Dalton Caldwell has written up some likely scenarios on the Google Reader shut down, as it pertains to publishers on the web. The scenarios he offers are mostly ‘meh’ situations, but I have a completely different take.1
I actually think this shut down parallels well with implementing a paywall on your site, because both are creating natural obstacles for people. Every alternative RSS reader I have seen and tried isn’t as simple as Google Reader. What made Google Reader simple is that everyone already had a Google account so they could naturally discover this other “thing” and start using it, Google made discovery, use, and signup easy.
Now that same group is going to switch? Yeah right.
More likely: this is going to be a reality check for a lot of websites. Sure, the numbers (RSS subscribers) will be boosted in the days immediately following as many try multiple services at once, but in a month or two? My guess is the numbers will be way down.
My thinking is:
- A lot of people got sucked into RSS by Google, but don’t really care about RSS. Maybe they check it here and there, but they won’t miss it when it’s gone.
- A lot of people will simply find other ways that they think sufficient — ways that would not be sufficient for a nerd. (Twitter, Facebook, Friends, etc.)
- This presents itself as a really great time for nerds to clean out their subscriptions — and many sites won’t make the cut. “I still subscribe to that site? Not anymore.”
So we have users that just don’t care enough to continue with RSS and the more nerdy set that does care enough, but may, or may not, keep subscribing to your site — because they do care about what they read, they will likely take this moment to reevaluate their subscribed feeds.
The most lucrative way to run a blog is with RSS Sponsors. You can charge quite a bit — people paid me about $500 per week with only 8,200 subscribers before I stopped — this is the best source of money for a blogger. That money is in jeopardy here not because of Google Reader, but because of Feed Wrangler.
Feed Wrangler offers Filters that can filter out keywords. This is great if you are tired of iWatch rumors, and typically doesn’t hurt bloggers.
But you know what will hurt? Filtering out sponsored RSS posts. The reason you get paid more for RSS sponsorships than for “banner” style ads is because the blogger can more or less assure you that your post will be seen by X-many subscribers. Google Reader showed it all to you. But with new RSS readers hell bent on making things better for users, well it’s only a matter of time before an RSS reader comes to market with an automatic “sponsored posts blocker”. I think that’s a killer feature for users, and an income killer for bloggers.