It’s been a few weeks since Google announced that its Google Reader service will be discontinued on July 1st. I believe this myopic approach to cost cutting will ultimately do the company and its bottom line a serious disservice. Here’s why:
As a public company, Google has the burden of meeting quarterly earnings expectations. Faced with the necessity of either cutting expenses or ramping up revenues, it elected to take the former approach, reportedly pulling Google Reader from its lineup as a result of dwindling readership.
While the product may not boast a vast audience, it does attract a very specialized and powerful consumer – Internet mavens. Journalist Martin Brinnkmann aptly described Google Reader’s users as “tech savvy Internet users who are part of the backbone of the Internet community.” These users, he noted, “read a lot of news items using RSS, and when they are done, they start to take advantage of those news items and spread them around as well.”
Shutting down Google Reader has dampened the trust of the very users most capable of disseminating content. While on the surface “spring cleaning” this product to reduce expenses may appear sensible, because the Google Reader audience is so influential, this move represents a grave misstep that may ultimately make great waves. More than 145,000 individuals have already petitioned to Google to keep their beloved service online.
Users of Google Reader are already decrying the new Google Keep as destined to shut down as well; Charles Arthur of The Guardian forecasts a drop-dead date in 2017 based on the trajectory of similar Google products.
A much savvier approach to the earnings problem would have been to incorporate an “advertising feed” into Google Reader, displaying highly targeted ads to Reader users based on their subscriptions. As a marketing strategist, I can attest to the need of clients like mine to reach this base of influential Internet users. Advertisements perfectly timed to appear when these users are consuming news (and therefore highly receptive) could be tremendously impactful.
Such an approach could pay for Reader’s operating costs in spades, and solve Google’s revenues quandary without alienating one of its most important user groups. Moreover, some degree of investment in improving and marketing the Reader over the years may have helped Google to grow the consumer base of this product.
Google – if you’re listening – I want my Reader back.
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