The Search for the Best RSS Reader

The Search for the Best RSS Reader

Google terminated Google Reader on July 1st, leaving many former users looking for a worthy replacement. I still don’t fully understand why Google is losing its control over the center of information dissemination for so many press and other honeybee influencers, but so be it.  Luckily, many alternatives have stepped up in the aftermath of Google’s announcement.

My colleague Emanuel Schorsch reviews here three main services: Feedly, Newsblur, and Fever. Our final recommendation is Feedly for its large user base and its commitment to improvement, but we want to share our findings during our research.  I’m using it now.  It’s slick, but I really want a cache for riding in the subway.  I also miss Google Alerts; I haven’t found a good substitute for it.

Our criteria for an ideal Google Reader replacement in no particular order were:

  • Mobile, web and iPad versions
  • Caching for offline use (important for New Yorkers who read on the subway!)
  • Ability to import OPML format from Google Reader
  • Sharing capabilities that share the native link formatted for the web, along with the full original text
  • Syncing before the app opens, preferably in the background
  • Pulling in full text of the article

Fever, which lacks a free version, is unique among those we reviewed, with its payment method. It has a one-time fee of $30, which unlocks all features. While Fever’s native mobile app isn’t spectacular, there are a few different third party mobile apps which are great. Chief among these is Reeder, which gets good reviews for design and speed and includes caching for offline viewing. The downside to Fever is that it requires you to host it on your own server. If you already have a server, this makes it an attractive option as supposedly, the install isn’t too complicated, and means that you can easily make backups and other customizations. Ultimately, this could be a higher barrier to entry than the average user is looking for.

Newsblur, on the other hand, has a free version and has no required setup; it doesn’t even require you to install an extension. The paid version of Newsblur is $24 a year, and removes restrictions on the number of sites you can follow and view. The site attempts to learn what content you prefer so that it can make personalized recommendations. Furthermore, unlike Feedly, Newsblur will update your feeds before you load the site, and also loads the full article if you are a paying member. It updates once a day for free members and ten times a day for paying members. However, Newsblur’s user interface falls short, as the screen is very cluttered and doesn’t provide the most pleasant user experience.

Feedly is the only one of the alternatives considered that has not been developed by a single person. It seems to be the alternative of choice for people who have fled the soon to be dead Google Reader. Feedly has survived the influx of 3 million new customers, and has a plan for a new backend when Google Reader dies. Feedly is currently free but is soliciting from the community feedback on the preferred payment model. Feedly is also leaning towards moving to an Evernote-type model, where additional features are offered to premium users. As an additional note, there is no automatic caching, but you can manually select articles for offline caching.  Overall, Feedly’s user interface is clean and simple, though you have to leave the site to read full articles.

All of the alternatives reviewed above are strong options, as they allow importing from OPML files , share the native links of articles and have mobile apps, as well.  

Overall, our research points us to Feedly as the final recommendation for everyone but the most sophisticated user.  Importantly, Feedly seems to be very focused on catering to what the community wants, by setting up a section for improvements which the community can vote on and receive updates. While none of the options are perfect just yet, I have the most confidence in Feedly fixing their issues first, and I look forward to using the product after Google Reader officially bids us adieu.

Next entry

Previous entry