Pay for the shit you use. That’s one of the main takeaways from Google’s announcement that it plans to shutdown Google Reader on July 1 and many users’ decision to flock to services that, like Reader, they don’t have to pay for. People traded one service abandoned because it didn’t make much sense as a business for other services that make even less sense, especially because they don’t have the backing of a multi-billion dollar company.
David Smith decided to do something different with Feed Wrangler, an RSS reading and management service available on the Web, iPhone, and iPad. Instead of building yet another free product to replace Reader, Smith has decided to charge Feed Wrangler users $18.99 per year for access to the service.
“I’ve always known that Google Reader was not long for this world,” says Smith, who has been using Reader almost since its introduction. So he decided to develop Feed Wrangler as a backup, essentially building a lifeboat that he’s decided to allow other people to (pay to) use. Charging for the service allows Smith to focus on developing Feed Wrangler and other apps that utilize its back-end and avoid becoming the next Reader. “You give me money, I give you a service,” he says.
Feed Wrangler’s iOS and Web apps are available for free; the $18.99 annual charge is meant to pay for the back-end, not the user-facing clients. Smith says that several developers have reached out to him to express interest in building Android and Windows Phone clients for the service, made possible by the third-party API he intends to release in the coming weeks.
The iOS apps are well-designed, and I was able to import my RSS subscriptions from Reader with no problems — anyone used to Reader or any of the applications built on its API should be able to use Feed Wrangler without a problem. (MacStories’ Federico Viticci has a longer review, for anyone interested.) Smith is currently building a podcast-listening app on Feed Wrangler’s back-end, and says that other applications built atop Feed Wrangler’s foundation could be coming in the future.
“The nice thing about relying on a subscription model,” Smith says, “Is that once I get a customer I now have 365 days to convince them to remain a customer.” Unlike free applications, which have to rely on advertising or hope to be acquired, he says, or paid applications that leave developers “chasing their own tail” trying to attract new customers, a subscription service like Feed Wrangler allows him to focus on refining one suite of products.
Feed Wrangler is, as I wrote above, essentially a lifeboat app that Smith developed for himself and has allowed others to utilize as Reader fades away. Sure, he’s charging for access to that lifeboat, but that’s better than hopping from free service to free service hoping that each one might not sink like the others.
[Image Credit: Feed Wrangler]