The death of Google Reader will probably be met by most with a shrug. Although its fans are very vocal, it was always a niche product that could only appeal to a certain type of person.
Unfortunately, I am that type of person, and the hole that Reader is leaving is, so far, only partially filled by the alternatives. They do an admirable job, but using a single product for over 5 years will leave a mark that is hard to clear away.
In my search for a new aggregator I am wondering why I feel the need to stay so current with the news. As of this blog post, I have approximately 60 feeds coming into Reader. That’s 60 sites from around the internet that I have pumping news into a single channel. I don’t read every story, in fact I don’t read most, but I do read every headline and scan every picture.
I flip, and scroll and tap those feeds several times a day. Their content ranges from web design news, to software updates, to gaming, to other sites that themselves are aggregators of cool findings on the web.
Why do I do it?
Part of the reason is wanting to stay up to date on trends. Web design and design in general is constantly moving, so I like to keep an eye on those channels. Part of it is my love of new software and techniques. If there’s something new people are talking about, I want to try it. Chances are I’ll install it and move on, but sometimes I’ll find a real gem that goes straight into my tool belt.
The other reason, beyond the technical, is because every once and a while I come across something that changes a little part of me. Sometimes it’s an image, or some new discovery, or the title of a blog post that speaks to me, so I click through. I visit a site I haven’t actually seen in quite a while, even though I’ve been consuming their content the entire time.
I read the article, I scan the comments, I share it with the people around me, and it becomes more than an item in a news feed. It becomes a part of my mind, an ingredient in my personality. It can shape my opinion, or instill a sense of awe and wonder in me. It becomes more than a headline I flip past, it is dissolved into my persona.
When those occasions happens, it’s wonderful. The news reader is a kind of gambling, where the only payment is time and attention, but the payoff is an experience, a story, a fact, or maybe just a smile on my face.
I know I’m just consuming content, but when you get right down to it, isn’t that life?