With Google Reader shutting down at the end of June, there's a unique opportunity for another company to scoop up thousands of new users if their product can "do the same job." This is a rare occasion where users are being forced to switch products—something that is usually very tricky to achieve.
What does it take to switch?
Bob Moesta and Chris Spiek of the ReWired Group helped me understand just how hard it is to get someone to switch from using one product to another. (You have the same opportunity to learn: jump on it.) Many companies make an implicit assumption that if their new product has more/better features than a competing product, customers will transition to them. That's simply not true; features aren't nearly enough. You need:
- Push: The consumer needs to have some problem or dissatisfaction with the solution they're using now.
- Pull: Your product needs to have a compelling feature set, ideally one that speaks to the problem(s) they're having.
- To address Anxiety: Customers won't implicitly trust you and your offering, and will worry about what bugs/issues they'll run into.
- To address Inertia: Customers have built up habits that will be hard to break. Installed base, existing integrations and behavior habits are all working against you.
The idea is to get customers to move from left to right. Imagine two tall buildings side-by-side, and the the owners of the building on the right built a bridge for people on the left to come over. The building on the right might look nice (pull), though people will be skeptical that it has problems of its own (anxiety). Worse, there's nothing wrong with the building on the left (no push) and moving is a big pain (inertia).
In the case of Google Reader, everyone is being forced to exit the building. It's on fire. The bar is a lot lower to get people to cross over.
Will Facebook build a good Reader?
The "sunset" of Google Reader is an amazing gift for companies who want those customers, since Push and Inertia have been supplied. That said, others have noted a dropoff in Reader usage long before the shutdown, traced back to the addition of a number of social features Reader users weren't interested in. The social element didn't speak to a "job" those users were "hiring for," hence there's an oversupply of technology. They were overserving the market.
Eliza Kern from GigaOm makes a good point that Facebook could easily oversupply in the same way, since social is at the core of their company. We'll find out soon enough, though I hope they've thought long and hard about what people wanted from Google Reader.