With just over 30 days until Google pulls the plug on its RSS reader and management service Google Reader, what are your alternatives? I have trawled many popular sites for the answer to this question, took all of their recommendations and analyzed the options they suggested, as you can see in the image above my browser bar is cluttered with the many of the add-ons and extensions from these services.
Disappointingly I had to add an extra question to this analysis, as I had assumed this was one these sites would have started with. The question they overlooked was this “Is this service an RSS Reader”, many they recommended were not and initially I overlooked this most basic of questions due to that assumption.
But after several hours the analysis was complete and results came in, the table below summarizes my findings however do read the description of each service because there are issues with many that may change the rankings for you.
|Site||Reader Import||PC Access||Android Access||PC RSS Add||Android RSS Add||Pricing||Rank|
|The Old Reader||Free|
One of my concerns was centered around the pricing which may seem strange as all of these sites come free but all too often this is not made clear on the home page nor is the service level that you get or lose by opting for the free option made clear. Of course the obvious question that has to be asked if its totally free then how are all these wonderful geeks feeding themselves and paying the bills!
This had the best range of services just pipping Feedly to the post thanks to its ability to add feeds on the move, I have a Samsung SII but you can pretty safely assume that if this phone is supported then the iPhone family will also be catered for.
They do not highlight on the home page that this is a free service nor do they have a link to a pricing table but its a free service with no obvious advertising inside. The web (left) and mobile (right) services are very similar in their presentation and functionality which is why I gave it top ranking.
However as you can seem this is very much an image based service without any option to switch to a list view like its competitors this may prove to be a significant disadvantage if you are a power user who is constantly on the move and unable to recharge your phone regularly.
This has been the biggest winner in terms of Reader migration however as I discovered they are still using Google Reader to power their service at the moment, the biggest clue to this is when you use their mobile service and you log into Reader instead of Feedly. Thankfully they have been working on an alternative backend called Normandy which is totally unreliant upon Googles defunct service going forwards.
As they came so close to Pulse it will be interesting to see whether they add the mobile functionality that is currently lacking.
The one big advantage they do have over Pulse for power users whether they are on the go or deskbound, is the ability to switch to a text based view which removes all of the graphics allowing you to rapidly power through your RSS sessions.
The one thing I did find maddening about switching to their service is that there is no way to login on your PC until you have added the browser extension, a minor irritation but when you are switching over it is certainly something to remember. Top tip there is no need to bookmark Feedly or have it as a favorite because log in is managed completely by the browser add in and with that realization I may consider switching back.
Thanks to their modest pricing which comes in at $24 per year and allows you to have more than the free 64 sites whilst reading your feeds by folder content types rather than just the all site views, the number of free and paid users is evenly balanced. Of course if you are a mobile user then like Feedly this is not yet a complete solution regardless of whether you go free or paid.
This uses a static side bar instead of the fluid ones in Feedly but because only paid users can see the contents of these side bar folders then its another reason why you need to upgrade to get full performance from this service.
Adding feeds to this service unlike Feedly and Pulse which are via browser add-ons is via the browser RSS reader service. When it comes to adding a feed, you select to read it via Newsblur from the option menu you are presented with.
One final thing to note with this site that you can see in the images above is that the mobile version is very different from the desktop one however in both you have a very clear indication of any new feeds which need your attention.
This is actually the service I switched to after getting frustrated with the login process of Feedly however their pricing structure to me seems insane, here’s how it goes per month.
- Free, no customer support the level I am currently using.
- VIP, customer support for $3.50
- Premium, all the bells and whistles $499 (this is not a typo!)
To me it seems incredible that you can have such a large price gap between the service levels but its obviously working for them as they say the free and VIP services are funded by their Premium users.
The layout is very similar to Newsblur however this time you actually get to see inside each of the folders as a free member and adding new feeds is via a browser extension button.
There is also an option to switch between a standard time sorted list view and a dashboard displaying each of your folders at the top and their individual feeds contained within their own pane. At first this seems like a slow way to look at your feeds but its a great way to see the overall theme that each site is following.
Both of these display options are text based which allows for faster browsing, unfortunately I cannot tell you what the mobile version looks like as its simply a mobile version of the main site and once logged in it would not display on my SII.
When I read that this could be used as an RSS reader my little heart jumped for joy as I am already a pro user of their service however this little dancing bunny was soon stopped in his tracks.
Although you can import your Google Reader feeds that is pretty much all you can do with this service, all new feeds have to be manually added and your RSS feeds do not appear in the mobile version.
However if you are pretty settled upon your Feeds which is something that we should all aspire to become because Napoleon Hill was quite correct in his primary assertion. Both you, I and anyone else who is trying to accomplish any task should have a mastermind group supporting and directing them and your Hootsuite RSS feeds can become that mastermind group, if chosen carefully and as long as you never venture too far away from your computer.
Just like Hootsuite you can import your Reader feed but after that is down to manual feed imports, although they do suggest there will be mobile applications in the near future.
This is a free service and is the most basic of the services so far with a single timeline feed and the option to sort your own feeds into groups. It is one that I could only recommend to the lightest of RSS feed users.
However it does have a trending service which could be useful if you are highly focused upon a single topic and thus do not need many feeds but do need timely information that you can report upon.
However it does have some loyal fans over at metafilter.com who illustrate how you can add this to your list of browser subscription services, it means probing around in your browser code so its not something I will be doing or recommending. Therefore any new feeds have to be added manually.
Once your feeds are imported, you will find them as you left them in Reader, neatly arranged into groups with unread content count displayed against each feed. On the right of the page are a couple of interesting features, most recent and dead feed lists.
Dead does not mean broken just very quiet, with anything over a month for mine counting as dead.
As this is still very much in development despite its name, there is no mobile support nor as we have mentioned browser integration.
This service intrigued me because it goes to great lengths to hide whether this is a free or paid service thus I had to read the legal pages in depth to determine that it is indeed a free service.
However these pages revealed something far more worrying about this service.
By signing up to this service you are actually agreeing to be bound by the terms and conditions of Netvibes as they power this site and this is further confirmed by the fact you cannot use your Netvibes details to register.
The Android access is actually a subscription service that takes you to the desktop site to read it after you have logged in.
Of course the layout and the functionality are very similar to its Netvibe parent without any of the analytical options.
So that’s the 8 services, that could actually work to some degree without too much pain as an RSS reader and manager. There are of course some noteable omissions.
Evernote was recommended but very quickly cast aside as it uses ifttt.com to power each individual feed with a series of coding steps to make sure it all works, I have over 50 feeds and adjust these on a regular basis so Evernote is not an option for active RSS users.
Flipboard came highly recommended and I thought the same until realised that its not an RSS reader and has no desktop reader service.
Readability is not an RSS reader but rather a read later service which has the cool feature of being able to strip out all site content except the actual words and related images which of course means it becomes more readable!
Instapaper, is like Readability a read later service, it does have an Android application but like its iPhone alternative it is not free and these alongside the adverts actually keep the desktop version free. This was the most honest clarification of site income model that I found on any site.
PocketRSS Reader, is another read later service.
Finally we turn to Digg who are in the process of developing a paid RSS service and have been using surveys to great effect to determine what their customers want from a RSS newsreader
And now its over to you, did I miss any services that compare favorably to the ones listed?
July 2013 Update
I finally got access to the new Digg reader, at the moment its free but has the promise of high end paid features to come. However as its come late to the party it really needed to be something special to make those who have already switched to an alternative, consider switching again.
Unfortunately when compared to Feedly and its new independent service which is now my favoured solution, it does not come with any special features that encourage me to switch again.