Killing Google Reader

Yesterday, Google announced they’re killing Reader, one of their most beloved (if my Twitter stream is to be believed) products in their portfolio.

I use a few different apps/sites to keep up with the news. Here they are:

  • Google Reader
  • Reeder (Google Reader interface for iOS)
  • Instapaper
  • Zite
  • News.Me Daily Email
  • Twitter
  • Techmeme
  • Hacker News

I use each of these services for different reasons, and though I’ve developed a pretty good flow of how they each fit into my day, I’ve been longing for a better solution. I really wish that there was a product that tied these things together in one or two apps. What would that product look like? Here’s a quick stab and what I’d love to see for my two common use cases (daily “must reads" & weekly “discovery" reading):

Must Read: My Daily Use Case

  • Keep/read a curated list of the stuff I absolutely want to see on a regular basis anytime there are updates. This is the stuff I want to read no matter what and it’s mostly blogs of people who I engage with on a regular basis. (It’s what Google Reader became for me.)
  • Give me an idea of top posts in my social network. The news.me email from the Digg team does a good job of giving me stuff that I may have missed or not seen that’s highly relevant. Generally only 3-5 of these articles are really necessary to get an idea of what’s relevant in my network.
  • If there isn’t enough content on a daily basis, then don’t show me more. Let me get a few minutes of my day back.  This is a problem a lot of apps don’t consider because they’re looking for more engagement (which often times = shoving more content in front of you).

Discover: My Weekly/When I Have Time Use Case

  • Once I’m done with the daily read, open the floodgates and give me some variety. This could be seeded with content, topics and things I’ve shown an interest in (like Zite) or it could be powered by people I’m connected to socially. Ideally it’s a mix of all of the above.
  • If I’ve saved articles for later, show me these articles before letting me run wild exploring the ends of the internet.

The hard part here is figuring out how to combine these use cases in an app. Part of the power is in keeping them separate: the problem with apps like Zite is that I never know if I missed an article from a “must read" site and I don’t have an interest in discovering new tangental content unless I’ve finished the stuff that I know is relevant.

However, one of the big problems with these weekly apps is that I often forget to go back to them on a regular basis, and they often have content in them that I’ve already seen or seen elsewhere.  There’s a strong case for a reading app that unifies these two use cases or at least is aware of what’s been consumed in the other app so that the probability of duplicates is reduced.

The closest thing I’ve found to this approach is called Fever. It combines “kindling" (your daily must-reads) with “sparks" (the rest of the content you are interested in) to give you a smart reading experience.  The only problem? No iOS apps and it’s self-hosted. :/

Anyone else have other ideas out there? Seems that there are a ton of companies tackling this problem but no one has really hit the nail on the head yet (for me).  I’ve tried Prismatic and while I think the content it surfaces is pretty solid, I find the UX, scrolling and lack of Instapaper support absolutely maddening. Hopefully Digg (or someone else) does it right.

Note: I also realize this problem is completely non-trivial to solve, that my usage pattern is probably pretty niche and that this is not something I can really pretend to solve in a blog post. Flame away. :)