Monday, March 18, 2013

Replacing Your Reader

For a household attached to our constant bombardment by media, the death knell of Google Reader definitely hit hard. Announced minutes before I left for the airport to pick up Scott, it may have been the first blubbery words out of my mouth after our airport hug. Since then, we have spent many an hour gnashing our teeth, alternating between wading through the various options to replace Reader and sinking into the pits of despair.

Ok, I've been wading through various options to replace Reader while Scott has been sinking into the pits of despair. Since I'll have to write up a comprehensive report for him detailing my findings, I figured I might as well share it with you!

I looked exclusively at cloud-based systems, which are systems that can sort of go with you from platform to platform, remembering details like: "oh, you read that post through the reader on your computer, so it will be marked as read when you go to check out your feeds through the (same) reader on your phone!" All of these options allowed me to import my subscription from Google Reader, so yay for that! Here are my 5 attempts at fixing Google's big mistake!

NewsBlur


Platform: web, iOS, Android
Download: only for apps
Price: tested free version with plans up to $24 a month (which will apparently keep Shiloh, the dog, from going hungry?)

The Website Reader:


Design: Barebones, with ugly branding, the basic downfall for the web format is that your "River of News" (which reminds me of the River of Styx for some reason, and not the River of Dreams or River of Life, which is even more strange and I believe it's the "River Styx" anyway) and your article reading space are sized in relation to one another. Want to see all unread posts in your reader? Guess you can't actually read the article!


Functionality: Set up with a side bar reminiscent of Google Reader, there is some comfort to it. However, there is a random orange triangle that moves upwards and downwards along this side bar whenever you move your mouse in the article frame. Small detail, but it drives me friggin' batty. Getting to the original site for the article is fairly easy, simply click on the title, as in Reader.

The App

Design: The colour scheme is fresh yet soothing -- making it feel disconnected from the web-based reader, but that is probably it's best compliment! They set everything up in list format so it's easy to get as much information on the screen as possible, with a good sized font for early morning blog reading!
Functionality: Very easy to use menus keep you in list format until the actual post itself. Everything is laid out logically!

The Consensus: 

I'll start with saying that NewsBlur has my favourite app of all of them -- set up the way I'd do it myself.  But I saved the WORST for last. It only lets you keep 64 sites for the low cost of $0, and see only 10 articles for each feed listed the "River of News". And while it was fairly easy to import subscriptions from Google Reader, it only let me import 12. Import the other 52 manually? And be missing out on 8 sites now, and countless others in the future? No.

Feedly



Platform: web, iOS, Android
Download: Extension for browser, download for app
Price: Free, baby!

The Web:


Design: Customizable between colour themes and display settings, (even changing certain fonts), Feedly lets you do surprisingly a lot.


Functionality:Again, click title to get to article's website? Nice. The integrated social media sharing options? A nice touch (though I rarely, if ever, use them!). Nice side bar with easy access to options like preferences, certainly little to complain about here! I liked the "Saved for later" feature (especially since it integrated my starred posts from GR... but who knows how long that will stay. More on that in Consensus).

The App


 

Design: With only a "night" and "day" theme (but a few more font options than Web... odd), there is nothing to write home about. 


Functionality: Thank goodness you can change the transitions from screen to screen, it's one of those things I'm picking about and the default makes me want to hit it. I do like it does integrate pocket and other offline reading options.

The Consensus

Again, I'm at a No-Go on this one. While there are no major complaints against the day-to-day operating of the device, the kicker seems to be that you have to install an extension for your browser, which is a massive "oh oh" for those of us working in corporate environments where installing even something as small as an extension requires administrative access to the computer. Also a little concerning is that Feedly has been using the Google Reader API as a backend. They also have their own, and say they were "prepared" for the announcement from Google (not likely they had inside information, but simply were planning ahead, so good for them!), but who knows how many features may be affected once the lights go off on Reader.


Netvibes


Platform: Web
Download: None
Price: Free for individuals, packages available for "individual professionals"

The Web

Design: A little square, and a bit basic, the option of having widget based or reader-based, depending on whether you prefer a magazine style layout or a list layout (like me!!).


Functionality: I found it super easy to navigate, even warming up (slightly) to the widget based approach. I even took the time to organize my feeds, which I never do, into categories. My favourite is that you can name your dashboard, (I chose "My Favourite Haunts"). Also glad to see the "Read Later" feature

The App

There is no app for this option. For details on the mobile site, see The Consensus

The Consensus

Based on the standard browser, I would have happily stuck with this reader for all my feed reading needs. While I hoped moving to a new reader might mean a better mobile experience, I was fairly happy just to place a Netvibes bookmark on my homescreen. Until I got on the bus and went to read some blogs. The magazine format is the only setting available on mobile, which means it crops the pictures, as it sees fit, and places the article's texts in them. I will be running from this reader at top speed, unless they fix it.


The Old Reader


Platform: Web
Download: None
Price: Free

The Web


Design: Oh so very basic, but based off of the old Google Reader, so in all honesty, can we really complain? There has been some basic branding, but for the most part, works exactly as Google Reader does, so why shouldn't it have many of the basic stylings?
Functionality: Again, much like Google Reader as it was based off of an early incarnation of it. However, this means it does have the social media connection that the early incarnation apparently had. Somehow, I ended up following 7 people even when I'd only been signed up for a couple minutes -- and all people I didn't know. However, it seemed to be a small part of the reader that is easy to ignore. It has a "liked post" feature instead of a "read later"

The App

There is no app for this reader. The mobile site does function much like Google Reader's mobile site, albeit a little more clunky.

The Consensus


The jury is still somewhat out. While importing my subscriptions appeared superbly easy, there has been such demand from new users to The Old Reader that I estimate my subscriptions will be imported... in 4 days (23222 more people ahead of me!!). However, they were nice enough to leave me 2 subscriptions to play around with the reader. It's in the running for the top three!

Bloglovin'


Platform: Web, iOS, Android
Download: None for web, download for app
Price: Free

The Web

Design: clean bright design, tailored more for feminine tastes. The screen width is quite narrow, however. The grey background is a tad dingy
Functionality: Snippet form with large header picture does bog down the main page for those of us who love the list format from Google Reader. It's hard to see, at a glance, who has new posts and who you want to read first. Does have the advantage of having "blog owner" benefits -- seeing how many people are subscribing etc.

 The App


Design: Much like that of the web, in fact, I'm shocked it's an app as opposed to a mobile website. 
Function: Again, most like the web. However, the blog ownership features are missing.

The Consensus

With the benefit of being the only reader I've heard of prior to the Google Reader death knell, Bloglovin' started a little ahead of the pack. I'm not sure that I can handle the lack of list-form, so I have issued an email off to their support team to ask about the potential for different layout options. If that is resolved, it could easily be my top choice. Despite the poor layout, it still makes the top three.

But Cara, you say, you said "Top Three" and you've panned 3/5 of the options!

Upcoming Options

Announced

Digg has already stopped forward and said they are developing a RSS reader based on the best features of Google Reader, and they are soliciting input on those who loved (or hated) it!

In Various Stages of Development (Conscious or not)

The "insignificant" service was greatly loved and greatly used regularly and obsessively. There will be many many many attempts to replace the services. And since we were given a hundred or so days warning, this list of reviews will be outdated long before those days are up. To be completely honest, I think this option is the best, earning my top spot. Now that the shock of losing our reader is starting to wear off, we have to realize that, like all internet trends, we can't always anticipate what's coming, but there is always something bigger and better coming.

5 comments:

  1. Wow Cara, this is a great list! You really put a lot of time into research. I am going to look into some of these others mentioned. Thanks for doing all the legwork! Heather

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  2. This is the best review of our feed reader options that I've read (and I've been reading a TON of reviews over the weekend). Thank you for doing all the work for us. I'm leaning toward Feedly, but a part of me is just too frustrated to think about it right now.

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  3. You certainly have done a ton of work here! I'm curious about Feedly, I might check that out. I moved all of my blogs to Bloglovin this weekend and that works for now, but I may check into some of these other options too.

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  4. This is a real public service. Thanks for the legwork and astute analysis. We all need to learn more about this.

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  5. Great list at a great time! Admittedly, I've made the cross over to bloglovin because it was easy and I already had an account over there. I'm not-so-secretly still using the feeds on my google dashboard still and hoping that won't go away, even though it probably will.

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