Where will Google Reader traffic go?

Unless something dramatic happens, Google Reader is shutting down July 1.

A few days ago, I posed the question:

Has anyone written up their expectations/projections re:how the Google Reader shutdown will affect traffic to blogs?

For comparison, when Google makes an algorithm change to Google Search results, it can make or break a business. For a publisher on the web, having an significant source of daily referrals go dark one day is likely to have at least as dramatic an effect as a Google Search algorithm change.

Frankly, I have no idea what will happen, but I will present three possible scenarios regarding what will happen from a traffic perspective.

 Scenario One: “The New Age of Innovation”

As a consequence of the creative destruction brought upon by the demise of Google Reader, a new class of excellent feed reading software is being created. This is a Good Thing from the perspective of a user.

In this scenario the aggregate market size of RSS readers increases, and the net traffic being driven by people directly consuming content via RSS increases. A publisher would hopefully see a changeover in daily referrers immediately, and then a slow but steady increase as interesting new software is built.

 Scenario Two: “Business as Usual”

The people that really care about RSS will migrate to new Reader alternatives. The Reader alternatives will be competing for this passionate market.

In this scenario, the net amount of traffic being driven by RSS feeds will stay essentially the same because the folks who don’t bother to migrate their feeds out of Google Reader weren’t actually using it. Sure, the number of subscribers you conceptually have will decrease, but that matters a lot less than the daily traffic being generated.

 Scenario Three: “Deadweight Loss”

Some percentage of people that are currently using Google Reader will either not bother to migrate to another service, or, if they do migrate, they won’t get in the habit of actually using it.

In this scenario, there will still be a vibrant market for RSS readers, but the total amount of referral traffic currently being generated by Google Reader will drop overnight, and some percentage of that traffic isn’t coming back. A publisher would see a significant, immediate drop in their daily referrals, and perhaps a small increase over time as the stragglers migrate.

 Other scenarios?

Those are the three likely scenarios that I could think of, are there other scenarios that would happen?

If you are a publisher of a blog that was featured/promoted inside of Google Reader, are you more likely to see a traffic drop? Will the traffic change affect blogs with large or small numbers of subscribers more?

I suppose we are about to find out.


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