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What does Google Reader demise tell us about social media?


March 14, 2013

Doug Hadden

Google has announced the death of the RSS reading Google Reader product. Apparently, this is part of “spring cleaning” to eliminate products whose usage has declined. Yet, Google persists in supporting Google+, a social network that has far less traffic than Google Reader.

Yet another social media fail?


The Google business model is predicated on collecting personal browsing information to sell advertising. Google Reader provides this opportunity because it’s attached to your e-mail account. However, this pales in comparison to the depth of personal information and predictive capabilities in social networks like Facebook. Hence: Google+. Google seems to be hoping that sufficient numbers of users will move from Reader to ‘+’.

Good luck on that.

Social is what social does

There is a serious challenge facing companies that have adapted a monetization method from the previous medium such as advertising. Advertising is a broadcast method. Advertisers operate outside of the network and inject offers.

Social networking is a different environment. There are short-term gains to advertising on social networking because everyone is familiar with older models. But, brand transformation comes from engaging people throughout product and service lifecycles.

Google makes corporate decisions regardless of the impact to users. They kill products. They adapt products in ways that defy user requests. And, they provide most products in a ‘beta’ mode. An ecosystem develops whether these products generate revenue for Google or not.

If Google was a “social” business, they would engage users on the question of Reader usage. They would discover the underlying problems that customers are solving. They would learn what the most appropriate next step might be. Users would feel engaged and pre-disposed to moving to Google+ and other Google products.

But of course, in the Google method of product management, users are simply not qualified to engage.

Leaving, somewhere in the neighbourhood of 10 to 25 million Google Reader users pre-disposed to using anything but Google products.

Here’s storify via the Globe and Mail on the controversy.

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Doug Hadden

Doug Hadden

Executive Vice President, Innovation at FreeBalance
Doug is responsible for identifying new global markets, new technologies and trends, and new and enhanced internal processes. Doug leads a cross-functional international team that is responsible for developing product prototypes and innovative go-to-market strategies.

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