Mario Sundar

LinkedIn's 2nd PR hire. These are my thoughts on products, public relations, and startups.

Time has come to change how we read

Google Reader is dead. Long live reading.

If you are from the real world and happened upon posts from any-and-every tech blog, you wouldn’t be mistaken in assuming that today marks the demise of the written word, now that Google’s offed Google Reader.

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Image Source: Business Week

But as Joe Coscarelli of New York Magazine, notes, most people don’t know Google Reader from Google Currents, less so care about its disappearance:

As a blogger this might be blasphemy, but the online echo chamber when beloved products, however esoteric, change or shut down is out of control. Worse, it might convince us, through repetition, that these things matter. Regardless of what your social media circles might indicate, the universe will not mourn Reader because the amount of people whose job (or even hobby) it is to consume and process news is actually minuscule. Thankfully.

As a matter of fact, in their rush to tease out the minutiae, I fear we have missed the big picture. There is a fundamental disruption happening in how news is consumed.

Many apps (Digg, Aol, Feedly) are scrambling to jump on the RSS bandwagon by touting their next Google Reader but fact is we are already seeing attempts at more efficient ways to consume news.

And RSS is only part of that story.

What’s the New TiVo of News?

Matt Buchanan of The New Yorker, writes of the problem that ailed Google Reader:

But a feed reader still represents a fundamentally different vision of gathering information than the social model that has gripped the Web. It is largely a single-user enterprise—a digital monk diligently scanning feeds. And it is intensely focussed on the Web sites most important to the user, rather than the omnivorous grazing that characterizes scanning news on social media, as links are surfaced by the people the user follows.

Fact is most of the sites I recommend below have moved away from the RSS-only model while curating social content, in many cases with a lil help from an expert – a trait most successfully used by Gabe Rivera and his trinity of popular news aggregation insider sites Techmeme (Technology), Memeorandum (Politics), and Wesmirch (Celebrity).

As Matt says:

Everybody consumes the Web differently, so it’s hard to imagine a single reading service that works for every person. But it seems reasonable to think that one combining a person’s deep and abiding interests with the serendipity of social media could work for most.

But the future for news readers is brighter than ever and here’s not one, not two, but five different reasons why:

1. Flipboard

The one news app I cannot live without today would have to be – without doubt – my Flipboard.

Flipboard pulls together the disparate threads of news that course through our ubiquitous social media world and makes gorgeous sense of it. Everything from your LinkedIn to Facebook updates, YouTube to Instagram (even SoundCloud), and most importantly, your Twitter followings are displayed in an elegant magazine like format. It’s the kind of design one normally expects from Apple, and Flipboard’s attention-to-detail here is impressive (Follow their designer, @craigmod).

The important distinction to make here is that Flipboard is primarily a consumption device. Though it provides you options to tweet or update your status on any of your social accounts, the beauty of Flipboard is its visual clarity and the ability to on-board you with great news right away.

2. Feedly

For those hard-core Google Reader users who fret-and-fumed since the announcement-to-shutter was made, Feedly has been a god-send. Not only has Feedly invested the most in making this a smooth transition for users, they have also made the most gains among the same user base (up to 3 million users now). In addition, they now support lost RSS reader tools (like @reeder and @newsify) stay alive.

From a user perspective, what feedly has done is provide a quick replacement for Google Reader with a blazing fast cloud service, which you can find at Feedly Cloud. What’s most shocking to me in this whole scenario is why Google didn’t transition those influential Google Reader users to Google Currents – their Flipboard wannabe – the same way Flipboard did!

What Feedly does with its aggressive push into the Google Reader space remains to be seen, but I’d watch out for what they have up their sleeve next.

3. Newsify

All great news consumption apps start on mobile. Flipboard set the standard and, believe it or not, Newsify and Reeder are two similar apps with similar credentials.

RSS subscriptions, unlike the real-time ephemeral nature of social, add up pretty fast in an inbox and what you found is that you had to declare news bankruptcy pretty soon, deleting days worth of RSS content.

What you need is a pictorial, almost Pinterest-like, visualization that allows you to skim through hundreds of posts while picking out the ones that seem most interesting. If it’s 4.5 star app rating is any indication, Newsify seems to have nailed that experience for the iPhone and the iPad.

4. The Modern Op-ed: Quora and Medium

What Huffington Post successfully started, Quora and Medium have tried to emulate. The goal: to find and amplify excellent sources of authoritative analysis, with topics ranging from breaking news to expertise across varying categories.

While Quora is focused on news-via-experience, Medium seems to have perfected the art of the modern op-ed, democratized it while still maintaining its quality.

But what all these sites do is take the traditional news model and flip it on its head by finding commenters, whose comments are the starting point to creating worthwhile reading, and giving these individuals a platform to write and a community to pontificate.

5. Social News: Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn

Finally, the elephant in the room. Social.

Let’s not forget that all of the above innovation rests on social.

What would Flipboard do without Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and LinkedIn feeds. Would their pages be as interesting or even exist?

Most of what I follow on Flipboard are Twitter lists I’ve created. Most of what most people follow on Flipboard are also built around links shared on social sites. With LinkedIn already showing how a successful social news product should be built around relevance and Facebook clearly showing its cards with what could potentially be a social news engine, we can see the direction that social news is gonna take in the coming years. And it’s gonna be a game changer.

So let me leave you with a question:

How do you get your news today? Is it on Yahoo News or Flipboard or Twitter? Do you read news primarily on your phone as you are boarding the train or on your desktop once you get to work or with a New York Times subscription while you drink coffee in the morning.

Leave me a comment.

Filed under: Curation, Facebook, Journalism, Medium, Quora, Social Media Tools, Tumblr, What's New in Social Media

The Death & Rebirth of Bookmarking (E.g. del.icio.us)

Gone are the days when bookmarking came to signify one company – del.icio.us, now a property of Yahoo! The site  along with Wikipedia signaled the emergence of sites that tapped into the Wisdom of the Crowds. However, I noticed that I’ve stopped using delicious a while back. And, so I asked my twitter audience who among them used Delicious these days.

Here’s a sampling:

Mike Sansone/Iowa (Twitter id)

I don’t use delicious as much since the redisign (tho that’s not why), I’m finding I can easily bookmark on GoogRdr & FrndFd

Aurelio Montemayor/ Texas (Twitter id)

yes…our editor just held a second session on D. It’s helped me organize my favs and also accesses other’s favs

Damon Garrett/ South Korea  (Twitter id)

Inertia ties me to Delicious. Probably other ways to sync + tag b/marks, but it works. Not sure of the true social benefits.

Scott Drummond/Australia (Twitter id)

why not?I find delicious handy for tagging stuff I want to read later and for sharing stuff with certain firneds only.

My bookmarking strategy and what may have killed delicious?

First off, I notice a certain ambivalence about bookmarking sites in general from the above responses and my bookmarking strategy may offer some answers.

There are two kinds of bookmarks in everyone’s life:

1. Personal bookmarks (Home/Work)

Private bookmarks that I don’t want shared across the world. A Firefox extension called Foxmarks does a decent job of syncing my personal bookmarks between work and home – even going so far as creating a separate profile for each. Hopefully, in the future, Mozilla will get their act together with Weave, achieving something similar.

On a larger scale, I think the ability to share articles I read both on Facebook (via Posted Items) and LinkedIn (via News) enables me to broadcast my bookmarks among a larger yet still private social network of mine.

2. Public/Shared bookmarks

Google Reader, which I’m addicted to, makes it super easy to share articles I read (both inside and outside of Reader). Plus, everything shared/bookmarked is searchable and publicly visible on a Shared Bookmarks page.

Here’s where it gets better. Using a cool service called Twitterfeed, I can then populate my Twitter feed with the articles I share on Google Reader! Facebook too, allows me to import my Google Reader page. So, more than 2000 of my followers get to read what’s on my mind via my bookmarks.

Bottomline: As Damon mentions above, not many people are aware of the social benefits of delicious anymore. This, combined with the emergence of effective alternatives (search and social networking sites) may have doomed delicious.

But, hey, that’s just my take. What in your opinion killed delicious? Or, do you think, they’re alive and kicking. Drop in your $0.02 in the comments section below.

Filed under: Curation

go.t del.icio.us?

I was planning a post on podcasting (…again) but instead decided to make this a brief post on the http://del.icio.us/ event that was organized yesterday by proud parent Yahoo! at their headquarters in Sunnyvale.


(From l – r: Me, Nicole, Jeremiah, Chris, Kim)

I crept in towards the close (Thanks, Jeremiah, for the reminder) but I was glad I did since I got another opportunity to meet a bunch of cool bloggers. Here’s the “who’s whom” I met:

1. Dave McClure – The Master of 500 hats himself: It’s always great chatting with Dave. Currently he is building buzz around a new startup he’s focused on – oDesk. They have a very interesting premise to their business and one that truly proves that the world is indeed flat. Check out more on oDesk here.

Co-incidentally, oDesk will host the next version of Lunch 2.0, which will be a sequel to the hugely successful Hitachi version.

2. Kim: Couple of interesting facts about Kim. (1) Kim’s been blogging for 6 years (ya, you heard me right). and (2) Kim is also well known in the Bay Area for organizing art/geek events such as “Blogger Idol 2.0” where bloggers get to sing/dance their way to stardom. Well, I dont know if I got that right? However, I look forward to the next Blogger Idol event!

3. Nicole Simon: It was great meeting Nicole, author of three different weblogs and creator of a podcasting channel! Had an interesting conversation on the future of podcasting, videocasting and the death of television!

Feel free to check out Nicole’s many blog avatars here (personal), here (web 2.0) and here (podcast).

4. Greg Galant: Had a brief conversation with Gregory Galant, CEO of Radio Tail (blog), whose recent iMedia article I had discussed in this earlier post of mine.

…also had a chance to just say “Hi” to Chris Heuer, Kay Luo, Jeff Schwartz … I look forward to chatting more with them at future events.

Well, I did want to talk a little bit about this cool new data aggregator – netvibes that I started using recently, but I guess it’d take an entire post to describe what a great tool for marketers it is (think lead generation 2.0). So, stay tuned.

Filed under: Curation

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