We had a mild panic attack last night after discovering that our beloved Google Reader would be shutting down on July 1st, 2013. From the outcry on Facebook, Twitter and every other social platform, it doesn’t sound like we were alone!
Like many food blog readers, we’re addicted to our Google Reader account- relying on it for our latest culinary updates from the hundreds (literally) of blogs that we follow. After hearing that Google Reader would be shutting down we went out to see what else was available. With a basic list of criteria in mind, we fearlessly ventured into the world of Google Reader alternatives, evaluating services on the following:
- Google Reader ease of transition
- Organization & layout
- Mobile/cross platform experience
After filtering through all of the options, two contenders stood out from the crowd: Bloglovin and Feedly. We’ve compared these two services in a head-to-head battle to see which “RSS service reigns supremes”!
Google Reader Ease of Transition
The ability to easily transfer your existing blog subscriptions and folders into a new service is essential. Like us, you’ve probably spent hours (days? years?) importing blogs and organizing Google Reader to meet your personal tastes. Who wants to redo all of that work? Not us, that’s for sure. Let’s take a look at how Bloglovin and Feedly handle the transition.
After creating an account on Bloglovin’ you have the option to import your Google Reader data using a subscription.xml file. This file can be exported from Google Reader using Google Takeout and following these instructions.
After successfully uploading your Google Reader subscription.xml file, we found that our subscriptions transferred over just fine. The problem is that, as of right now, Bloglovin doesn’t transfer over your folders so you’re left with just an alphabetical list of subscriptions that you have to re-organize. If you don’t use folders in Google Reader, this may not matter to you, but if you do, this hurts. We’ve heard that Bloglovin’ is working on a better syncing process with Google Reader so we’ll keep you posted on what that means.
- Ability to import Google Reader subscriptions through an XML file.
- Folders don’t import.
- Requires the use of Google Takeout to create your subscription.xml file. An added step that would be nice to remove.
Feedly requires the installation of a browser extension or plugin for each browser you use. Older browsers (I’m looking at you Internet Explorer 8 users…) aren’t supported , so if you’re not on a modern browser like Safari, Firefox or Chrome, then you’re out of luck.
After installing the browser extension, all you have to do is login using your Google Reader username and password, let Feedly have the appropriate permissions, and click “OK.” Automagically, all of your RSS subscriptions (and their folders) are transferred over with one click. Pretty darn easy.
- One-click, easy Google Reader migration.
- RSS subscriptions and Google Reader folders are imported.
- Feedly requires permissions to access your Google Reader data.
- Can’t be used with older browsers such as Internet Explorer 8.
With one-click Google Reader migration that supports your existing folder structure, Feedly is the clear winner. Importing your Google Reader data can’t get any easier than this.
Organization & Layout
Bloglovin and Feedly are significantly different in terms of layout and organization. At first glance, they’re both beautifully designed in their own right but after a bit of tinkering around, here’s our impression of what’s behind the curtain.
The layout is clean and minimalistic, taking design elements from both Tumblr and Twitter. A list of your blog and groups are shown on the left sidebar with the main section reserved for a Tumblr’esque browsing experience showing the latest posts from the blogs you follow. Blogs can be organized into groups which essentially create folders on the left sidebar. Once you do all of this, it’s very similar to Google Reader.
Within Bloglovin’s interface, you can only see a preview of a post. Clicking on the preview opens up a new browser window that loads the original blog page with the “Bloglovin Bar” at the top. This allows you to click between posts and “like” a post, but we found that loading the page with the bar tends to be pretty slow. You can turn off this option in the Settings but then you’ll have to click back and forth between browser windows. The one advantage of this for bloggers is that since you can only see a preview within Bloglovin itself, the blogger gets an extra pageview every time you open up a full post.
- Clean, minimalistic design that is easy to navigate.
- The layout and feel will be familiar to people who use Tumblr and Twitter.
- Snappy response when browsing through your subscriptions using the left sidebar.
- Decent ability to organize subscriptions into groups
- Bloggers will get more pageviews than with Google Reader
- Full posts can only be viewed in a new window that loads the original site, either with or without the Bloglovin bar. This will be annoying for people who like to quickly click between posts.
- Not a lot of customization options for users who like to modify the appearance and feed settings.
Feedly also has a clean layout. It doesn’t feel as minimal as Bloglovin and has a touch more polish to it. In general, it’s very easy to navigate. Switching between blogs and posts is quick since full posts can be read within Feedly, similar to Google Reader. Feedly provides various post browsing layouts to choose from, such as displaying a list of post titles (text only), viewing posts in a Pinterest style card format, as well as several others. Feedly can cater to a wide range of user preferences, from the “I only want to see text” user, all the way to the “give me pictures. I love Pinterest” type.
Blogs can be organized into different categories. If you use folders in Google Reader and have synced Feedly with your Reader account, then you’ll see those folders in the left sidebar.
- Lots of customizability with layout and visual appearance.
- Clean yet sophisticated design.
- Decent organization system using categories.
- Full posts can be viewed within Feedly.
- Bigger learning curve (compared to Bloglovin) for the navigation and visual customization.
This one is too close to call and most likely comes down to personal preference. Personally, we’re leaning towards Feedly, but we think that some people will love the simplicity and lack of options available with Bloglovin. If you’re use to Tumblr and Twitter then you’ll be more comfortable with Bloglovin compared to Feedly. The full post reading was annoying for us, since our reading preference is to quickly navigate between posts, but we understand that a lot of people enjoy reading posts from the original source and will appreciate this feature of Bloglovin.
Bottom line is that if you want a simple, clean layout, with few options (distractions?) and enjoy reading posts from the original source then Bloglovin will feel good. If you want more control over visual customization and the ability to quickly browse between posts, then Feedly is most likely for you.
Mobile/Cross Platform Experience
The great thing about Google Reader is that your subscriptions are accessible from any device on pretty much any platform. This functionality was a must have for us, as I’m sure it is with most of our readers. Whether we’re on our Android device, iPad, iPhone, Windows or Mac computers, we want access to our RSS subscriptions!
Bloglovin has a iOS app for iPhone that they advertise. Being an Android user I haven’t tested their iOS app yet so I can’t speak to it. Bloglovin’ didn’t advertise an Android app, but after a quick search in the Google Play store I was able to find it (it would have been nice to promote it on their site!). For those interested, here’s the link to the Bloglovin Android app.
The Android app has basic functionality, showing a list of my subscriptions, and giving me access to popular content within the Bloglovin’ network. We have the same criticism for the app as we did for website, which is that full posts are loaded on their original sites. Because every site loads at different speeds, this makes the app more clunky to use. In general, the Android app is sluggish and doesn’t have much of an advantage to navigating to the Bloglovin’ webpage from your phone’s browser. In fact, the mobile browser version of Bloglovin appears to be almost identical as the app itself.
- Bloglovin can be used in any browser and doesn’t require you to install a plugin or extension.
- Has Android and iOS apps (though we only test the Android app).
- The Android app (if you can find it in the first place) is sluggish and offers little advantage to the mobile version of the site.
Feedly offers apps for Android, iOS and Kindle; however, we only tested the Android version. It’s obvious that Feedly spent a lot of time designing their Android app. It’s slick and polished, with obvious consideration given to the user experience. Similar to their website, full blog posts can be read within the Android app and content loads quickly from our experience.
- Apps available for Android, iOS and Kindle devices.
- The Android app is very well designed – it makes you want to open and use it.
- Feedly isn’t usable in older browsers like Internet Explorer 8.
- Requires you to install an extension or plugin on each browser you access Feedy from.
Feedly wins this round because of the pure awesomeness of its Android mobile app. Again, we’ve only compared the Bloglovin’ Android app against the Feedly Android app, but this battle was like circa 1985 Mike Tyson up against Ricardo Spain – a fight ending 39 seconds into the first round. Maybe the iOS version of the Bloglovin’ is more polished than the Android version, but Feedly has a far superior Android app. If anyone has used the Bloglovin’ iOS app, please let us know in the comments.
And the Winner is….Feedly
In our short time with Feedly and Bloglovin, our preference is Feedly. The highlights for us were the fantastic mobile experience, the super easy Google Reader transition (importing subscriptions and folders), and the customizability of the visual experience.
Ultimately, they’re both great platforms and reasonable alternatives to Google Reader. We recommend trying both and seeing which is better suited to your reading/subscription style.
In general, Feedly is a great Google Reader alternative if you:
- Want an easy way to transfer your Google Reader folders and subscriptions.
- Want customizability over the layout.
- Browse quickly between posts and don’t regularly read from original sources.
- Regularly use a mobile device to access your subscription content.
- Frequently share content to a wide range of social networks.
If you prefer something simpler and more familiar, then Bloglovin’ could be for you. Bloglovin is a good RSS service if you:
- Use Tumblr and/or Twitter and like their clean, minimal, familiar layouts.
- Use Internet Explorer 8 (but please… it’s time to upgrade!).
- Primarily read your content on your computer, since the app (Android app at least) is sluggish.
- Haven’t spent a lot of time grouping your subscriptions in Google Reader and don’t mind manually categorizing them in Bloglovin’.
- Want to share your list of subscriptions with other people and discover new content through the Bloglovin community.
We’re going to continue using both services over the next few days and will provide updates. We’re also planning on trying the iOS versions of the apps.
Have you tried Bloglovin and Feedly already? Which service do you prefer?
Is there a service you think is a better Google Reader alternative? We’d love to hear your thoughts!