Social Proof: The Most Formidable Force Driving Content

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In a world of socially curated news, there is no place for RSS. I wrote last year:

Social streams solve the problem most RSS readers faced: the inbox with 1000+ items to read and no way to sift through them.

Socially curated news syndicated through social networks (Facebook, Twitter) and content networks (LinkedIn, Quibb, HackerNews) solves the relevance problem that RSS never could address.

Brian Shih, former Google Reader PM, wrote an excellent, passionate post-mortem on the product on Quora, where he underscores the importance of the social forces at play on Google Reader.

I think the reason Google always wanted to pull the Reader team off to build these other social products was that the Reader team actually understood social … But after switching the sharing features over to G+ (the so called “share-pocalypse”) along with the redesigned UI, my guess is that usage just started to fall - particularly around sharing.

To succeed as a content producer or as a content consumption product, embracing and mastering social proof and sharing is critical. Ignore these forces at your peril. Google Reader wasn’t the first to fall at the hands of social distribution nor will it be the last.

Unless Google Reader is wholly reinvented with social proof and sharing at its core, any effort to extend Google Reader’s life is only a temporary stay of execution.

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