For me, the most annoying part of Google Reader shutting down on July 1 is ensuring that we all continue to appreciate that understanding how to harness the power of RSS is an important skill for educators and students.
Google Reader made it easy! You just had to explain RSS, why you use it and how to set up Google Reader.
Thanks Google! Now we need to explain why RSS isn’t dead, why you should use it and which RSS Reader is a good option based on which device you prefer to use.
So we’ve put together the information to help you find a suitable Google Reader replacement, and we hope to convince you that RSS is still important — now is not the time to give up on RSS (even if Google broke our hearts).
Why RSS is still important
This is for those that don’t appreciate why so many of us are upset by Google Reader being shutdown. RSS is an acronym which stands for Really Simple Syndication.
RSS is a simple and effective way of keeping in touch when new information is added to a website without having to visit the website to check for new updates.
How it works is you subscribe to your favorite website using the RSS feed in a RSS feed reader. Whenever new information is added to the website it is automatically sent to your RSS feed reader where you can read it at your convenience.
Google Reader was the most commonly used feed reader.
RSS isn’t just a time saver! RSS lets you do lots of cool stuff, including adding latest updates from your favorite blog(s) or news website(s) to your own site using RSS widgets like FeedWind’s RSS widget or share your favorite posts and articles with others by creating your own magazines.
And don’t stress that RSS is hard or confusing. The most confusing part of it is the word RSS! Most modern feed readers make it really easy to subscribe to your favorite sites and it can be as simple as searching for the title of the site.
What you need to know about Google Reader Replacements
Google did a great job. Google Reader’s service was so popular that it practically pushed all alternative RSS readers out of the market and as a result, we’re now seeing a mad rush of companies trying to fill the void left by Google.
Here is the key points you’ll need to consider when selecting your Google reader replacement.
#1 The Google Reader Replacement frenzy
Over the next few months we’re going to see new RSS readers developed, like Digg who has announced they are building a reader, and existing RSS readers continuing to rapidly develop and enhance their features.
There will hiccups along the way as the alternatives scale up their services to cope with a sudden increase in demand, and you’ll probably see more providing the paid for service approach.
Be prepared for the hiccups, be flexible and accept that your preferences for readers may change.
#2 How Google Reader subscriptions are imported
It’s also important to your existing subscriptions are imported into the replacement reader.
Google Reader replacements are using two different ways to import your subscriptions:
- Readers like The Old Reader allow you to import using an OPML file or connect directly from your Google Reader account to migrate across your subscriptions.
- While readers like Feedly and FlipBoard rely on the Google Reader API and are publicizing if you are already using their service your Google Reader subscriptions will seamlessly transition automatically across when Google Reader closes.
#3 Export your Google Reader subscriptions
Regardless of which reader you choose we recommend that you export your Google Reader subscriptions as an OPML file, so if you do need to suddenly change readers, you’ll be able to using your saved OPML file.
I would organize your OPML file sooner rather than later. When Posterous closed down, their servers struggled to cope as backup demands increased. Google’s set up is different with powerful servers and it is less likely to be an issue – however why take the chance?
This is a great opportunity to clean up your Google Reader subscriptions before downloading your OPML file. I removed subscriptions I no longer wanted and adjusted the number of folders I was using.
You download your OPML file directly from Google Reader Takeout.
All you need to do is:
1. Login into Google Reader Takeout.
2. Click on Create Archive.
3. Select ‘Email me when ready‘.
4. You’ll receive an email when it is ready to download.
5. Log back into Google Reader Takeout and download.
#4 Preferred device for reading subscriptions
Google Reader made it easy; it worked on all devices. Whereas some of the Google Reader replacements are device specific or are better suited for tablets/smartphones or using on desktop computers.
So it is important to consider your preferred device for reading subscriptions and what devices your students can use when deciding which Google Reader replacements best suits your needs.
Below are our current Google Reader replacement recommendations based on reliability, functionality and features:
Feedly is currently the most popular Google Reader replacement being chosen by educators. It was first released in 2008. With its one click sync with Google Reader, easy to use interface, familiar format and simple ways of sharing posts with friends and social networks — its popularity is no surprise.
Feedly works as an add-on in Chrome, Safari, FireFox and has a mobile apps for iOS, Android and Kindle. It doesn’t support Internet Explorer so isn’t an option if you’re restricted to Internet Explorer at school. But is a great choice if you like to move between computer, tablets and smartphones like I do!
Most articles on Google Reader replacements aren’t reporting any downside to using Feedly however I know some of my work colleagues have had issues accidentally marking all articles as read. They also found it hard to change article to unread which is an important functionality for them. Being power users I’m confident this is more of an issue for them and won’t be a problem for the average RSS users.
Watch this video to check Feedly out in action in the different devices.
Flipboard was originally designed as a social network aggregation, magazine-format app for iPad in 2010. It is now the most popular of the magazine-like content aggrregator apps for iOS, Android, Kindle and Nook.
It’s not being included in all articles on the top Google Reader replacements because some articles are basing their recommendations on the reader needs to be multiplatform and web accessible which Flipboard isn’t. You can’t currently read your subscription on Flipboard using a desktop computer.
However, if you’re like me, and read most of your subscriptions on a tablet or smartphone, and your students have access to tablets than I would seriously consider using Flipboard.
- Tablets continue to grow in popularity and PC sales are decreasing. Student access to tablets will increase.
- Flipboard is much more than a Google Reader replacement. It has considerably more functionality than the other Google Reader replacements; allowing you to bring all your social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram into one location with Google Reader where you can easily share with others.
- It allows you to easily create your own magazines which you can easily share with others.
- It’s an easy and fun way to teach others how to subscribe to what interests them!
FlipBoard relies on the Google Reader API and they are saying that your subscriptions will seamlessly remain inside Flipboard when Google Reader discontinues their service.
Flipboard’s ability to bring all your social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram into one location with Google Reader where you can easily share with others makes it a powerful time saving app. Check out Vicki Davis’s 15 Ways to use Flipboard to help you get started or watch this video.
The new Flipboard magazine feature is a powerful tool for educators:
- A Flipboard magazine let you quickly curate and share articles you like directly to your own magazine from within Flipboard or using the Flip It bookmarklet in your web browser.
- Other Flipboard users can subscribe to your Flipboard magazine(s) allowing them to easily read the articles you like to share.
Here’s just some of the ways educators can use Flipboard magazines:
- Sharing articles you like with other educators. You can check out my Education, Blogging and Technology Tips magazine here.
- Get students to create their own Flipboard magazines for areas that they are interested in or on specific topics.
- For sharing posts published on student blogs. You can read how Joe O’Brien is using it with his student blogs here.
Watch this video to learn how to create a magazine using Flipboard.
And check out this video on how to use the new Flipboard Editor.
The Old Reader
The Old Reader is designed to be a direct replacement of Google Reader. Its interface looks a lot like Google Reader and is easy to use. It was first released in 2012 and was inspired by how good Google Reader was prior to November 2011 — and hence why it was given the name The Old Reader.
While there are no mobile apps for the Old Reader, the web site works well in the mobile browser on both iOS and Android tablets.
The Old Reader is an excellent choice if you prefer the more traditional interface you had with Google Reader and need to be able to easily keep articles as unread. This is the preferred replacement for many of my work colleagues.
So What’s Your Verdict?
There are several alternatives that I haven’t discussed. My personal opinion is that these are the three best Google Reader replacements currently for educators.
What are your thoughts? Are you using any of these or an alternative? Tell us what you like or dislike – and why!