Yahoo Should Seize the Moment and Improve Its RSS Reader

/// Yahoo Should Seize the Moment and Improve Its RSS Reader

March 18, 2013  |  Blog

RSS readers may be the iPod of the web — still viable but past their heyday. For Google, though, the analogy breaks down when you consider profits. Apple still makes a bundle on iPods, but Google never made a dime on its Reader and never will.

That explains Google’s decision this week to kill off Reader. Google has lots of other profitable areas to focus on, so it’s confident enough to ignore the pleas of users who are hooked on the search giant’s news feed. Yahoo’s in a different position. The number three search player is looking for reasons to draw users to its orbit Why not improve its RSS Reader?

Yahoo has an RSS reader under the “My Yahoo” banner, but it’s in drastic need of an update. First of all, it looks like it’s from 2003. Secondly, the newspaper-style format doesn’t make any sense in the Twitter age. Yahoo believed at one time that you would like to see your news feed in source-based windows. Say you subscribed to feeds from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post. Instead of seeing those news organizations’ latest headlines in real time, you see rectangles displaying their last five headlines. This ignores a truth of 2013 media consumption: Readers care less about the source than the headline. (In another anachronistic touch, Yahoo also includes the weather forecast prominently in the feed.)

The inspiration here is clearly portals, a bit of Internet architecture from the early 2000s that were based on the belief that Internet users craved a single page to visit each day where they could receive their daily data dump. Nowadays, we go to Facebook or Twitter for that or, for the next few months, to Google Reader.

But Yahoo now has a huge opportunity to make itself relevant again to the types of consumers who wrote the company off long ago. Now that Yahoo is referring to itself as a tech company rather than a media firm, it can bolster its techie cred with a product that provides utility that Google won’t match.

Yahoo could even add a little extra to the formula when it comes onboarding. As my colleague Lauren Indvik suggests, “Imagine if Yahoo had an ‘Add to RSS’ prompt you could hover over with a: ‘What is this?’ window to explain how you could keep track of multiple news sources, authors, topics, etc., all in one place.” That would address those many readers for whom RSS remains a mystery. Google never put a lot of energy into explaining what RSS is and why a Reader is important, but Yahoo can flex its muscles as a consumer-friendly brand by introducing a whole new group of consumers to RSS.

Even better, RSS adapts very well to the mobile age. After all, many of us consume our news in short headline bursts these days. If Yahoo can offer a viable mobile RSS experience, it might aid CEO Marissa Mayer’s plan to make Yahoo part of your daily mobile routine.

That’s the ideal scenario, at least. In the real world, Google could always bring back Reader if Yahoo proved there was an audience for such a product, or surprise everyone by introducing a better RSS solution. That’s unlikely, though. Google appears to be content to cede this small piece of the market to Yahoo and others. Yahoo should take advantage of Google’s largesse.

Link: Yahoo Should Seize the Moment and Improve Its RSS Reader

Mashable – Todd Wasserman, Business Editor

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