Moving Away from Free

With the demise of the Posterous blog platform thanks to a sellout to Twitter and Google Reader’s upcoming shutdown, I’m beginning to realize how dangerous free services can be. When you are a paying customer, you have clout. If you’re not happy it’s going to impact the business’s profits and they are going to work hard to keep you – and your money – happy. In the tech world, startup services and platforms often begin with free features. They could have a plan for generating revenue – maybe with a premium service in addition to the free one – or they may just want to get popular enough to attract a buyer. Generally, we (the users) don’t have a clue what their plan is and should remain wary. Even the big guys like Google will pull the plug on a popular service like Reader when they want to point you to a different service. So what if they lose a few (thousand) free customers?

That being said, I’m a firm believer that competition and profit are great motivators. I’ve spent the $5 to reserve an account at Posthaven and I’m amazed at the effort they have made to give us Posterous users a safe alternative. The data migration effort alone was huge! As soon as the email posting and distribution features are functional, $60/year will be a small price to pay to get our family’s private “news service” up and running again. The fact that I can have 9 additional blogs as part of that price is very nice – and will likely be put to good use – but it’s knowing that the developers will do everything they can to keep the platform up, running and well-maintained that is the top of my priority list.

There’s a lot of effort underway to develop alternatives to Google Reader. I have been using the Reeder apps [Mac & iOS] and they are working hard to provide multiple alternatives for managing feed subscriptions and keeping everything in synch across the apps. They have a couple of solutions in place on the iPhone app – both of them requiring a paid subscription. Until the Mac and iPad apps are updated with alternative solutions, those apps are free in the App Store. I’ve paid the $2 to try the iPhone app with Feedbin and so far it works great. The iPhone app even lets me choose which feed service (Google’s still there for now) I want to use. Feedbin also has a web-based reader so it should soon be covering all my reading options. Feedbin’s subscription management is still a bit clunky, but I’m sure that will improve as their customer base grows. I wouldn’t be surprised to see other feed management options appearing either.

With Google out of the market, there’s money to be made in the news-reading business and I think we’re about to have a number of impressive options. Moving away from free could turn out to be a very good thing.

Preparing for Google Reader shutdown

Not sure how you’re going to deal with the demise of Google Reader? Don’t be too concerned – alternatives (good ones!) are already showing up and there will be a lot more coming.

In the meantime, here are some steps you can take now to help you move to a different platform:

  • The very first thing you should do is go to the Reader Settings page and export your subscriptions. Click on the Import/Export tab, click on the Download your data through Takeout link found under the Export your information heading. You’ll be taken to the Takeout page and you’ll have to wait for your export file to be built. Once that’s done, a Download button appears. Click on it and download the zip file. Right now, all you need to do is save it in a safe place. This file contains details on all the blogs and other news sources you subscribe to. Later, it will be imported into other news readers so you won’t have to manually set up those subscriptions.
  • Twitter is a pretty good alternate to RSS distribution. If you are a blogger, make sure your blog is set up to automatically announce each post you publish as a Twitter update. This may be as simple as a setting on your blog (WordPress.com) or it may require installing a plugin/gadget.
  • Twitter users can take advantage of apps like Flipboard which will turn your Twitter timeline into a beautiful magazine-style reader. Compare your Reader subscriptions to the Tweeple you follow and add Twitter users as needed. Don’t forget you can use Lists to organize the people you follow.

FYI – Flipboard is already out front on this issue with their announcement Flipboard users won’t
need to do anything to keep reading their Google Reader subscriptions in Flipboard. If you’ve got Flipboard set up with Google Reader now, you’ll still have those subscriptions after Reader shuts down. Flipboard will do the work so you don’t have to. My guess is they won’t be the only ones who see this as an opportunity . . .

Check the suggested posts below for additional information on RSS subscriptions and Twitter for news reading. The Gazette will post the latest in news and apps to make your move to a new newsreading platform as painless as possible.