A breakdown of two major alternatives to Google Reader (feedly & bloglovin)
If you breathe blogs as much as I do, or even if you follow just a handful, the discontinuation of Google Reader is sad news. In case you’re wondering what the hell I’m on about, Laura at Hungry and Frozen has a good description of what feed readers like Google Reader do: “reading a lot of blogs can be a little taxing to the modern brain, so Google Reader lets you view them all in one place – a bit like subscribing to a lot of newspapers and magazines which then arrive on your doorstep every morning, rather than having to go to the shops every day to buy them all individually.”
As someone who now follows 380+ blogs from various genres (food, style, other lifestyle, politics), I wasn’t about to make a migration decision lightly! So, here’s my personal breakdown of two bigguns, based on a bit of research I’ve done online and from actually using the two, both on my laptop and on Android tablet (and some phone notes, but I have a Windows phone, so can’t be particularly comprehensive). Hopefully it’ll help you choose one that best suits your personal situation.
The feedly crew knew about Google Reader’s impending demise, and basically aimed to be the arms that lost GR users would leap into. And boy are they nice arms. As someone who follows what is probably an abnormal number of blogs, I felt spoilt for choice. However, it’s not necessarily for everyone:
To transition to feedly, install the browser extension, log in to your Google account, and in the blink of an eye, everything is imported and ready to go. However, because it’s a browser extension, it’ll only work with some browsers – Chrome & Firefox are good to go, but if you’re stuck using IE, then stop reading now and use bloglovin or something else.
The bloglovin transition is even easier at first than feedly, because it’s all done without a browser extension. However if you follow lots of blogs, the importing takes significantly longer. No clear winner either way I’d say – it depends on your personal situation.
Usability, design & customisability
The first thing that hits you with both is that they’re much prettier than Google Reader. I’d argue though that feedly is better designed, and certainly MUCH more customisable, than bloglovin. Here’s what feedly looks like without me editing any of the fonts or colours, on both tablet and laptop:
…and zoomed into how content is displayed, here are the four options you get:
Venturing into “themes” and “preferences,” you’re all of a sudden presented with a huge array of options you never even thought were possible or important, until they become essentials and you feel like a feed reader snob.
One thing I personally prefer too is that feedly maximises the space on your screen, but others might find that a little too cluttered. Just comes down to personal preference. If you follow a lot of visually-oriented blogs, feedly also seems to do a better job of showing you a sample image. I’m adoring the magazine view, which lets me skim through lots of blog posts in a much more visually captivating way than Google Reader ever let me do.
If you want to skim quickly, feedly also has an option where articles are marked as read as you scroll past them, which you can turn on or off. On bloglovin, you have to manually mark each as read, or mark everything as read (whether you’re viewing by blog or date).
All that said, bloglovin is ideal if you don’t follow lots of blogs, don’t have major preferences about customising, and have a serious aversion to tinkering with settings. On a desktop/laptop, you get one view, and that’s it. Sometimes it doesn’t pull the image very well either (see below – the image is portrait oriented, but instead of grabbing the centre of the image, you get the top half). If you use a tablet or phone, you can only view as a list of the blogs you follow (pictured below) or a feed of unread items, with a small thumbnail to the left and title/excerpt on the right.
Picking a winner in this department depends on what kind of blogs and social networks you participate in. Facebook and Twitter sharing is easy on both feedly and bloglovin, but feedly doesn’t have a pinterest button. Not a big deal for me personally, but it might be a write off for serious pinners.
One thing both reader lack is the ability to share entire feeds with your friends. Just above my Creative Commons garble in my right hand sidebar, you’ll see a link to my food feed, which is pretty cool. I can’t for the life of me figure out how to get these urls for either feedly or bloglovin, which is a shame, because I’m not about to manually put hundreds of links to my favourite blogs on my sidebar.
Other downsides and upsides
There are still a few things that annoy me about feedly. I can’t turn off “featured” articles in magazine view, use feedly on my Windows phone, or seem to be able to determine if reads in feedly count towards a blog’s readership/stats. Also, this didn’t happen at first, but now I’m being prompted to log in almost every day, which is ok since I don’t have to enter a password or anything, but it’s still a bit irritating.
Bloglovin on the other hand stays logged in, and because you can “visit” it like any other webpage, it doesn’t matter what operating system or browser you use, you’ll be able to access it. Major thumbs up for this. On the other hand, I personally find the way they have kept things so simple is a bit dumbed down, making it hard to optimise your reading experience.
Personally, I can only recommend bloglovin if you for some reason can’t use anything but Internet Explorer, don’t follow lots of blogs, don’t have preferences about customisation, and have a serious aversion to tinkering with settings. Even so, there’s no harm or major investment in trying feedly. Their magazine layout has drastically increased my use of my feed reader, and has really helped me keep on top of the hundreds of blog I follow. Ultimately though, it all depends on your personal circumstances.
Is there a major feed reader I’ve missed that’s also free and blows both feedly and bloglovin out of the water? Or have I missed something with these two? Let me know in the comments! In the mean time, if you’re not convinced about either of these, check out the comments section of The Kitchn’s post that includes a whole lot of other suggestions.