The future of Google Reader and Google News

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
The future of Google Reader and Google News
A few days ago, Google announced that as part of some spring cleaning, it would be “retiring” Google Reader on July 1st. Yesterday, we heard the rumor that Google would be adding a News section to the Play Store. These two stories don’t exactly have a direct connection, but they do both speak to the vision of the future Google has for news products.

We say that they don’t have a direct connection, because Reader was merely a news aggregator, and RSS client. A dedicated News section in the Play Store would cater towards print publications looking to find a way forward in a digital world, much like the Magazine section of the Play Store.

A dedicated News section in the Play Store is a needed addition, and would at the very least signal that Google is getting better at building relationships with content providers like the New York Times and Wall Street Journal. The fact that the New York Times was part of Google’s SXSW event showing off 3rd party apps for Google Glass was a good indicator that there is a stronger relationship there.

Unfortunately, Google Play News doesn’t really give an indication of the future of the internal Google news products. Essentially, there are currently three “news” products at Google: Google Reader, Google+, and Google News. Soon, Reader won’t be around as a standalone app, but that doesn’t mean it can’t live on in one of the other products. Remember, Google Wave died, but it still lives on in substantial ways through Google Docs.

Google+ Reader

Google Reader is being “retired”, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that Google Reader is going to disappear completely. We already know that multiple companies like Feedly and Digg are working to copy the Reader API in order to become replacements for those who want it. But, we wanted to look at the future of Google Reader within Google. 

Google has said that Reader would be “retired”, but there have been no announcements about the official Reader API. Google has not said that the API would be released to open source, nor that the API would be shut down. That makes it seem like Google is intending to keep using the Reader API, or at the very least, maybe that API will be folded into another product, something like Google+

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We’ve already seen it once. Google redesigned Reader during “The Great Plusification” of Google products. The redesign didn’t go over well, and some of the changes had to be rolled back. The head of the Reader team said that was the breaking point for Reader and it never recovered. So, a plusification redesign wouldn’t work, but why can’t Reader be folded into Google+?

Most of the Reader team has already been moved to over to work on Google+ anyway. The transition would be quite easy, especially since many RSS sources already have G+ pages. Folders would become Circles, then just completely hide the comment thread by default, add in a save for later feature, and options to hide previously read posts (or turn them black & white like in Google Currents), and Google+ could quite easily integrate all of the Reader functionality. 

You may think that the most hardcore of Google Reader users wouldn’t make the transition over, but frankly, if you’re that hardcore of a Reader user, you understand the value of Google+, and you’re probably there anyway. Google+ is already an amazing resource for getting news and starting discussions, especially since the introduction of Communities. Folding in Reader only makes that better.

But, maybe Google+ and Google Reader shouldn’t be Google’s focus for news in the future, because Google already has a product for that, and it’s a product that is highly underrated: Google News.

Google News Reader

If you live on mobile devices, you may not realize this, but Google News is an absolutely killer product. You can follow topics, and control what news sources populate your News feed, but the killer feature is the Realtime Coverage option. Jump into the Realtime Coverage section for a story, and you’ll get the top articles and videos, plus a running stream of brand new articles (Google’s crawler can find and deliver pages within two minutes of the article going live), and related content. It’s an amazingly robust product. 

Of course, if you do live on a mobile device, you may not know that Google News is so amazing because the built-in Android News & Weather app offers almost none of that functionality. The News & Weather app is a basic news feed. Sure, you can follow specific topics, but it gives you no real control, or any of the additional content or real-time features.

Google News has been a product that has gotten a lot of time and resources on the web side, but needs a serious upgrade on the mobile side. And, mixing Google Reader into Google News, in many of the same ways we described for folding Reader into Google+, could lead to an even brighter future than Google News already has.

As with the transition for Reader into G+, it would be pretty easy to fold Reader into News as well. Combining the options for controlling your news sources with the related articles, and real-time updates would make for a very powerful product (similar to what News360 is aiming for).

Even if this doesn’t happen, we’d like to formally petition Google to rebuild the Android Google News app. Google News on the web is an amazing resource, and one of the best news aggregators around. It would be nice to see that same experience on Android. We understand that it would likely have to be an app separate from the current News & Weather app, so as to keep the Google layer separate from the Android base, but so be it.


Google Reader is going to live on through 3rd party apps that will look to capitalize on the hole left by Reader’s “retirement”. That much is certain. But, we have to believe that Google Reader will also live on within Google. There are places where Reader can add quite a lot of value, and we’d like to see it happen.

Google+ and Google News are both really good products, and Google is obviously committed to supporting both products. Reader doesn’t need to disappear completely from Google’s apps, and we’d love to see it live on in one of these products. Google Reader as we know it may be retiring, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it is going away completely.

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