Google Reader and RSS have been primary connection to information, both hobby related and not, for a long, long time now. I used RSS before Google Reader, but Reader was such a huge improvement. In my connected world, it's so nice that my subscriptions are automatically synced from my desktop to my MacBook to my iPad to my iPhone. Google Reader also enabled the creation of some truly amazing iOS and Android apps for reading my news feed. These apps were basically created by firms who hacked the API since Google never officially released the Reader API. That's why it shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that Google will be discontinuing Reader by the end of the month. I strongly suspect that the readership on many blogs will drop precipitously when Reader is discontinued. There are many users out there who don't separate the technology of RSS from Google Reader. It is simply what they use to read their feeds.
As someone who leans heavily on RSS for staying up to date with their favorite blogs, I knew I had to look for an alternative. I operate on philosophy that many don't agree with when it comes to web services. I don't trust free. For me to use a free service, it has to be compelling for me to prefer it over a paid service. That's why I'm happy to continue using Gmail and it's why I used Reader all these years. The problem I have with free is that I'm not the customer. I love Gmail, but Google's customer, is not the user. The customer is the advertiser. The customer is the one who pays for the service, not the user. Google Reader was a free service that was used heavily and didn't offer a lot for advertisers. Google is looking to streamline their product portfolio, so it has been discontinued. Google is under no obligation to continue offering this service. They've been criticized heavily for the decision, but that seems bogus to me. Anyone who counts on a free service isn't allowed to be upset when that service goes away.
I'm sure there are many well-written pieces on the replacement options available for users. I'm sure some of them will even be free. (Most likely, they'll be start-ups funded with VC money who won't have any udea how to monetize RSS and will eventually sell out to larger company who will be happy to subsidize it for a little while and will then eventually kill it off. Don't say I didn't warn you.) I knew I had to look for an alternative, but I didn't have to look far.
For some time now, I've been listening to a lot of software development podcasts. My favorite is by a guy named David Smith and is named Developing Perspective. He makes a few awesome iOS apps including My Recipe Book, AudioBooks and Check the Weather. He had started working on a cloud RSS service before Google announced they were doing away with Reader, but once Google made the announcement, he went full steam ahead. It debuted over a month ago and it has already replaced Google Reader for me. The service is called Feed Wrangler and it is awesome.
Here's the thing though: Feed Wrangler is a subscription service. It costs nineteen dollars a year. To me, that doesn't just seem imminently affordable, it seems cheap for the service it provides. You'll have to make the decision to pay for the service on your own. It will even import your Google Reader subscriptions directly into the service. You get access to a web interface to read your feed, and he also provides free iPhone and iPad apps. He's made his service available as an API and many of the best Windows, Android, iOS and Mac apps have already announced they will be adding support for Feed Wrangler to their apps. (I recommend Press for Android users and Reeder for iOS and Mac users.) It's a great service and it seems to get faster and better every week. Highly recommended.
I'd recommend researching the other available options before you settle on a service. There should be any number of free and paid services angling to capture what they can of the Google Reader market. Competition is good and there are very good reasons to select a paid service or a free service. For me, Feed Wrangler hits the sweet spot.
(Have I mentioned that I wrote a trading card checklist app?)