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Google Reader announced its shutdown exactly a year ago (newsblur.com)
211 points by thristian on March 14, 2014 | hide | past | favorite | 116 comments

Immediately after reading this post I thought: "Damn, I use them for half a year and I'm really happy, I should support them" and went to website to upgrade to premium and... I couldn't find it! It was hidden as 4th option from top menu under small settings cogwheel on bottom. Instead of all those useless (for me) statistics on front page you should put a small note like "Like us? Go premium!" to remind us that making something great needs support.

The entire frontpage should be A/B-tested with some conversion experts. There is a lot of room for improvement if you look at the CTA's, buttons, comparison between free and premium, etc.

I agree. If I stumbled on the Newsblur landing page, I wouldn't have even recognized it as a replacement for Google Reader.

For instance, my eyes end on "Training". I now get that the software can be trained, but at first you wonder if Newsblur offers training.

I also expect the pricing is too low. RSS is no longer mass market, but the people who use it tend to use it professionally. I will pay a LOT for something business critical that works well.

As an aside, anything that is a business expense can be 50% higher, assuming a 33% average tax rate. You must earn $150 to buy a $100 consumer good, but only $100 to buy a $100 business item.

Hey HN, NewsBlur's founder here. Just wanted to clear up a misconception about revenue.

1. The revenue (income/expenses) graph shows 16 months, not 12. Cut it off at March 2013 and you'll see a much healthier picture of NewsBlur's revenue.

2. Expenses are where they are because I let them get there. Notice that it's over 2/3rds payroll and subcontractors. That means it's all being invested back into NewsBlur. If I had to, I could easily cut down expenses, but then I wouldn't be building a better reader. I'm paying myself and my few subcontractors a healthy salary, which means we are sustainable at this rate.

And even with expenses where they are, as I've seen somebody do the math, revenue (which is recurring and will spike this month) far outpaces expenses. I don't show the dollar figures here, but there's enough in profit to hire a full-time engineer, which is something I plan to do with that secret project I alluded to at the end.

I'd month-normalize this chart. Otherwise it looks to support the opposite conclusion of what you are trying to say.

That makes me happy. I remember you mentioning somewhere before about having reached sustainability.

Happy NewsBlur user here, and thank you for making it!

> all the air sucked out by Google

I don't think that's fair.

Google Reader was Blockbuster Video. It lacked the personality of all of the RSS Aggregators (aka mom'n'pop rental stores), but it looked nice, it had most of what you were looking for, and the price was fair (lol). But it was a giant, faceless and unchanging monolith.

Well, the brick and mortar rental DVD market is dead. And so is the cloud RSS aggregator market. Is it Blockbuster's fault that DVD rental died? No. It got replaced by better things. Netflix, Amazon Instant, Hulu+...

Cloud RSS Aggregation sure felt nice, but as a business, I'm not convinced it was at all sustainable. Being an inherently read-only medium, where you have to maintain a huge library of content to be useful, is shaky ground to me.

We like the technical idea of RSS, but we all read Facebook, Reddit, and HN. Why is that?

I think it's entirely fair. They came into a thriving market and killed it with a subsidized product pushed by an enormous brand. And then they did nothing with it.

I read Facebook and HN, but I subscribe to Newsblur because there are other good ways to get news. To me, Newsblur is the text equivalent of my podcast app: My tool for paying attention to particular sources and making sure I don't miss anything. Podcasts are also an inherently read-only medium, and just like newsreaders, people making podcasting apps don't really have to maintain a huge library of anything; it's the podcasters who do that.

If I understand you correctly, big-brand companies shouldn't introduce new products in thriving markets.

Or if they do, they shouldn't get to subsidize them.

Or if they do, they have to switch to profitable or exit the market really quickly, so as to not screw up the market.

Or if they aren't profitable, they have to just keep adding features and hope to one day get profitable.

I honestly don't get what people think Google should do. I mean, people are PISSED at Google over Google Reader shutting down. WHY? Companies fail with their products, all the time.

If you keep taking a single point and drawing a line through it, you'll regularly fail to understand people.

I think Google Reader should have either a) taken their product seriously, or b) shut it down as soon as they decided it wasn't a priority.

Put another way, Google should have recognized much earlier that their giant presence means that they can accidentally ruin markets and done the responsible thing. The more power you have, the more responsibility you have.

If you don't understand the consequences of your argument, people will regularly complain that your argument makes no sense.

They spent large amounts of money preparing and operating Google Reader. There is no other way they could possibly prove to you that they took it more seriously, short of throwing MORE good money after bad.

They watched the growth curves, they added features (reader.google.com/play for one), they integrated with other products (Buzz), they waited for new products to be released and integrated with them as well (Google+).

At some point, they decided to leave the market.

Or they should have shut it down sooner? Before they added those features, before they integrated with other products, before the other products were released and before they integrated with them?

Taking it seriously = more time, more money.

Shutting down sooner = less time, less money.

It's apparently OBVIOUS to you exactly how much money they should have spent on it, how they should have prioritized their new features and integrations, and the precise date at which they should have shut down.

And it's so obvious to other people, that they get ultra pissed about it, and abandon all other Google products out of spite.

I wish I had your crystal ball.

Do you find that being a dick generally makes you more persuasive? Because it isn't working for me here.

Google Reader was well known within Google as an orphan project for a long time. Years before they shut it I was chatting with some Googler and Reader game up. He mentioned how impressive it was that it was still alive given how starved for resources it had been. I think he said that it was just one guy. And here's Reader's creator in 2011 acknowledging it was understaffed: http://massless.org/?p=174

So yes, they should have shut it down way sooner rather than starving it. That was irresponsible both internally (because it's a management failure) and externally (because they were harming a market that they weren't serious about).

I'm sorry I thought you started it, when you claimed that I was too stupid to understand you.

> He mentioned how impressive it was that it was still alive given how starved for resources it had been.

Everyone's pet-project is understaffed. That's how passionate people will always describe their favorite projects.

If you divide man-hours by revenue, you'll note that Google Reader was getting pretty close to infinite resources.

> rather than starving it.

Most, if not all, RSS aggregators don't DREAM of having the software tooling, crawling and storage resources, DevOps, and visibility that Google Reader had.

I say again, I wish I had your crystal ball for the correct amount of resources, and the correct amount of time to spend on a project.

It's pretty easy to armchair quarterback, though.

Why does everyone ignore the prevalence of free RSS readers when Google reader came along?

Why do you ask me that when I'm not ignoring them?

> We like the technical idea of RSS, but we all read Facebook, Reddit, and HN. Why is that?

Because RSS has no facility for discourse. It wasn't designed with that in mind. All the examples you mention are known for their userbase and commenting more than just simple aggregation.

RSS still has a place, and that is simple news consumption. I don't have an opinion on the technical aspects of RSS, I like it and use it every day because it's essentially my own tailored digital newspaper. Much like an actual newspaper, that isn't and will never be how many want to get their news. Still, the option is nice and Reeder is still one of the most important apps on my phone.

Yes, Reddit, HN and Facebook may get individual visits from many because they provide something that RSS doesn't. But for places that have a useless comment base like The Verge or Engadget, for places that have better articles than comments like Ars Technica, Anandtech and Re/code, RSS is the only way I access them.

When the profits go out of a market, you lose the mom-and-pop stores first, followed by a wave of increasing consolidation that leaves a de facto monopolist, whose services degenerate and stagnate, and finally that last one goes bankrupt.

Blockbuster was the death throes of rental video, not the glory days. And arguably Google Reader was the death throes of mass market RSS, kept around for awhile as a profitless zombie by Google's deep pockets.

What has since emerged is "niche market RSS" as a viable business for a few.

To be fair, I believe there are a few B&M rental stores doing alright. They just aren't the giants that we all remember.

I think that is a digression, though. As is the concern of "we all read on ____". Because, first off, we don't. Quite a lot of us still read RSS feeds. I don't think many RSS feeds disappeared, just a big tool to read them.

What far fewer of us do, is talk about the things we read on RSS, because it is not an inherently social tool. Consider, if I find a neat article in an rss feed, the only way I can talk about it with my peers is to post it on facebook/g+/twitter.

Which is what Google Reader actually managed to bring to the table for RSS. I could share stories and have conversations in my peer groups. This actually even worked with Google Buzz. It was surprisingly nice.

The problem there, I think, is all of these conversations happened with no real intrusion from ads. Google had no real way to put "sponsored" stories into my rss feeds without it being glaringly obvious. There was no "trending now" feed that I was willing to subscribe to.

Oh man, someone else who liked Buzz? I adored it, and miss it now that it's gone.

It was only good for me, because it was well integrated with Reader. To the point that some folks "discussing" my shares weren't even using the Buzz interface to do so. That was very nice.

Your closing argument falls pretty flat to me since I ingest Reddit and HN entirely through RSS. The first step is filtering out the junk I don't care about to find the interesting articles, and besides subscribing to sites that are weighted more towards interesting articles than junk (HN, e.g.), RSS allows me to quickly filter out the junk. Then I go to the article and participate in the conversation.

I don't read Facebook or Reddit, and I only read HN via RSS (and only the stories that get at least 100 points)... So watch out for the generalizations. ;)

What's the feed url for that? The one I've been using hasn't updated in a couple of weeks.


I'm not going to visit every blog that occasionally has interesting news to me on a daily basis. But I'm content to scan headlines/summaries in my RSS reader (Feedly) to pick out the gems. I follow a number of blogs that aren't popular or well known, so expecting them to show up on [insert name of social network/news agreggator here] would be folly.

To me, Google Reader ended up being more of a backend, just because some of the other dedicated readers were so nice. Can't say I've tried Newsblur, but my favorite ended up being Reeder. I don't think that shutdown changed anything for me except switching the backend to Feedly instead...

(maybe I'll try Newsblur...)

If you are power user, you'll LOVE NewsBlur!

What would be interesting (technical feasibility aside) would be a community aggregator spin on a RSS feed. Let me use an RSS feed as normal but expose all the different communities on top of that as additional data.

To me Facebook is all kid pictures and life hacks posting, interesting only when I want to see what my family is up to.

Reddit/HN are interesting for:

a.) Posts I haven't seen before, and

b.) Comments

RSS solves neither, but it provides frequent updates for sites I'm interested in, which is a non-goal for reddit/HN. There's an interesting intersection between the two (RSS & social sites) in the comments. Why can't I see what other people have said about a story in my RSS feed?

I wouldn't be surprised if this hasn't be done before, but I haven't seen any RSS application/site do this.

> I wouldn't be surprised if this hasn't be done before, but I haven't seen any RSS application/site do this.

Have a look at bazqux: https://bazqux.com/

For a number of people (non-technical included), the follwing/sharing component of Reader was an excellent source of interesting, high quality links up until the end. Facebook and Twitter have since replaced that I guess, but they are both terrible at it. Ostensibly Google thought some of that economy would shift to Plus, but maybe they didn't even care.

Newsblur/The Old Reader have built in this feature, but I have maybe 2-3 friends on each service and it's just not vibrant.

Maybe the sharing aspect of Reader would have withered and died anyway, but I miss it dearly.

I don't quite get what is he trying to communicate here. The graph shows that there was some profit during the last summer but since then the income has failed to pay for the expenses. The text reads partially like a post-mortem of a failed project, partially like that of a success. Is he happy or not?

For the record, I'm a happy NewsBlur subscriber and will definitely renew my subscription.

The author of the graph should perhaps read up on Rev Rec[1], particularly the idea of deferred revenue.

It seems that they are counting subscription revenue at the time it is paid, rather than recognizing over the length of the subscription picture. The later would give you a much better idea on how the business is operating.

[1]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revenue_recognition

They'll hit another spike when users from the google reader shutdown renew their yearly subscriptions.

I think a bit of buzz around renewal time is good. The best new signups come from referrals, and the best time for referrals is shortly after a customer has made the decision to pay for the service.

Then I don't get it: According to what we can see, in March 2014 they already should be "hitting it" (1 year after the initial March 2013 spike), but it looks pretty bleak to me.

That seems likely. It would make the message clearer if this was explicit in the text.

Maybe the two graph lines are on different scales?

Otherwise, they're delusional.

Since NewsBlur's pricing model seems to built on annual recurring payments, It would seem that the interesting part of that graph is hidden just off to the right.

How many of those panicked conversions are going to stick with the service, now that all the excitement has died down and they've had a whole year to really make up their mind as to whether a newsreader is something they need to be paying for.

Here's hoping the answer is yes. Looking forward to a followup in a few months time!

Speaking only for myself, I know they lost me as a customer primarily because the system was buggy at the time they launched and promoted themselves on HN. I know there wasn't much time to respond to Reader's shutdown, but it just reminded me that when you get that first burst of traffic, you better be sure you can retain the folks you get.

No kidding it was buggy. But a year of work has moved NewsBlur far ahead. It's quite stable now. And it's the fastest reader on the market. That's why I graph average load times on the dashboard. The re-design also didn't launch until May, so your first impression last year will be quite different than this year.

Is it better than feedspot?

Give it another try: it's at least as good as Google Reader ever was now.

Seconded. I've been a long term Newsblur customer--even got a handwritten postcard!--and it's only improved over time. I _adore_ Newsblur.

Seconded + 1. Yes, the first year was buggy, but the reader is extremely stable and reliable now. It's a real pleasure to use. I've been a paying subscriber for two years now and I really enjoy it - and I was a hardcore GReader fan.

Sadly, I'm one of those panicked conversions. I tried the site out initially and paid for a full year. It ended up being too damn buggy so I switched to something else. I completely forgot all about it until yesterday, when I got a recurring charge automatically and without notice on my Paypal account.

It's kind of shitty they didn't send out renewal reminders to give people a chance to cancel.

GAH. I foolishly didn't remember there was an auto-renew. Just cancelled mine which was due to re-up in June.

Newsblur should definitely remind folks lest they get a storm of complaints -- or worse get chargebacks.

Shitty, but I don't think it was done maliciously.

I hope so too. I'll probably stick with NewsBlur because I'm happy enough with it, and because I can't be bothered to find something better.

It's a good question. I know I signed up for one of the competitors for a year for $20, but I don't use the service any more and won't resubscribe. Someone with access to the back-end should be able to identify those people pretty easily though, which would let you forecast renewals better.

I've been really, really happy with Inoreader (It's free). They just revamped their UI too! Link: http://beta.inoreader.com/

Their page shows no examples of the app itself, and no demos. Everything seems to be hidden behind a registration. That's incredibly unfortunate.

I'm quite happy too. I like that you can push to instapaper if you want too, to read on the kindle.

Same here. Super happy, though I'm still a free user.

As someone who joined news blur after the reader shutdown, I hate to say it, but this seemed inevitable. The design was incredibly confusing (not to mention hideous) and there were so many options nested in so many menus that any time I needed to change something I could never find the option. I switched to feedbin since it had some semblance of design, was easy to understand and synced with many more apps.

Also, I was credited three free years for being an early adopter and I suspect many others were as well, so I really doubt a big revenue bump anytime soon.

What is this that seems inevitable? You do realize that the graph will spike up again once all those who signed up around the shutdown period (from now until it actually shutdown) renews for another year.

And design, yea, at first glance. Much like some advanced software looks ridiculous at first glance.

I tested a lot of different readers before I eventually ended up at newsblur, am very happy with it.

Check out https://kouio.com if you're looking for something visually clean and simple.

Yeah, I'm really enjoying Kouio. Even the very Mac-style UI has stopped bothering me. Still a few missing features around the feeds list sidebar, but nothing critical.

I really wish they'd start charging for it.

I wish them good luck, but I'm happy to have gone with Fever and hosting my reader on my own.

I am more and more glad that self-hosting alternatives for applications I use exist. For me, the compromise between the technical challenge to install your own app vs. paying to have it installed shifts towards self-hosting almost every day.

NewsBlur is open source and you can set up a self-hosted version of it as well. See https://github.com/samuelclay/NewsBlur

It's a bit of a hassle to set it up correctly though (I'm not complaining or anything. It just is, compared to other hosted options. I love the fact that it's open source)

Is it possible to use the iOS/Android NewsBlur apps with a custom set up server?

I don't use them, so I'm not sure. They are open source [1] so in the worst case, you could still make them work with a bit fiddling I guess.

[1]: https://github.com/samuelclay/NewsBlur/tree/master/clients/

Oh, I did not know that. Nice to have that option too.

You can also self-host tiny tiny RSS which I highly recommend http://tt-rss.org/redmine/projects/tt-rss/wiki

Make sure to check out the android app too. It's cool to be able to read your self-hosted RSS feeds from your phone with zero hassle.

The killer feature for me is being able to create a publicly readable RSS feed from within the reader (from either selected bits of what you subscribe to or arbitrary links).

I use the app as well and even though the "full" app version is not free ($4, one-time), it's definitely worth it.

TTRSS is awesome. And the author is deliciously abrasive in the forums.

owncloud has a pretty reasonable rss reader. Slightly slow and clunky, but does the trick and has an android reader too. I run it on a $5 per month VPS.

I personally just integrated selfoss into ownCloud. Was nice and easy, its all PHP :)

> Why spend all that money on subcontractors and new tools? Because I’m investing in building an even better news reader.

Do people want a "better" news reader? I feel this would be profitable if you stopped wasting so much money.

I want a better news reader. I pay for Newsblur, and I like it. But I'd like it even more if it was snappier, had a slightly cleaner UI, etc.

Not to mention, are there that many people that even write blogs anymore, or is there maybe another more modern use for news readers that I'm not aware of?

There are thousands upon thousands of people who write blogs on wordpress.com, Blogger, and even older sites like LiveJournal and Xanga. Not to mention all the technically inclined folks who run their own with self-hosted WordPress, Jekyll, and friends.

The number of blog producers doesn't even need to be that large (relatively speaking) in order for a newsreader to be beneficial to blog consumers. Say that there were 10,000 blogs in the world. If you were interested in more than ten or so, it would be a hassle to visit each one on a regular basis to check for updates.

And yes, RSS is used beyond just blogs. Mainstream news sites often publish RSS feeds of their categories. News aggregator sites like HN tend to have RSS feeds as well.

are there that many people that even write blogs anymore


Uhm, about half the links on HN are from blogs, and many of the others have RSS feeds as well (e.g. news sites).

Personally, I follow blogs, podcasts, news sites, Twitter accounts, Tumblrs, Torrent releases, automated software information and more.

i subscribe to rss feeds from blogs, newspapers, tumblrs, instagram tags ... and considering adding youtube subscriptions as well.

Yes, I'd like it more if it were better. Is that really a question?

My initial reaction upon seeing the chart was that NewsBlur would be shutting down because of dropping income, but the chart period is only up until the Google Reader announcement to shut down. NewsBlur seems to be doing well, and that's great!

This confused me, but I think it's because annual subscription revenue was recognized in the month of the payment.

Exactly. If people renew there should be another peak about now. I have been happy with Newsblur so I have just renewed my subscription.

No, that's till present. The announcement was a year ago, when revenue spiked.

As a satisfied newsblur user, I'm hoping that there will be another peak in April when all the people who joined last year renew their yearly subscriptions. Otherwise this doesn't look sustainable to me.

I have stopped consuming news through RSS readers because no one organize can produce quality work on a consistent basis. With limited amount of time I need a system that would tell me newsworthiness of an item. I have come to a conclusion that crowdsourced news is the best form of news reading. I have been slowly trying to read all my news on Google+, HN, and Reddit.

What this misses for me is solid pieces that aren't hugely popular.

There are a number of sources that I don't want to miss. This includes things that friends write. But the ones I really treasure are the people who are interesting alternative voices, the ones who in 5 years time might turn out to have been 5 years ahead of everybody else.

If you read what everybody else is reading, you'll only know what everybody else knows.

I tend to fall into I-have-to-follow-everything-category stealing time that I could spend creating stuff that other folks might have not imagined.

Yeah, that's a risk. It's not a big problem for me now, but then my must-read category is pretty small.

I should mention I'm one of the happy NewsBlur users who jumped ship from Google Reader, and I'm definitely going to renew my subscription.

My favourite aggregator Feedbin had its 1st birthday a few days ago. http://blog.feedbin.com/2014/03/11/feedbins-first-year/

I don't get it? what windfall is he speaking of and he never addressed why he will continue even though it's loss making.

I had the same exact thought. It might be that this graph represents month-by-month net income, rather than something like Net MRR. Perhaps the spike represents a large number of sign-ups for annual plans (it seems like his standard plan is $24/year) in a short period, which means he should see the same spike next year upon renewal (minus his churned customers, of course).

It might be that if he "pro-rated" the monthly payments for his annual accounts as $2/month payments for the future 12 months, he is net positive right now. It's hard for me to tell by eye from the graph, but it's probably close.

Well if those were annual payments it might be profitable spread over the whole year (my visual integration skills can't quite tell) and there should be another massive spike just about to start as all those people renew their subscriptions.

My subscription to Newsblur just auto-renewed. :-)

and in a world of casual readers who don’t care where their news is coming from so long as it’s in their interests and matches their biases, NewsBlur is the coffee equivalent of the AeroPress.

What rot. Using an RSS reader doesn't magically free you from your own biased news sources. If anything, it insulates you more into your own bubble.

He's not saying RSS readers magically free you from your own biases news sources. What he's pointing at is people's indifference to source as long as it's comfortable. That's in contrast to a newsreader, where you hand-select your sources.

I think the group he's talking about includes people who get all their news from one comfortable source and those who get all their news socially, which is also generally comfortable.

Hand-selecting sources for a feed reader doesn't guarantee that you'll end up with stuff that doesn't match your biases. In my case, though, I specifically include sources that are solid ones but that don't match my biases. So an RSS reader at least makes that possible.

Newsblur has a "global shared stories" tab but its mostly just popular nerd sites like HN and Dilbert comics and Wired that I have no interest in.

I just have to tag on this post and mention the replacement that I stuck with: http://goread.io

It's open-source with a free hosted service. It works really well for me. I have been very impressed with the progress since inception and am subscribed to a monthly donation.

I'm going to write a similar year-in-review story for goread.io.

With Reader's departure my Google use has dropped 50-90%. I don't think it was the best move.

One thing I really miss since google reader shutdown is a cross-platform (including Windows & Linux) native reader with ability to sync. I used to use RSSOwl. If any of the premium RSS services could support this I'd subscribe in a heartbeat.

What do you expect from a native desktop app as opposed to web app? I think most of it could be done via extension(s) over existing web reader. Notifications, offline mode, what else is there?

Responsiveness. Newsblur takes about five seconds to respond sometimes, and can't buffer any feeds for offline use.

I'm very interested to see the absolute expenses and income. Since server hosting is very cheap these days, they are probably not making a lot of money? Or they are paying too much for hosting?

RSS readers are quite resource intensive. They need to continuously update feeds (even when you're not using the site) and when you reading they need to remember each post you've read. It's write heavy load that most databases do not handle well. So you need to shard and use more servers even with comparatively small number of users.

I'm a premium newsblur user and it feels slow and sluggish (with +/- 800 feeds and about 10k unreads right now), and I really wish it had search, but I'm sticking with it for now.

Try bazqux https://bazqux.com quite fast and has search.

I'll forgive your self promotion because I've been trying it for the last thirty minutes and I like it very much. Good job.

I misread the headline, and thought it was saying NewsBlur is shutting down one year after Google Reader.

I used NewsBlur for a while, but didn't like the UI. I switched to InoReader.com, and love it.

I really wanted prismatic to be the replacement for google reader, but after a year with it I still feel like I have lots of unmet needs.

what's funny is i remember last year, crying and moaning about the google reader shutdown and scrambling to find a new newsreader. never really found one that fit the bill like google reader did.

its been a year now and i honestly don't miss google reader one bit. HN has become my news readers now :)

and I havent missed it a single day. I'm sure 98% of google's users feel the same.

how much is worth the peak?

If my calculations are correct (done by paint.net, so...) the income/expenses for that period are about 185/139. So the peak managed to cover all expenses and more.

I wish there were a newsreader that looked good without the fancy algorithms, like a newsblur without the terrible UI. Like the old Google Reader

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