With the closing of Google Reader, a number of people are saying that it isn’t a big deal because they get their news from people on social networks like Facebook and Twitter. Those people are wrong, mostly because they have no idea how a supply chain works.
People may be getting their news from people on Facebook and Twitter, but most of those curators that they are getting their news from use Google Reader as their primary tool for curation. It is similar to saying that people that liked Twinkies won’t be affected by Hostess going out of business because they get their Twinkies from the store, not from Hostess. While it is a little different, since the sources themselves aren’t disappearing, the loss of the primary curation tool will indirectly affect the people who are getting their news on social networks from curators.
True, there are other RSS products out there, though currently none of them match Google Reader, but for the moment a serious blow has been struck to the information supply chain.
Ultimately I think this is a mistake on Google’s part for a few reasons. First, the people that are avid Google Reader users tend to be tech evangelists, reporters, writers, and people who are in general influential in the area of technology and news. Pissing off the influential people that are responsible for covering your company in the news and on blogs won’t be helpful on the PR front. Second, those people and others are much less likely to trust Google products in the future. While other Google products have come and gone, most were short-lived like Wave. Reader has been the dominant product in RSS for years. Google has benefited from a lot of trust and good will, and some of that has now eroded. Third, this could have a negative effect on Google+ (granted, Google+, like fetch, was never really going to happen), since the few people that actually regularly use that inferior social networking product are the tech people they just pissed off.
For now, I’ll be moving to Feedly and hoping it doesn’t affect my curation workflow too much.