Richard Gringras, Senior Director, News & Social Products at Google, spoke with Wired about the decision and gave a pretty compelling reason.
This makes sense of course, because most people have transitioned to using constant streams like Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ for news rather than a single sit-down experience. You know, kind of like why people don't read newspapers anymore (of course, people also don't read newspapers because they tend to be out-of-date as they are printed).
We can't really agree with Google's explanation on this though. Sure, the first time you check Google Reader in the morning, there is more of a need to sit and leisurely go through, but after that first check, it becomes quite similar to the "bits and bites throughout the course of the day", except Reader had one big advantage over other sources: you're far less likely to miss something. Stories can easily slip by you on Twitter, but a story doesn't disappear from an RSS reader until you tell it to.
Still, whatever the reason for Google's decision, the ecosystem has pulled together amazingly well, and there are plenty of solid choices for those looking for a replacement. We personally prefer NewsBlur (even though the mobile apps need work), because Feedly tends to be a resource hog. But, with Feedly working on a back-end service that will power options like Press, and Reeder, we may switch back eventually. Unless of course, Digg Reader wows us.
Of course, Google isn't planning to completely disappear from the game, and may come back in a way similar to what we posited when Reader's retirement was first announced. According to Gringras, Google is looking at "pervasive means to surface news across [Google's] products to address each user’s interest with the right information at the right time via the most appropriate means." This means, just as we expected, that Google could use Google+, Google News, and even Google Now to surface news for you when it is most relevant. It's an interesting plan, but it certainly won't appease those who want a more sit-down experience with their news feed.