Google Reader recently made the number of subscribers of each feed available to anyone doing a feed search. The results are very interesting.
First I’d like to point out that the people that are going around trying to frantically put together leaderboards (like Techcrunch) are wasting their time. The numbers for certain feeds are highly inflated because Google has included them in their feed bundles that are offered when you click “browse” in the “Add Subscription” area. These preselected groups of feeds are also presented to people trying out Google Reader for the first time. As a result, most Google Reader users will have added 1 or more of these bundles, and many, many people that tried Google Reader once and never went back will have these feeds sitting idle in their list. This makes any leaderboard you come up with unfair and uninteresting. [#1]
However, if we can agree that a significant portion of GR users have added the news and tech bundles, then the number of subscribers of the top feeds will approximate the total number of people that have signed up for GR. The BBC news feed has about 200,000 subscribers and sits at or close to the top of the list. I think we can safely infer that the number of total GR users (all time, including inactive members) is somewhere in the ballpark of this number.
That number is TINY. GR has less than a half a million registered users? With Google behind it? GR is definitely today’s most popular feed reader, so this means that the number of people using a feed reader every day is really still quite small.
Clearly feed reading is still in its infancy.
I say infancy because I think that anyone that’s ever used a reader regularly will agree that it’s really, really, really useful. It’s something you try out and can never go back. It’s a paradigm shift. Something this useful is destined to expand its audience.
As a person that just launched his own feed reader, I take the fact that the field is still immature to be great news. It means there’s room for more players. This is something I’ve suspected for quite some time and it’s part of the reason that I started Feed Each Other.
Another thing that confirms my suspicion is something that one of the Google Reader team members said in that leaked video not too long ago. He said something along the lines of “as our user base grows, bloglines isn’t really losing much traffic. We’re not stealing users from them, but we’re getting people that are new to the game“. The potential audience for feed reading is massive. Anyone can benefit from this technology, young and old. Hundreds of millions of people. We’re just getting started, and I think people are ready for this. It’s the right time.
Whoever creates a feed reader that is fun, easy to use and easy to understand for regular folks is going to be very successful. Obviously, I think Feed Each Other is that reader.
#1 – The ‘popular feeds’ list on Feed Each Other only takes into account subscriptions that have been recently active for just this reason.