The Big Google Reader Reveal

I’ve got a bunch of family coming to town so I’ll be taking a few days off from the blog. Since Google Reader is closing down in 10 days, I wanted to share my replacement plans before taking off.

Here’s what I’m looking for:

  1. Simple interface with previews and quick next post / mark unread functions.
  2. If there’s a “magazine” or “tiled” or other space-wasting view, have an alternative that is simple and clean.
  3. Fast, fast fast.
  4. Business model that makes sense.
  5. Good Android client, or integration with a good Android client.
  6. I don’t care about sharing, integration with social media, etc. I just want a RSS reader, like it’s 2001.

Feedly, which is pretty popular, doesn’t have a business model, and it pushes the Magazine view way too hard (especially in the app) for my taste. Newsblur’s Android client, and really the whole Newsblur experience, struck me as pretty clunky.

I have been using the Press Android client, and I like it, so I started using one of the services they support, Feedbin. It’s a one man operation, but it has a business model ($2 month / $20 year), and I like what he’s done with the app in just a few months. Here’s a screenshot (click to embiggen).

Feedbin

Almost everyone’s monitor is based on a cheap, wide HDTV screen from China, and Feedbin uses it intelligently. From left to right, it shows a list of all your feeds, a preview of the current feed’s items, and then the text of the current item. If you click on the little armchair icon, FeedBin will grab the entire article and run it through Readability, which is a service that gets rid of all the junk on a site and formats it as text and pictures. It works pretty well.

Feedbin also has keyboard shortcuts, which sounds nerdy, but once you learn a couple, you can fly through your feeds. I’ve been using it for a little under two weeks, and there’s been zero downtime, and it’s always fast. The downsides are that it doesn’t display YouTube videos inline (I contacted the developer and he said he’s planning on that after the big Reader switch over), and I’d like a way to mark articles as read in the center column without clicking and loading the right article (but that’s a minor quibble).

The Apple RSS app Reeder, which gets good reviews, also uses Feedbin for syncing.

If Feedbin’s author keeps up the pace of upgrades and fixes, I’m thinking it will be pretty close to perfect by the Fall, but if not, I can export my feeds and use another client. I’m sure that many of you have tried other alternatives than the ones mentioned here, so go ahead and share them below.






37 replies
  1. 1
    OC says:

    I’ve been looking for a decent android RSS reader but I can’t find anything I like. I love the gReader layout and how you preview each article and select the check box for removal. I think it’s a great set up and I’m disappointed no one else has tried to replicate it. I agree the Feedly app pushes the magazine style way too hard. Has anyone found a phone app similar to gReader?

  2. 2
    gnomedad says:

    I like Bloglines / Netvibes on a browers; should probably try Feedbin.

  3. 3
    Jean says:

    I am not the most sophisticated user, but I do love NewsBlur. I didn’t at first, but since switching I have found it very navigable, it seems to have ways to do anything I can think might be useful, and (best of all to my mind) it allows you to load text or story views for blogs that abbreviate feed posts (which I hate, since an abbreviated feed defeats the mission of a reader). I don’t use the social media aspect of NewsBlur at all, but it is great for the 300+ blogs I stay in touch with. I paid for a subscription when Google announced that Reader would be going away and will happily renew. I only read on my laptop, so I don’t know how it works for people who like to read on phones.

  4. 4

    I went to NewsBlur because I can read it at work.

  5. 5
    jeffreyw says:

    I don’t use a feed reader app but I can second the rec for the Readability thing. I use the Firefox extension on my PCs and the Android app on my tablets and phone. It’s installed on my Touch and works fine but I never use the Touch for anything but podcast playbacks through a bluetooth headset while I mow.

  6. 6
    Brother Machine Gun of Desirable Mindfulness (fka AWS) says:

    I’ve actually started using something called Prismatic. It doesn’t just do feeds, but also pulls in stories based on my preferences. Pretty cool, but probably too 2013 for your purposes.

  7. 7
    Rook says:

    Since I use Firefox, I installed an add on called Feed Sidebar. It’s rather simple, does have a few limitations, but overall is a great RSS reader. It sits on the side of the browser, but can be closed if you don’t want to see it. You also get control of when it updates or if you just want to manually have it check.

  8. 8
    Ben Lutgens says:

    I use tt-rss, which has a nice android app. The android app works for a week or something then you gotta buy it, i think it’s a dollar or two, i forget. Both are very good IMHO.

  9. 9
    Punchy says:

    Can we get a SCOTUS open thread in the next 15 mins, since a lotta peeps are expecting the VRA and/or mandatory gay marriage to be announced today?

  10. 10
    BGinCHI says:

    So basically I monitor a bunch of web sites (less than 10 I’d say) by putting them in the bookmarks bar and then clicking on them or keeping separate tabs open. Obviously I’m doing it wrong?

    A reader would just make this more organized, right? What am I missing?

    I have to admit that one reason I don’t make it easier to read more really interesting stuff is that I would never get as much writing done if I was reading all the time….

  11. 11
    Thlayli says:

    @BGinCHI:

    Same here. I’d never heard of Google Reader until everyone I follow on Twitter started screaming about its going away.

  12. 12
    Todd says:

    @BGinCHI:

    So basically I monitor a bunch of web sites (less than 10 I’d say) by putting them in the bookmarks bar and then clicking on them or keeping separate tabs open. Obviously I’m doing it wrong?

    A reader would just make this more organized, right? What am I missing?

    I have to admit that one reason I don’t make it easier to read more really interesting stuff is that I would never get as much writing done if I was reading all the time….

    I don’t get it, either. I’ve got about 4 different places I routinely look at in a day in between tasks, and will occasionally glance at others. If I did more, I’d never accomplish anything.

  13. 13
    Shinobi (@shinobi42) says:

    @BGinCHI: The RSS reader only shows you new posts from those sites, and all in one place. For instance this morning I saw this new post on BJ and clicked over to come here. But many times I just read the post, I’ll only actually visit the site if I have something to say. It’s useful if you read a lot of blogs that are frequently updated.

  14. 14
    J.W. Hamner says:

    I’ve been using Feedly since they announced the shutdown and basically hate it, but feel like that’s a feature not a bug since then I won’t cry if they close up shop. I think it gets the job done once you set the defaults, and I actually like the more visual presentations for all the food blogs I follow… though obviously it’s terrible for blogs like this one.

  15. 15
    Roger McCarthy says:

    I really just want something that clones Google Reader but the only one I’ve seen that comes even vaguely close is The Old Reader

    This however semi-fails on 3, 4 and AFAICT 5 on your list: its not fast at least not to set up as I actually had to wait for days before it finished updating my OPML (although having tens if not hundreds of thousands of people trying to do the same immediately after the announcement when several tech sites recommended it would account for that), doesn’t have any business model at all other than hoping for donations and while they are working on an API its still only in beta.

    However until someone does come up with a total clone of Google Reader its the one I’ll stick with.

  16. 16
    Shinobi (@shinobi42) says:

    I”m switching to THe Old Reader, largely because I loved google reader before they changed it. The thing I missed the most is the sharing between other users. I used to have 10 or so friends who all shared stuff from their feeds and we all really enjoyed that. I was pissed when they tried to force all of that into google plus, which never worked.

  17. 17
    Guillaume says:

    I love Bazqux.com, because it displays comments for blogs, Wired, and other sites (not all : it’s not working with BJ for example)
    It’s also fast, with a compact UI

  18. 18
    J.W. Hamner says:

    @Shinobi (@shinobi42):

    It’s useful if you read a lot of blogs that are frequently updated.

    Huh, I would say exactly the opposite. I find it most useful for blogs that don’t update regularly. Balloon Juice updates at about the limit of what I think is reasonable in a feed. Much more and it’s like a job to keep up and I’d be “marking all as read” all the time and so what’s the point? For me it’s best for blogs that update once a week or less so I don’t have to keep checking back to see if something new was posted.

  19. 19
    call me ishmael says:

    No love for Brief? Runs as a firefox extension and is free. Does pretty much everything you need.

  20. 20
    Countervail says:

    I too have been using Feedly since they announced the Reader shutdown, I also have the same concerns about quirkiness but attribute it to liking my Google Reader experience so much that something else is hard to live with. That said, the main reason I went with Feedly is that they announced several weeks ago that they were developing their own API to replace Google’s, which they did yesterday. And from that they’ve partnered with a number of third party readers that you might already use on different devices. It’s a small list for now, but I expect that to continue to grow. So you’re not really limited by Feedly as a program as more and more readers take advantage of the partnership. Feedly in a browser though does support your wish list though, including now their partnership with gReader for the Android client. http://techcrunch.com/2013/06/.....goes-live/

  21. 21
    BGinCHI says:

    Thanks for the responses above. As I figured.

    There’s something to be said about resisting some technologies because you have things that are time-consuming and painstaking that have to get done. Writing can tolerate some diversion but it has to be kept to a minimum. Usually I can check email and see what you lovely people are doing and not much more.

    If I was in a minimum security facility I would definitely use one of these readers.

  22. 22
    Shinobi (@shinobi42) says:

    @J.W. Hamner: I find it useful for both. There are a few blogs that update a lot that I just skim (ones with economic data that they update frequently.) I do pretty much mark BJ read on monday AM though.

  23. 23
    Trinity says:

    @call me ishmael: Thanks!

  24. 24
    Wayne t says:

    Try “The Old Reader”
    http://theoldreader.com/

    It’s exactly like Google Reader.
    Imports all reader feeds, works great and is free.

  25. 25

    The gReader Android app (not Google Reader, but a third-party app) is already plugged into the Feedly back-end and works great. Very streamlined utilitarian UI, and much better than the Feedly app (which tries too hard to look pretty and has very poor usability).

    An Android app that I like even better is Reader HD. This one is supposed to be hooked into the Feedly backend soon, but isn’t yet. The developer of Reader HD (called Age of Mobile) also has already setup their own backend called Ridly (which has a Web interface and work ok, but is really spartan), and they claim that Reader HD will ultimately work either with Feedly or Ridly backends.

  26. 26
    Dennis says:

    Feedly has a setting that makes all feeds display in the “title-only” Google Reader style, so the complaint that they push the magazine view too much seems like a lazy criticism. It also has the Reader keyboard shortcuts, so I really don’t notice much difference.

  27. 27
    MAC says:

    NewsBlur’s Android app has gotten much, much better with the recent updates (I can finally view and read my saved stories with this last update) and the dev is actively working on upgrading the app.

    I am also really starting to like NewsBlur’s story training. You can ‘train’ stories as you read, giving thumbs up or thumbs down to entire feeds, authors, tags, or keywords in the title. So I can flag things that I know I’ll want to read, and there’s a focus mode where it will only show you the flagged stories. I didn’t think I was going to use this at first, but I decided to try it out and I’m glad I did. It’s a nice option to have when I’m pressed for time and have a ton of stories to filter through.

  28. 28

    The Feedly mobile apps have no offline support. gReader and Reader HD both do, although Reader HD’s is much more functional than gReader’s (which fucks up formatting and stuff badly in offline mode).

    Feedly obviously has some people on staff who went to graphic design school or whatever, and convinced the developers that it “looks better” to do things like render unread counts in teeny tiny dark gray type on a light gray background. Even their Web app for incomprehensible reasons renders article text in gray instead of black. That shit might be fine for users with twenty-thirty year-old eyes, but not for anyone older than that.

  29. 29
    Tractarian says:

    Meh. I’ll go with the free Feedly even if it doesn’t have a convincing “business model.”

    I’m using it to read blogs, not investing my kids’ college fund in it.

  30. 30
    beergoggles says:

    I’ve been using Feedly with the #latest added to the top so it gives me the feeds like google reader used to. I also use Feedly because it syncs between the desktop firefox addon and my android phone and tablet feedly clients.

    I love the look of old reader on the desktop but it just doesn’t work well on my phone.

    For a while I tried importing everything into google currents but despite looking pretty, the functionality and ease of use of reader was lacking.

    So yeah.. Feedly till something better comes along. I don’t like it but it’s customizable enough to get by.

  31. 31
    mistermix says:

    @Dennis: I used Feedly for a while but the title-only feed wasn’t as nice as FeedBin’s. The mobile app, when I used it, was very much about the magazine view.

    @MAC: Good – they’re probably my #2 choice if Feedbin/Press doesn’t work out.

  32. 32
    Lex says:

    @Roger McCarthy: What Roger McCarthy @ #15 said. I just don’t read RSS on my phone or tablet (both Android) anymore because I’ve found nothing free that duplicates the basic functionality of Google Reader in an intuitive way.

    And, yes, the OPML migration delay was caused by hundreds of thousands of people moving from GR to TOR at once.

  33. 33
    JTy says:

    If you’ve got a server (or a website, really), Tiny Tiny RSS is super easy to install. Anything with PHP enabled will run it. Your computer might even be able to host. Heck, you could even toss the files into balloon-juice.com/rss and it’d be up and running…

  34. 34

    I’ve been using The Old Reader, but there is no Android reader yet—you would have to use a browser. The business model is selling Android readers and taking donations. If you like their product and have the money give them some love.

  35. 35
    Helio says:

    I’ve tried a bunch of them on Android. Taptu is by far the most useful and logical. The ability to group is awesome. For example, I group my favorite blogs – Digby, Cole, Duncan, TPM, and Kos into one feed. The barely tolerable but interesting sometimes, like FDL and Sullivan on another. The uproariously venomous Wonkette, Driftglass, the Rude Pundit and the like into another. Geek Tech into another, SF into another, Guitar blogs etc.

    Handles photos and video great. jumps to the website with one click, and (unlike any of the others) jumps back without detours.
    Works really well on Android.

  36. 36
    Darkrose says:

    I’ve got Feedly installed, but I really don’t like it. I prefer my feeds to be text; if I want to see the images I can go straight to the blog.

    Feedbin seems pretty cool; I went ahead and gave them $20. Anyone know if they have a Chrome extension?

  37. 37
    Quicksand says:

    Yeah, yesterday’s thread, I know, I know… but I have been getting up to speed on Feedly, and so far it seems OK.

    Dump the magazine view and use title view, then use the keyboard to navigate:

    J … J … J … J … you can burn through the list pretty quickly. Install flashblock and use this Adblock Plus custom filter:

    $domain=feedly.com,third-party,image

    And you’ll get no images in your feed. Just text.

    The iOS apps are pretty meh, but Newsify runs on the Feedly API, and it offers offline caching.

    All the web app needs is SSL, and I’ll be happy. I’ll gladly pay for that feature.

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