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Some of the biggest news in the blogging world over the last week was without a doubt Google’s announcement that on June 1st, they’re closing Google Reader. Paraphrasing their own words, the usage of Reader is smaller than ever, and Google want to focus on fewer products. I don’t believe the latter for a second, since new products like Google Keep are being spotted in the wild, and instead think it’s all about, well…money. Reader simply isn’t paying for itself.
Countless news articles have been written by the BBC, New York Times, the Verge and many other huge publications, all highlighting other services that people can be using instead. What people haven’t been writing about though is how this affects us as bloggers and what we can do about it (if anything). Here’s the jist of it: Reader’s closure is going to hit a lot of us very, very hard.
According to their public stats, I have 9,542 subscribers in Google Reader.
Let’s look at some other big blogs:
I could go on, but you’re starting to see how important Reader really is for the readership of a number of websites. Though niches that have more web savvy audiences like marketing or technology are more likely to be affected, this is going to impact anyone who has built up their RSS readership.
My friend Steve’s health blog Nerd Fitness is sitting on 4,786 subscribers there. Finance blog Get Rich Slowly stands to lose up to 40,388 subscribers and Ramit Sethi of I Will Teach You to Be Rich has 13,688 people subscribed via Google Reader.
The first thing that’s clear is that you are going to have to let your readers know about other ways to keep getting your updates. Google are going a terrible job of it. Do you want to see how many notices there are on Google Reader about its closure? Here’s a screenshot from my account:
I’ll let you look around that image for a second to see if you spot it. Don’t look too long though, as there’s no notice there.
I’ll cut them a bit of slack in that there is a pop-up when you come back to Reader for the first time since the announcement, but it’s the most bland unGooglelike pop-up I’ve ever seen. With no graphics, and two lines of text. I wish I had gotten a screenshot.
Update: Thanks to Brendan, Tim and Doug for the photo below:
The reason I’m so adamant about you contacting your readers in the next week or two is because everyone is going to be doing it towards the end of May, just before the service closes down, and your audience is going to be overloaded with updates they get from other people.
Also, doing it now means you can alert them again in the future with enough of a gap to remind them without annoying people who don’t subscribe via RSS.
Not only for yourself (if you use the services) but also one to recommend to your readers. The other readers are definitely out there, and some of them are making big money thanks to Google’s closure of Reader.
A list of options includes:
Though I’ll admit my own usage of Google Reader has subsided dramatically over the years, there are a few blogs that I like to track. RSS monitoring is great for reputation management as well. I’m personally moving everything over to Feedly, due to the fact they have iOS and Android apps.
It would be premature to argue the point that we don’t know when other services are going to die so we should give up on RSS altogether, but I genuinely have no doubt that RSS usage is falling. Especially due to
time-sinks social media sites like Facebook, Reddit, Pinterest, Google+ (I’m joking) and Twitter.
11 months ago (I can’t believe it’s that old) I had this to say on my Future of Blogging post:
“I’ve been a huge advocate of bloggers using email lists, writing multiple posts on the subject. The benefits of having a list have been well documented, but let me refresh you on the basics:
When I first started writing about this topic over a year ago, I noticed a reader of this site tweet about how everyone is talking about attaching an email list to a blog. I think it was more likely the case that just the people they follow were talking about it, showing a deceiving popularity. Kind of like how if you saw five people tomorrow wearing the same bright green sneakers, you might think there’s a huge luminous footwear trend emerging. Unbeknownst to you, there was a shop down the street trying to clear their stock and were selling them for a dollar.
I still think that most bloggers haven’t caught on to this, but in time it’s going to change.”
I guess this shows at least one of the predictions in that article were right.
If you haven’t already started putting a big emphasis on collecting emails, now would be a good time to start. I’m slightly biased, but OptinSkin was built for exactly this reason.
It makes sense that if people are spending more time on all of these other forms of social media where they can receive content, you should look at where you’re optimising your presence.
I’m personally someone who could do a much better job at this, due to my pretty infrequent postings on Twitter (I find it mostly a waste of time), though my Facebook page is updated a few times per week (become a fan).
Youtube is another area where you could be making a big impact, if you have some on-screen presence or know how to make engaging videos that don’t require your face to be on them. Google recently announced that Youtube is being viewed by one billion unique visitors every month so the audience potential is huge. One of my own videos advertising ViperChill has over 120,000 views almost exclusively from Youtube search traffic.
My friend Pat has a great Youtube Marketing guide that takes you through how he’s built a successful channel.
It’s a shame that the efforts of whoever built Please Don’t Kill Feedburner don’t seem to be paying off, as I really think the service is on its last legs.
One of the biggest aspects of Feedburner for a long time now has been the ability to show off how many subscribers you have. Pretty much every big blog does this, and it is (or has been) a great way to utilise social proof for people who are new to your site. That’s soon going to change though with the huge losses in subscriber counts coming from the closure of Reader.
There’s no reason why the logic of Google closing Reader wont apply to Feedburner. I’m sure it’s usage has also declined, and Google want to focus on fewer products. Let’s be honest though, the real reason will be that the service is not making money. I would happily pay for it, and Phil Hollows, owner of Feedblitz, said he has offered multiple times to take over the service with no promising replies. I can’t see Google adding a monthly fee to Feedburner if they couldn’t add it to their far more popular service, Reader.
One step you can take is to stop directing your RSS feed links to the service. You can keep your chicklet in place but change the URL back to your standard RSS feed. Usually http://yourblog.com/feed/.
It makes me regret not following the advice of Danny Sullivan on Search Engine Land back in 2007 using the ‘MyBrand’ feature on the service to redirect the Feedburner feed to your own domain. Of course it’s too late to take advantage of it when thousands of people have subscribed by the feedburner URL, but I guess it’s not too late to start if you actually utilise their service.
I’m having some issues with Feedburner so hopefully someone in the comments can tell me if this is still available at present.
I’ve been trying to find a plugin that lets you contact only RSS subscribers but I didn’t have much luck. Maybe I have to make it myself. There was one available, but it hasn’t been updated since 2007 so it’s probably not worth checking out as WordPress has changed so much.
If I wasn’t going to do a blog post like I am now, I would create a specific page on my site that lists the best ways for people to keep in touch with the blog if they currently subscribe via Google Reader. Noticed I said the best ways, and not all of the ways. You don’t want to overwhelm people with too many options.
This would basically include a recommended feed reader (with a guide on how to add your Feed there), an opt-in form, and links to one or two of your social accounts.
When you do get in touch, make sure you say something that’s going to grab people’s attention (like pretending you’re turning off your RSS feed) to really get the point across. The fewer subscribers you lose from these changes, the better.
Or if you prefer email updates, scroll up to the top of the site (temporarily disabled my opt-in form at the bottom of posts) and subscribe in the yellow box on the right hand side. I always send out emails when I publish new posts – which is pretty rare, so you wont be overloaded or hopefully, annoyed.
And don’t forget, this whole change is going to make your audience question what they read, and that isn’t good if they’re not hooked. In other words, make sure you’re continuing to focus on putting out excellent, relevant content people can’t get elsewhere.
Just to finish this post, I wanted to let you know that PostSkin is now available for sale again, after being closed down for a few days after the launch promotion. Also, we’ve activated our affiliate program, so you can find more information about that here.
This kind of content is not something I want to write very often – it’s more of a ‘nudge’ in the right direction rather than anything mind-blowing – but I promise I have a lot of great things on the way…