After having Google Reader for the past 72 hours, my initial "hands-on" reaction is very positive. (Critiques: "Labels" aren't working for me, and there's no way to search within the reader — yet.) But overall it's very easy to use and provides a clean and intuitive way to add, read and manage feeds. The interface and, specifically, the easy and effective navigation — whether moving between blogs/feeds or within them — is very nice.
I used to have eight or nine blogs on my Firefox toolbar, and now I've put them all into Google Reader. The conventional wisdom is that the public doesn't know what RSS is, and the number of users who read news and other information this way is very small. However, Michael Bazeley at SiliconBeat cited a Yahoo! study that contends up to 31 percent of those online are using or encountering feeds yet are unaware of that fact.
Here's FeedBurner's data on RSS reader market share (as of January 2005):
Aggregator Name (Market Share Percentage)
1. Bloglines (32.86%)
2. NetNewsWire (16.95%)
3. Firefox Live Bookmarks (7.78%)
4. Pluck (7.20%)
5. NewsGator Online(4.45%)
6. (not identified) (4.07%)
7. FeedDemon (3.83%)
8. SharpReader (3.27%)
9. My Yahoo (2.58%)
10. iPodder (2.42%)
11. NewsGator (2.23%)
12. Thunderbird (2.13%)
13. RSS Bandit (1.12%)
14. NewsFire (1.05%)
15. iPodderX (1.02%)
16. Sage (0.71%)
17. FeedReader (0.67%)
18. RssReader (0.54%)
19. LiveJournal (0.46%)
20. Opera RSS Reader (0.45%)
The market for readers is young and still wide-open. (At a certain point of market development, however, people won't want to switch readers because they'll be too invested in one — similar to email.) When IE7 incorporates an RSS reading capability (a la Firefox), we'll see what impact it has on these other products.
And now back to Google . . .
I'm not suggesting all these should be folded into one. But having too many "parallel" products will fragment the audience and weaken what might otherwise be a stronger, consolidated offering.
Regardless, the new Google Reader is a nice addition to the tool set.
Related: RSS and newspapers . . .
I've argued that online news is being "commoditized" (except for local news) by news aggregators. To the extent that RSS readers catch on with mainstream audiences that will further accelerate the process and also minimize or eliminate the distinction between blogs and traditional news — to an online reader it will all be information. And while sources are important (and will continue to be) in terms of credibility and trust, I might spend less and less time on news or other content sites and more time with my efficient reader that pulls together and helps me manage the information overload.