Feedly gains 3M new users after Google's RSS death warrant, plans paid subscriptions

Paid option, to debut this year, will offer more features, possible integration with Evernote, Dropbox

Feedly, which today announced it has added more than 3 million new users to its free RSS service since Google decided to retire Reader, said that it plans to offer a paid option this year.

"Over 3 million new users have joined Feedly since the announcement of the retirement of Google Reader," the company said in a blog post. "We are ... adding hardware as quickly as we can to make that transition as seamless as possible."

The Palo Alto, Calif. company also said that, while basic services will remain free, it intends to launch a premium, subscription-based version of Feedly this year.

"There will always be a free version of Feedly, but we have heard from a significant proportion of our users that they would be willing to pay for Feedly," said Cyril Moutran, co-founder of Feedly and its head of products and strategy, in an email. "They love and depend on our service, and want to make sure Feedly will be there in the future."

The belief that free services are ephemeral, and like Google's Reader, can be easily abandoned, was strongly expressed by many bloggers in the aftermath of Google's announcement March 13 that it would axe Reader and its RSS synchronization service on July 1. Google cited declining use for the decision to retire Reader.

Those pundits, saying they'd been burned by Google, suggested that it made more sense to trust companies with for-fee services because they were more likely to survive long-term, and more responsive to paying customers.

Moutran did not disclose release timing of a premium version of Feedly or the company's thinking on prices, but said it would include new features for what he called "power users."

"We have also heard from our power users that they would like deeper integration with other services they use and pay for, like Evernote and Dropbox," Moutran said.

Those two services, Evernote and Dropbox, use the "Freemium" business model, which relies on free accounts to collect users, but requires a paid subscription for more features or data usage.

Feedly's claim of 3 million new users today was a six-fold increase from the half-million the firm reported adding in the first 48 hours after Google's Reader revelation.

Feedly also updated its Android and iOS mobile apps today, adding new gestures to retrieve an updated RSS feed, a user-promotion feature dubbed "Must Read" that pushes those feeds higher on a list, sharing support for Google+, and a title-only view to accommodate Google Reader users, who are familiar with condensed lists.

The free Android and iOS apps are available on the Google Play and App Store, respectively.

Feedly, whether accessed via a mobile app or a desktop browser -- it offers plug-ins for Chrome, Firefox and Safari -- also sports a new feed search engine that, the company said, searches more than 50 million feeds and integrates Feedly users' behavior, including searching, following and categorizing feeds, to improve results.

The company was one of several that has benefited from Google's planned euthanasia of Reader but has scrambled to both accommodate the immediate surge and figure out how to replace Google Reader's back-end infrastructure and sync service by July 1.

Like many other RSS services and applications, Feedly currently relies on the Google RSS feed. However, Feedly has pledged to move users to a homegrown clone of the Google Reader API (application programming interface), code named "Normandy," before Google's services goes dark.

"You will get migrated to the Feedly Normandy back end before July 1," said the company on its Twitter account Sunday. "We will notify you when the migration is finished."

Others have made different plans. Reeder, a popular RSS application for Apple's iOS and OS X operating systems, will support Feedbin, a $2/month RSS service. But its Swiss developer, Silvio Rizzi, said Friday that his app will support other back end services as well.

"There seems to be some confusion about the future of Reeder," Rizzi said. "@feedbinapp won't be the only new service. It's just my favorite so far."

NewsBlur -- like Feedly, often recommended as a replacement for Google Reader -- has dealt with the increased traffic by barring users from signing up for new free accounts. Instead, it offers a $24/year subscription to the service.

"The immediate benefits of revenue have been very clear over the past few days," NewsBlur's developer Samuel Clay said March 17. "Not only are NewsBlur's interests aligned with its users, but as more users join NewsBlur, it makes more revenue that can be used to directly support the new users

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@ix.netcom.com.

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