can change your view to a different selection such as "Latest", "Saved" or a category you have defined by hovering at the left side of the application and then making a selection when the menu appears.

007 Feedly Folder View
Here's an example of a category view I defined for Food Fetish Friday blogs.

012 Adding a New Subscription 1
In the top right corner of the app, you will see different symbols, including a "Settings" symbol.

008 Feedly Layout Options
Click settings to change the layout of the posts. I prefer the Timeline view layout for reading new posts.

012 Adding a New Subscription 1
To add a subscription, click the far right gray border with the starburst symbol.

013 Adding a New Subscription 2
Type or paste the address of the site you want to subscribe to. You may have to wait for a moment for Feedly to locate the blog or site.

014 Adding a New Subscription 3
You can alternatively use the Feedburner feed instead. Using either method, when Feedly finds the site, click the "+" symbol to add the subscription.

015 Adding a New Subscription 4
You can now add the feed to any existing or new category. Then click the green Add button.

009 Feedly Tagging Options
When you view a post, you will see options at the top of the post for sharing and flagging the post. You can even create custom tags for different organizational schemes. The bookmark icon will save the post for later.

010 Feedly Saved View
You can always filter on "saved for later" items and see all these items in one beautiful view.

011 Feedly Tagged View
You can also filter on tagged items.





Good Option
Netvibes.com

023 Netvibes Reader Layout

The Good: Netvibes has been around for a long time - and it feels like something out of the early 2000's with clunky layouts and a lot of toggles and settings. But it's also super-powerful and offers a whole slew of apps to keep you organized and up-to-date. You do have to import your subscriptions from Google Reader, but it keeps all of your category folders in tact. And for peace of mind, you can also export and download your subscriptions. While not as slick and fun as Feedly, Netvibes has years of experience, a solid user base and can support most subscription needs.

The Bad: Although Netvibes offers an iOS mobile app, I was unable to find the iPhone app via Apple's App Store. I'm not sure if an Android app is available. For me, this is a real problem because I want to be able to read my subscriptions on the go and keep everything in sync across all my devices. Also, Netvibes' interface was quite slow. While this may be temporary, the whole RSS reader experience felt clunky, patched together and too time-consuming for my taste.





Poor Option
Bloglovin.com

Bloglovin Home

The Good: It has a cool name and it's easy to sign-up with Bloglovin'. It was also specifically designed to support bloggers. It offers syncing iOS and Android mobile apps and Bloglovin's format is clean and intuitive. Unfortunately, that's where the good news ends.

The Bad: The most glaring shortfall of Bloglovin' is that it does NOT successfully import your subscription categories (or folders). In fact, it strips away all categorization and presents a flat list of subscriptions. If you wish to categorize your subscriptions by say Food, Tech, Fashion, Crafts, etc, you must use Bloglovin's manual grouping feature, one blog at a time. Talk about tedious. And if you are subscribed to a lot of blogs (like me), it's a ridiculous waste of time, especially when there are so many other RSS reader options that successfully import your categorization folders.

022 Bloglovin Missing Folders

The Lame: Bloglovin' also does not offer a private "favorite", "star" or "save for later" option (an almost universal standard for RSS readers). Instead, the only method of flagging a blog post is to publicly (yet anonymously) "like" the post. Not only is this somewhat confusing, it's also misleading to blog authors who may receive hundreds of "likes" one day and then watch those likes disappear as readers later unflag the post the next day. Lame, lame, lame.

The Ugly: Bloglovin' provides only a photo (if available) and the first few sentences of a blog post before forcing readers to jump to the blog owner's original post. That's good for bloggers, but dreadfully abusive to avid blog readers. Sadly, I suspect this feature is one of the reasons so many bloggers are now recommending Bloglovin' to their subscribers. Don't make the mistake of climbing on that bandwagon.

If you have a lot of subscriptions, you know the value of a robust in-reader experience. And you know how time-consuming it can be to jump to a each blogger's individual site. All those slow-loading photos, all those slow-loading ads, all those invitations to "like" Facebook pages. If I had to deal with that every day, I'd stop following bloggers altogether.

The Evil: You cannot export or download your subscriptions from Bloglovin' after importing them! This is evil and seems (in my opinion) to violate user rights to their own information. Imagine how angry you will be when you discover you don't like Bloglovin' (for all the reasons above) and decide you want to move your subscriptions to a new RSS reader. You can't!

So don't be fooled by mass-blogger support of Bloglovin' - it's for bloggers. Not avid blog readers.


10 comments:

  1. kellie@foodtoglowMarch 16, 2013 at 7:49 AM

    Gosh Mark, what a lot of work you have done! Thanks so much for all of this. Later this weekend I will have a chance to really read this properly and appreciate your efforts even more. Thank you!

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  2. I hope it's helpful for you. When I get passionate about something, well... I get passionate :D

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  3. My husband introduced me to feedly a few weeks ago. I love it.

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  4. This is a terrific post! And much needed. I still can't believe Google Reader is going away (I guess they want us all to migrate to Google+, although I have to say I'm starting to find following anything through social networks to be a waste of time). Anyway, this must have taken a bunch of time to put together - thanks so much for doing it.

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  5. Thanks JW, that's a lot of work you've done on our behalf. I had heard Google Reader was going, but hadn't really thought about the implications. I think Feedly should be paying you a commission.

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  6. I'm so glad you discovered Feedly, Meg - I agree, I love it. I'm sad I didn't discover it sooner!

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  7. It did shock me when I heard Google was shutting down the reader, but after reading some industry talk about the move, it kinda makes sense. And I'd agree, social networks can be extremely difficult to stay current with. I feel like I only see a fraction of what I'm interested in and miss most of the good stuff :/

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  8. I'm so glad you found the post useful, Choclette. And I'm glad no one is paying me for this post cause then I wouldn't want to post it ;) I prefer just sharing stuff cause I feel passionately...

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  9. Jody_thehobbyroomdiariesMarch 20, 2013 at 1:41 AM

    Uh, what? No Google Reader? Why Google, why? I just got all my blogs arranged the way I like them. Thanks for doing the work for me on making the switch--I know you recommend things only after much research AND I know you subscribe to a ton of blogs, so if you're saying Feedly is the way to go, that's good enough for me.

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  10. I know the feeling, Jody :/ I spent a lot of time getting things just how I wanted them in Google Reader & was shocked to hear about the shut-down. Thanks for the kind words and if you give Feedly a try, let me know if you like it...

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