Google Reader and Skating to Where The Puck Used To Be

I just wrote a couple of tweets about this, but maybe this is a better blog post subject.

Google Reader is shutting down, apparently because its user base is shrinking and Google wants to focus on fewer products. Because of the huge void this will leave, many startups are rushing to fill the space that Google Reader took up. So far I’ve heard of plans from Digg, Flipboard, Zite (whatever that is), Feedly, and maybe some others.

While this might be a good opportunity for those startups, it strikes me as odd. There’s a concept called being a “fast follower” where you copy some innovative company’s product immediately after they release it. Think of Facebook’s clone of that Snapchat app. What we’re seeing now is sort of the “slow(est) follow.”

I suppose it makes sense to go into a space that you know is going to swell up with demand, but honestly, how much longer does the classic Google Reader style app have left? How much of the original Google Reader market are you going to get? Will you be able to re-create the community that the sharebros loved so much? On top of that, do any of these new products have a solid plan on monetization?

To put it another way, what is the opportunity cost of rebuilding Google Reader (even if it’s a “reimagined” version) versus putting time into another product that might actually be new and useful? At this point, it’s probably not worth it considering how many others are eager to clone Reader.

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