Can Facebook profit from Google’s disloyalty?

Lately, each time I open Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) Reader I get this popup:

“Just a reminder

Reader will not be available after July 1, 2013. Please be sure to back up your data.”

This irks me to no end. I have come to lean heavily on Google Reader to help me develop story ideas and to keep abreast of timely business news. I have set up Reader to work for me in a way such that I don’t have to think too hard to use it. Much like breathing.

Yes, I know there are plenty of other RSS reading sites and applications, but for someone who doesn’t like change — I will admit going into a deep funk after Google once experimented with putting photos on its wonderfully un-distracting search page — this is a truly serious wrinkle in the fabric of my working world.

And I’m sure I’m not the only one dreading July 2.

But let’s not go deeper into the rabbit hole of my own OCD idiosyncrasies. Let’s examine how Google’s treacherous — sorry, I mean well thought out, I’m sure — business decision could affect other companies in the information dispersal biz.

Still struggling to fulfill its IPO promise
As if Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) isn’t already the pervasively, invasive 900-pound gorilla of our social media-driven world, it is now, according to reporting from The Wall Street Journal, working on a mobile visually formatted news aggregation service it calls … Reader.

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg proclaimed last March at the launch of Facebook’s redesigned News Feed that Facebook will be “the best personalised newspaper in the world.” That still remains to be seen, of course, but the news aggregation vacuum left behind when Google Reader goes six feet under, could be filled by an aspiring Facebook service.

But how could Facebook make news aggregation pay enough to help boost its stock price, which is currently only two-thirds that of its IPO price from a year ago?

If a Facebook reader service was to skew what it presents to its users in response to their online connections, wouldn’t that make a user’s world smaller, not larger? And what good would that do for a user — such as myself — who wants to concentrate on the things he or she needs to know, not what Facebook wants us to know?

LinkedIn (NYSE: LNKD), a company that, unlike Facebook, has actually seen its stock price go up since its IPO (indeed, it has doubled), has already bought itself a newsreader. In April, LinkedIn bought the Web and mobile newsreader service Pulse, for US$90 million.

LinkedIn said it bought Pulse to turn it into the “definitive professional publishing platform — where all professionals come to consume content and where publishers come to share their content.”

But the thing is, I want and need the least distracting, least cluttered place to do my work research. Anything that keeps asking me to view my Facebook friends’ cat pictures, or, like LinkedIn, constantly offers me jobs it thinks I might be interested in, just wouldn’t work for me.

Reader, I will miss you. Thanks a lot, Google.

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A version of this article, written by Dan Radovsky, originally appeared on

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