The Old Reader has closed its doors to the public, not long after Google threw the gigantic corpse of Google Reader overboard and created the wave that nearly sank TOR. I wish TOR all the best in it’s new life as a more restricted service. It seems timely to ponder the fate of hosted RSS readers as a service class.
Let’s review the data:
- Google has decided Reader isn’t worth the effort
- TOR not only closed up shop, but more tellingly, couldn’t find a buyer. I don’t know if they tried very hard, but still – the time is not long past when buyers would have trampled each other to get their hands on 420,000 subscribers.
- Feedly is fee-free. Maybe there’ll be a paid service “later”. Otherwise, the sum total of what Feedly has to say about their business model is this: “Q: How are you guys funded. A: We are a self-funded company”.
- InoReader is fee-free. Even more directly, the founder says: “About the business, honestly I still don’t have business plan”.
- People associated with running each of these services have made a point of commenting on how resource-hungry they are
- Every one of these services has users who are asking to be allowed to pay so as to assure the future of the service
What are we to make of this rather strange picture? Reading the tea leaves from a long way off, I’d say there’s a yawning gulf between the expense of running this kind of service and the subscription fees that could realistically be charged. I’m not sure what might be the issue with advertising for this class of service – after all, Google pays for just about every other service through ad revenue. I suppose either they think this particular user base won’t tolerate it, or the advertisers won’t pay for it. Let me know if you have any insight into this.
This is also an object lesson in the problems that giant monopolies create. Google is now so big that a user base of close to a million people is not enough to justify its continued involvement. At the same time, that user base is so big that it has swamped or severely stressed the next tier of providers. This is a market segment that has become severely unbalanced, and is suffering as a consequence. Note to self: remember to support the mid-range providers, they might save my business some time.
Anyway, the next few months will be interesting. The wave of ex-Google users has already swept over Feedly to some extent, and they’re about to get another one from TOR. I suspect the InoReader guy is about to go through some version of what the TOR people went through – in fact, if I was him I’d be heading over to The Old Reader’s latest blog post and reading every word carefully, including the comments. Especially the comments.
For myself: I might sign up with one or another of the remaining services, but I’m not going to get attached. Maybe something will shake out over the next year and we can all relax. In the meantime, life is a little less convenient.