Two weeks ago, Google put the final nail in the final coffin and buried Google Reader six feet under. We knew the day was coming and many users migrated to other RSS readers like Feedly, but the death of Google Reader really spurred on a conversation about whether we should even still be using RSS. Is RSS still relevant?

It Depends on the User

The concept of subscribing to an RSS feed has always been a little esoteric. It is only a relatively small subset of Internet users who actively subscribe to many feeds, but these savvy individuals tend to be the trendsetters, because they’re the ones who are more likely to keep their fingers on the pulse of the industry.

Speaking for myself, because I actively blog about consumer electronics, I subscribe to many gadget blogs from around the Internet. It would be far too time consuming for me to visit each of these sites individually to look for stories. I still get press releases, but they’re far from exhaustive. To this end, having a news aggregator is absolutely invaluable to me. I also use RSS to keep tabs on posts that I may include in my What’s Up Wednesdays speedlinks here on Beyond the Rhetoric.

The Rise of Social Media

Times have certainly changed since the early days of RSS and one of the biggest changes is the rise of social media. Rather than subscribing to dozens of site that you hand-pick, you simply turn to your friends and your network to tell you what stories you should be reading. Links get shared all the time on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+, and let’s not forget about the news aggregators that also pull in relevant news items based on the activity of your friends.

While social media has become a valuable resource, the initial “share” had to originate from somewhere. Someone may have subscribed to the RSS feed of that site, found an interesting story, and shared it with his or her followers. The story picks up traction and spreads through the social web.

When Twitter and Facebook Aren’t Enough

The problem is that the vast majority of stories and links aren’t going to be shared through social media and it is very easy to miss something noteworthy if you don’t actively keep tabs on the niche or industry of interest yourself. The great thing about RSS is that you can keep a repository of stories from the last few days too, in case you don’t have the time to read every story, every day (most of us don’t).

Yes, Google Reader learned some tricks along the way, but it wasn’t able to learn the most important trick in the eyes of Google: how to make money. Google Reader was a great tool, but it did not provide Google with an adequate monetization model and that is ultimately why they killed it.

Thankfully, there are still RSS reader alternatives out there and, yes, there is still the Beyond the Rhetoric RSS feed too. Won’t you subscribe?