Dude, where’s my data? Life after Google Reader



Google HQ’s recent announcement that its Reader platform is to be discontinued has been met with concern – even alarm – from its legions of loyal users. So where do we go from here? What will happen to your data?

It seems people have come to rely on the convenience of having their own, personalised newspaper delivered direct to their browser whenever they want it. So when Urs Hölzle, a Senior Vice President at Google announced on 13 March

\”We launched Google Reader in 2005 in an effort to make it easy for people to discover and keep tabs on their favourite websites. While the product has a loyal following, over the years usage has declined. So, on July 1, 2013, we will retire Google Reader.\”

the uproar was huge, with tens of thousands of people signing various petitions for Google to breathe life back into the service.

For those that have somehow missed it, Google Reader is a news content aggregation service that draws down and assembles your own customised newspaper and delivers it to your web browser, on demand. It takes syndicated content from various online sources, including news headlines, blogs, podcasts, and video blogs (vlogs) and presents it in a neat, easily consumed list.

Items on the list can be selected to display a summary paragraph. From there, the reader can click on a link to open the original newspaper article.


As written about already on The Conversation, Google Reader was one of the first such services on the Web. In the eight years since it was launched a new breed of news aggregation services has emerged, some of them with user interfaces and features that might be described as superior.

As more people switch over to these new, improved services, demand for Google Reader as a standalone product has steadily declined. In all likelihood, the functionality of Google Reader will be incorporated into other products like Google+, the social networking platform that Google hopes will compete with Facebook.

News aggregators such as Reader are here to stay, as the proliferation of similar services demonstrates. But they have not always enjoyed harmonious relationships with established media proprietors such Rupert Murdoch who, blocked Google from featuring content from News International newspapers, going so far as to describe Google as a “parasite”.

Where’s my data?

So, what happens to your soon-to-be-defunct Google Reader date? If you want to obtain a copy of it (including subscriptions), you can use a tool called Google Takeout that has been created for people to use during Reader’s “sunset period”.

This simple utility lets you create a downloadable archive file of all of your Google data, or selected categories of it, including your blogs, contacts, Drive, Picasa and YouTube, as well as Reader. The openness of this policy to give you your data, plus the ease with which the data can be obtained, should go some way to assuage people’s concerns.


Some alternatives

So what else is out there for people to use who want to continue getting their aggregated news served up to them? Here is a selection of alternatives that are worth a look while the sun slowly sets on Google Reader.

Feedly is a free service that works on your PC or Mac, as well as on smartphones and tablets. In the two days following Google’s announcement to phase out Reader, Feedly’s user-base reportedly increased by 500,000.

Fever is an application that you buy for US$30 and install on your computer (as opposed to it being hosted out there in The Cloud). It has some nice features, such as the ability to rank news according to “hotness”, but having to pay for it might be a big ask.

Managing News is a web-based service only, not on mobile devices. As with Fever, this needs installation and is a bit fiddly.

Prismatic is a free iPhone/iPad application that lets you sign in with your Google login and can be tailored to your interests.

Rolio is a free, web-only service that allows the import of your Google reader feeds.

Newsblur has a free service that is limited to input from 12 sites, or a $24 per year premium services with no limits. Works on your PC or Mac, as well as Smartphones and Tablets.

Taptu is available across all platforms, and can accept Twitter and Facebook feeds.

Google Currents is a free, hybrid magazine viewer and news aggregator that is only available on tablet and smartphone (not the web).

NetVibes is an established service that is available across all platforms and is free to individuals.

• GoodNoows is a free web-based service that takes input from your social networking sites.

Flipboard is a free tablet and smartphone service (not the web) that gives you news in a magazine format.

Pulse is reportedly in the process of being purchased by LinkedIn. Pulse allows for content to be synced across devices and has a great user interface.

So, do you feel better? I hope so. Many of us will miss the venerable Reader, but rest assured – the future of personalised news delivered on-demand has never been brighter.