So it's happened. 'G minus day' is now behind us, Google Reader is now gone from our lives and we've had some time to get over that large hole in our reading habits. But now I've had time to get over the pain of separation, I've realised that going cold turkey on my Reader habit was not as hard as I thought it would be. I was expecting at worst anguish, at best a disconcerting sense that something was missing. Instead I feel... nothing. Some will say that this is because a myriad of Google Reader clones have already sprung up in Reader's place so there is no loss, I just need to migrate to a replica product designed to replicate the Google Reader experience and my problem is solved. But I'm not convinced. Kicking the RSS habit has actually meant that I've been reading better, more diverse stories, from more sources.
Content is now a buffet not a one dish meal
Blogging used to be tied to writing; you had to have a way with words to create a successful blog. Now you have vloggers, photobloggers and podcasters competing in the same space. Relying on a tool that delivers purely RSS shuts you off from many of these content types and stops you from reading some of the most innovative content being created. Nowadays the platform can influence the type of content created just as much as the creator, Vine is a great example of this; some of the videos coming out of the platform are the most creative uses of video I've seen in a while. Kicking the RSS habit, is like kicking down a wall; you'll find yourself surprised by all the other places you can go to find cool stuff and, by looking at different content types you'll be seeing far more ways to express ideas creatively.
Loyalty is old news
As the pace of information grows quicker we've become less source loyal; the important thing is not always who we read but that we are reading the freshest and best content. The best new social networks and tools are not just surfacing content, they are also helping users read more sources. Take Twitter for example, Hashtags help you find stories related to a topic, trending topics show what you should be reading (irrelevant of who it comes from) and the re-tweet functionality actively encourages people to help their followers discover stories shared from outside of their network. This experience isn't exclusive to Twitter; it's replicated across all social networks. As a result we've been trained to prioritise freshness over loyalty, to snack on content from many different places, rather than remaining loyal to a handful of sources. Developers of reader tools have noticed these behaviours and have built their experience around it, looking to combine fresh content with mechanisms to help readers find new sources.
Information overload has increased the importance of relevance
With more information out there and a pressure to know what's happening at every moment, many people are buckling under the strain to keep up. People now see more than 34 billion bits of information a day and a response, a trend towards relevance is emerging. The rise of content curators was an early response to the importance consumers were placing on relevance. But now we are also seeing the emergence of 'relevance algorithms' that serve up content that they believe to be of interest to you. These tend to share stuff either because your social network is sharing them, or because that story maps back to an interest an algorithm has determined you have due to your social graph. MATERIAL, the content discovery service we developed at Inq Mobile, uses the second methodology, using technological smarts that analyse your social footprint and seek out articles you will want to read. Whilst speaking to the developers behind our relevance engine, I've been pretty astounded by the almost spooky results that they can deliver. When compared to what we have at our disposal today, the technology behind Google Reader experience seems quite insular. That's not to criticise Google, the problem is simply that Reader is a product made before this was possible. As a result, it's disconnected from the potential media sources and technology available to help us find good stuff to read today.
RSS can no longer cater for the diverse ways in which stories can be packaged; there's now too much content out there to find every great source you might enjoy and add it to an RSS list. The reason that I'm not missing reader is because there are other, better ways to read online today. People will never stop regularly reading sources that they know and love, or following specific tastemakers to find the freshest content. But I think as the volume of content available to us continues to increase, we'll rely more and more on technology to help us find the right stuff to find our time reading. That's why, by making the leap and ditching your RSS habit, you'll read more widely, read better content and enjoy reading more as a result.