Devon Strawn
Design + Computers

The impact of Google Reader's death

Even if you don’t stan for Google Reader, its shuttering in 2013 is a very interesting case study.

In particular, what happens when a single product owns a category and then just…shuts down?

In this page, I’m collecting stories about what happened as a consequence of Reader’s death.

Bleeding subscribers

Andrew Chen describes how the death of Google Reader decimated his blog audience:

I also learned a hard lesson when Google Reader shut down in 2013, and lost nearly 100,000 RSS subscribers as a result – I had to scramble to figure out how to make sure my readers and others still found me.

100,000 readers lost. In an instant.

Now multiply that times every blog on the planet (especially the tech blogs) and you have a colossal disincentive to blog (or trust Google with your audience) ever again. If you’ve ever wondered why there are so many bitter, cynical comments on forums every time Google launches a new consumer app – this is one of the reasons why.

Permanently damaging Google’s brand

Google has axed over a hundred products, large and small.

Who remembers most of those cancelled products? Nobody.

But very influential people remember the death of Google Reader – quite painfully. Even now, those people lament the death of Reader every time it comes up in a discussion thread. Notice how many folks agree with Andy Baio 1, five years after the fact:

…and this is just one such comment among thousands.

There’s an avid and vocal cohort (of which I am one) that will never adopt a new B2C Google product because they were burned so badly by Google Reader.

Crashing the entire RSS blog ecosystem

Reader was so big, so central to the RSS ecosystem. It literally owned the blog reader product category. When combined with the rise of social media, Reader’s death effectively crashed that ecosystem.

In the wake of Reader’s death, a bumper crop of articles and think-pieces proclaimed the “death of blogging / RSS”.

Understandably, because the most widely-read bloggers saw their numbers drop overnight. With no replacement on the horizon – and social media engagement rising – pundits declared the ecosystem dead and dropped out.

Before Reader died, RSS was ever-present. You couldn’t go a day without seeing an RSS icon on at least one page you visited. Without copying & pasting a blog’s URL into Reader to subscribe…

Now RSS has faded into the background.

  1. (Co-)creator of,, Kickstarter, and XOXO Festival: