When we talk about the story of Google Reader’s tragic demise, there’s the corporate excuse, the speculation, and the additional speculation. But here’s another possible reason: Google Reader died because Larry Page and the higher ups simply didn’t care enough about it.
And because of that, nobody stepped up to lead the product.
At least that’s one version of the story, according to a report from Buzzfeed. They cite several sources familiar with the matter who say that Larry Page and his “inner circle of lieutenants” simply didn’t see Google Reader as an “important strategic priority.” So when the product found itself without and engineering head, nobody wanted to devote any more time into it because they saw it as a losing horse.
Still, this scenario, while plausible, doesn’t address the deeper question of why Larry Page and his higher-ups had such little interest in keeping Google Reader going.
When Google first announced that they were killing the beloved RSS reader, here’s what the had to say:
“We launched Google Reader in 2005 in an effort to make it easy for people to discover and keep tabs on their favorite websites. While the product has a loyal following, over the years usage has declined. So, on July 1, 2013, we will retire Google Reader.”
Blaming it on user disinterest seemed a bit disingenuous to some, especially considering the massive outpouring of anger and sadness following the decision.
A few weeks later, Google’s Senior Director of News & Social Products Richard Gringas blamed its failure on a shift in the way we consume news:
“As a culture we have moved into a realm where the consumption of news is a near-constant process. Users with smartphones and tablets are consuming news in bits and bites throughout the course of the day – replacing the old standard behaviors of news consumption over breakfast along with a leisurely read at the end of the day,” he said.
Of course, some speculate that it was a money thing, or it was a play to drive more use of Google+, or that Google wasn’t able to mine the right kind/amount of user data from Reader.
In reality, it was probably a combination of some/all of these factors. But it sure doesn’t help if the big guy is completely disinterested in the product.