I’m normally not one to panic. Nor do I enjoy all the woe-is-me melodrama and hyperbole of our modern era. But I'm struggling to remain calm right now, because for a certain segment of the content-consuming society, next Monday is doomsday. A beloved friend, a close confident, a pal of five years, will be no more.
I refer, of course, to Google Reader. The tech giant of Mountain View, California has seemingly caved to the cat-and-meme-loving masses and is folding this niche product forever. For those who have yet to experience the bliss and ease of an online reader, the idea is to fundamentally transform the way you consume “content” (yes, that horrible word). A reader like Google’s plucks all the articles and posts from your favourite websites and consolidates them into one easily digestible feed. Think of it like an instantaneous subscription to your favourite sources, accessed in a single place.
But alas, my reader of choice is soon to close and I've run into a bit of a conundrum.
I’m an extreme case, a news junkie of the most neurotic order. Information overload is my natural state and preferred condition. I revel in opinion polls and death tolls, although I don’t enjoy the latter. I need an update on the situation in Syria before my morning cup and the latest clips of Berlusconi before bed, thanks very much.
So again: what to do? It’s the common question of my close friends, aware of my dependency. And the answer? I don't know.
I could switch teams. There are, of course, other services both old and new. And growing hordes of imitations are waiting to take the top spot. Option two is to kick back and go news-less for a while, and see how long that lasts me.
But for some reason I’m attracted to another option. Why not just abandon ship altogether? Ditch the feeds and return to a simpler time, circa 2008 for me, a time of enjoying articles and news in their own proper place: a website. They’re filled with structure and design, a carefully-considered balance of text and images and empty space where articles are curated, edited and arranged by someone who’s spent an abundance of time and effort to make it look just right. A website, that fundamental building block, the atom to the internet's quantum craziness.
A website, after all, not a reader, is the natural habitat of words online. Though surfing from site to site takes more time, a website is where digital words should really be read, the slow food option to a reader’s frantic fast-food routine.
Since it's summer, a diet like this may be just what the doctor ordered.
Daniel Giacopelli is a producer for Monocle 24.