Content Watch


While You Were Writing – 3/15/2013

They’re going to kill Google Reader.

Google announced Wednesday that it would shut down the beloved RSS reader July 1. And few communities were as upset by the notice as journalists. (Read a few of the roundups from Editor’s Weblog,, PaidContent, and Poynter.)

Why has the decision by a Silicon Valley giant to shutter a free, consumer technology lit up the journalism community? Because so many of us use it. Everyday. Often, first thing. I hesitate to say we rely on it, but Google Reader has become a vital tool of journalists to track the news, observe the competition, and generate story ideas. I rely on it.

What will we do without Google Reader?

The bigger question is what problem were we using Google Reader to solve in the first place?

For me, it is a water cooler around my beat, a story generator, and a research tool. And I found I needed it even more as a freelancer than when I was tied to a staff.

  • Water cooler – I use it to make sure I’m at the very least aware of the headlines going out from my competitors. Twitter is a source for the best of or maybe just the most noted, not everything. Google Reader was everything.
  • Story generator – I follow press release services and wires for the stories everyone will have to write, including me. Additionally, watching RSS feeds around a single topic all day, a good editor will begin to see trends taking shape.
  • Research tool – By saving, “starring,” and filing articles in folders, I was able to create archives for stories I was following.

For an idea of how we might replace Google Reader, Paul Bradshaw, a professor of Journalism at City College, London, blogged about what comes next and is collecting alternative RSS reader options via an open Google Doc. The alternatives are familiar — BlogLines, Feedly, Flipboard, Pulse, Reeder, and dozens more.

It’s probably time for a new player, one that is integrated closer to our intended goal reporting and tied to the text editor where we pen our notes and prepare our drafts. Spundge, a Montreal-based service that allows users to subscribe to feeds from RSS, keyword searches and curated “Firehouses” of information, and track them in source notebooks, comes closer than anything I can think of for independent Journalists.

What are you planning to use to replace Google Reader? tell us or contribute to Prof. Bradshaw’s list.

(Image by NS Newsflash via Flickr, CC2.0)

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