Before Google Reader I would visits websites and blogs on a daily basis to get the latest news on whatever interests I most wanted to read about that day. If I came upon an article or site that I wanted to save for later I would either bookmark it or add it to my del.icio.us bookmarks. And if I wanted to share it with a friend I’d send it via e-mail, IM, or through another social website, but with the introduction of Google Reader that has all changed.
I realized the other day that the features available in Google Reader have changed my internet habits in such a way that I am now using fewer outside sites or services to read my feeds, share articles, bookmark articles, and comment on things people are sharing. Google Reader has for the most part become a one stop shop for me, which is great for me, but could have a negative impact on the sites I read.
Google Reader: My One Stop Shop
First off Google Reader allows me to read blog updates directly in reader, assuming that the feed is displaying the complete article. As long as the complete article is being shared via RSS I never have to actually visit any of the sites which I regularly read.
Second I find myself using social bookmarking sites like del.icio.us a lot less than I did in the past. Instead I can simply star the article in Google Reader and reference it from my starred items at a later time. I’ll admit this isn’t as organized as something like del.icio.us, but being able to search my starred features makes retrieving things fairly simple.
Third I find myself sharing fewer blog posts through social outlets like Twitter, because I can share with my friends interesting articles directly through my shared items on Google Reader. Not only can I share with them, I can also add comments about the article that aren’t limited to a 140 characters. That’s not to say that I’m not sharing articles through other sources, but I am finding that only articles of the highest quality are getting this extra attention. Articles I feel are informative and useful to people, but aren’t really anything over the top incredible will most likely make it through with just a share in Google Reader.
Lastly Google Reader has moved some of my interactions and conversations about articles away from sites like Twitter and into the new Google Reader comment feature. This was a feature that I have wanted from a long time, mostly because if someone shares something I find useful or interesting I want to thank them for it, or sometimes give them my thoughts on it. The ability to comment directly to the person who shared the item in Google Reader is quick and efficient and it doesn’t require me to login or open another service just to comment on the item shared with me.
For me the ability to do all of this in one place is a blessing. It’s much more efficient and it still allows me to store and share information I find useful. However I feel that this comes as a disadvantage to some of the blogs I read. I’m not going to sites anymore, which means I am not seeing advertisements. I’m not storing articles on sites like del.icio.us as much as I have in the past and therefore not passing the value of a network like del.icio.us in terms of links and traffic.
Similarly I am not sharing sites the way I used to. Sites I have to physically visit to read an article will more often than not get a Digg, Stumble, Mixx, or the like because from the site I can use my Shareaholic toolbar to quickly spread the item. I understand that I could consciously do this regardless of whether or not I read the article in reader or not, but for some reason it just doesn’t click for me to do this all the time.
Finally my means of conversation about articles has changed drastically, which greatly reduces the number of people who see my comments about a certain article. Commenting about or sharing comments on articles through means of Twitter and other social websites allow for a great number of people to potentially pick up on the conversation. On Twitter I have 496 followers that could pick up on the story and potentially share it, link to it, bookmark it, etc. In reader I am sharing with 18 people, which is a significant decrease in the number of people which see my shared article.
As a blogger or webmaster this is something to consider when it comes to your RSS feeds. I’m sure I’m not the only person doing this, meaning you are potentially missing out on some great opportunities. To remedy some of these issues I would suggest the following:
- Don’t provide your complete article via RSS.
- Plug ads into your RSS feeds for those who don’t come to your physical site.
- Develop reader call to action. Ask for feedback or peoples’ thoughts at the closing of your posts to entice readers to comment on the post. Commenter’s will be required to visit your site to share their insight.
These are just some ways in which you might improve your visitor traffic and better visitor interaction, but I’m sure there are other opportunities out there.
What are your thoughts? Do you use Google Reader or a similar feed reader? Have you found that it changes the way you interact with some of your favorite blogs and websites? I’d love to hear your thoughts.