Will Digg rise up from the ashes of Google Reader?

March 26, 2013
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Reading feeds like a boss. Who needs Google Reader? (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Reading feeds like a boss … who needs Google Reader? (Image credit: Shutterstock)

With the imminent demise of Google Reader, some die-hard users are scrambling to find the best alternative to Google’s long-lived RSS feed reader. After all, the world will still go on even as Google kills off some of its services in a bid to focus more on what it deems are more important services.

However, we must admit that this also signals a big shift in how we consume and share content. While it used to be the norm that we subscribe to specific sites and check for regular updates, now content discovery has become more social. It’s more of a push rather than pull. Case in point: do you still read each and every item on your feed list? Or would you rather check out items that your social media contacts have been sharing? Apps like Flipboard, Pulse and Google’s own Currents have replaced the RSS reader as the choice medium through which users read content, especially while mobile.

But we still can’t discount the usefulness of RSS. It’s about control, after all — you get to choose which particular feeds you read. And the fact that you get to read these from a feed reader of your choice, rather than on the web or mobile site itself, is empowering. Digg, another so-called poster-boy of what was “Web 2.0″ has seen Reader’s demise as a sign that it has to step up. While Digg had been successful in its heyday as a social news site, the social news concept has run its course and died a natural death, except for a few, like Reddit. Digg has attempted to resurrect, this time as a curated news service, but it has not regained traction like its former self.

In a recent blog post, the Digg team announced re-prioritizing its roadmap for 2013 onwards. The team says it had been long planning to build a reader, but just never got to it. This time, the timing is right, as “after Google’s announcement last week, and Reader’s imminent shutdown, we think it’s the right thing to do.”

The reader concept will have the following ideals, as Digg summarized from the 800 plus comments in its post announcing plans for a reader:

  1. Keep it simple, stupid!
  2. Make it (real) fast.
  3. Sync across devices
  4. Make it easy to import from Reader.

In short, I can summarize the key points here into mobility and portability. After all, reading content should not be as cumbersome as sifting through hundreds of items on a small-screened device. And I would want to pick up reading from where I left off on another device.

Digg plans to “build a product that’s clean and flexible, that bends easily and intuitively to the needs of different users.” Can they pull it off? Undoubtedly the team does have talent. And the Digg brand still holds mindshare and value, especially to those who have been around long enough to witness how social media gained traction among online and mobile audiences.

Digg should keep focused this time. The company had once been valued $160 million, but the brand ended up being acquired for a measly $500,000 after holding off from acquisition for years (plus $12 million for talent acquisition and another $4 million for patents). Seeing that Digg wants to carry the torch from where Google will be leaving off, this is a pretty ambitious goal they are getting into, and hopefully will achieve. It would be a great thing for us mobile users to have a fast, simple, portable and easy reader app.

Digg does have a deadline for itself, though, now that Google has announced that Reader will cease to be by July 1st. Are you looking forward to a new RSS reader from Digg?

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