When Google announced earlier this week that it would shut down Reader, it cited declining use as the reason. But user outcry, including a petition with 100,000 signatures, suggests that lack of interest in the product isn’t the whole story.
Some leaked code for Google Play, parsed by the Android Police blog, suggests that Google will launch mobile news subscriptions to compete with Apple’s lucrative Newsstand. Newsstand allows users to buy digital subscriptions of magazines, including many which aren’t freely available online.
Some publications for sale in Newsstand still offer RSS feeds. By abandoning Reader, and its own RSS add-on for Chrome, Google will make it more difficult for readers to obtain all the content from a particular source without paying for a subscription.
A former Google Reader product manager offered a different, but complementary, analysis on Quora. Brian Shih argues that Google repeatedly endeavored to pull technical staff from Reader and reassign the staffers to social products., he says.
Shih’s account suggests that Google saw Reader as competition for Google+. The company may want its users to rely on Google+ to get more Web content in one place.
If these accounts are true, Google is giving users two alternatives for finding and sharing content — subscriptions or ad-hoc sharing on Goolge+. Both deliver more revenue than Reader.
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