Back in July, I noted how many RSS readers my sites had. I figured that the July 1 closure of Google Reader, by far the most popular feed reader used by my visitors, would show up in the stats at some point and I wanted to quantify the change.
The subscriber numbers didn't drop for a long time, but it appears they finally are reflected in the analytics on FeedBurner, the service I use to deliver feeds.
Here's the past and current RSS reader counts for my sites and the percentage drop:
Though it's obviously a bad thing to lose a lot of feed subscribers, it's not clear how many of them were actively using Google Reader to follow my sites on a regular basis. Having a subscriber doesn't mean anything if that person isn't reading the feed.
I like RSS and use it often as a publisher and a user, but I expect feed reading to continue to decline and for more sites to offer no feeds at all. Social networks are the way most people find and share things these days. Plodding through a bunch of full-text feeds in reverse-chronological order, as if they were one giant blog, is too much effort for most people.
Though new readers may emerge that make feeds more of a social experience, or reinvent RSS in some unexpected way, the best days of RSS are behind it.
And thus it will go back to how it was in the beginning, with the people who have the skills and chops to scrape web pages making their own feeds for the sites they want to read, and everyone else being left to suffer once again the 100-bookmark dance. That which has been is what will be, and that which is done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.
I don't believe RSS is dead. It just needs to be improved, and that is what I am working on. One such improvement is to make it easier to subscribe to feeds without even understanding RSS. My site has a feed directory that lets people subscribe to feeds with one click. I encourage you to head over and add your own site to the directory. The link is http://feedfiend.com. Best of luck.
If you were using Google Reader before, and you haven't picked another feed reader to replace it, I doubt very much that you were using Google Reader that much to begin with.
With something like 1200 feeds going on (a lot of dead wood, and a few personal ones that might get used in a decade...), I find a reader absolutely necessary.
I'm currently using The Old Reader. I've looked at Feedly. Not unless I have to.
Of course, I originally used Bloglines, which collapsed and drove me to Google Reader (I finally got a handle on GReader to use it to my liking, [read: it trained me]).
So this isn't the first debacle I've gone through. I'm sure it won't be the last.
And since you're counting me at least three times (TOR, Feedly, and goread.io (which I just found has released..))