WordPress.com Reader: Ready for prime time?

By now, the impending death of Google Reader on Monday is old news. Although the once market leading newsreader service is still used by many, its demise is not a huge loss because there are numerous alternatives available. Among the alternatives is the Reader feature available through WordPress.com. 

WordPress.com’s Reader has received less publicity than other alternatives like Digg and Feedly which are often touted as the obvious choices for Google Reader among users who have hung on to the bitter end. Yet there are several reasons The Reader feature available through WordPress.com is worth considering not just as a replacement for Google Reader but also as a vital tool in any blogger’s arsenal.

First, Reader is incredibly easy to set up. In fact, if you already have a WordPress.com account or profile, you already have Reader. It’s on the Dashboard of every blog you administer. The only thing you have to do to get it going is start following some blogs.

It’s easy to discover blogs to follow, which is the second reason the WordPress.com Reader is a good choice for both readers and bloggers. Reader offer a robust list of categories to choose from to get you started. There’s also the Freshly Pressed section which includes the most recently published content on WordPress.com across numerous topic categories. Being featured in the Freshly Pressed section can result in a huge number of hits to any blog, indication that this is an extremely popular feature among users. You can follow any blog hosted on WordPress.com by simply clicking the Follow button (usually displayed in the toolbar at the top of your window and the impressive search capabilities are almost guaranteed to uncover interesting blogs on WordPress.com for you to follow. Further, you can follow virtually and blog or website on any platform using the WordPress browser extension for Chrome and other browsers.

The third reason the die-hard fans of Google Reader will like WordPress.com’s Reader is that it support OPML so it’s simple to import your reading list from Google Reader (Google has even thoughtfully provided instruction about how to to this). The WordPress.com Reader also supports RSS/Atom which is how the WordPress.com browser extension gains it’s cross-platform following capabilities. 

Google Reader users might actually discover the WordPress Reader does a few things better than their beloved Google Reader. The most notable improvement is the visual nature of the the WordPress.com Reader newsfeed. Full-sized images are displayed in the time line, along with the headline and a brief excerpt making it not just easy to find interesting content but also fun. Best of all, you can choose whether you want to receive email notifications when particular blogs are updated as well as having the updated content delivered to the Reader feed.

The search feature built into the Reader feature on WordPress.com functions beautifully, allowing you to track content in any number of niche topics. Search terms can be saved, allowing you to create your list of subcategories you want to keep track of. WordPress.com Reader also keeps these searches separate from each other and the list of blogs you follow which makes it much easier to prioritize your reading.

The best part of the WordPress.com Reader, however, is how easy it is to reblog content. The reblog button does much more than just turn readers into content curators on the order of tumblr, facebook, google + or other social networks. The reblog feature on WordPress.com lets you add value to the content you are sharing by adding your own context and content as well as republishing the original content linked back to the original for attribution purposes. It is a great way to grow the audience for your blog and provide more content regularly without having to create it all from scratch.

Google Reader is saying goodbye in less than 48 hours. If you haven’t already chosen an alternative service, your time is running out. Before you jump, however, take a few minutes to consider WordPress.com’s Reader. Although it isn’t the only choice you have, it may be the one you like the most because it’s easy to use and does many things better than Google Reader without adding too much complexity to the service. Besides, WordPress is the world’s most popular blogging platform and the Reader feature is actively being developed. Not only is WordPress.com’s Reader ready for prime time, everything indicates it will only be getting better for a long time to come.

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