Feedly: searching and the social layer

Enrique Dans. Professor. IE Business School

16 March 2015

Feedly managed to leverage a gap left by Google Reader and now it has the potential to become a benchmark social reading tool

Let’s get it out of the way now: I like Feedly; in fact, I love it. Aside from being an absolutely essential tool for my work (I would find it very hard otherwise to monitor the contents of more than 50 websites daily without it), I like the way it stepped into the space left vacant by Google Reader, the way it put its users interests first when it came to developing its functionality as a business model, and I am fascinated by the dedication it devotes to interacting with those users. Each and every one of my “moments of truth” in conversations with people at Feedly, on occasions initiated by them, and on others by me, have been a real pleasure.

Feedly is, without doubt, the page I spend the most time on, and is the key to my productivity. I simply cannot understand why RSS readers are not used by everybody. I think that any user, from the professional to the casual, can benefit from having a series of information sources, pages, and alerts set up in an orderly manner in a feeds reader. Each time I explain the concept to a class, my students seem very interested, but I then notice that they very few of them bother to adopt the habit.

I have recently begun to try out two new Feedly features: the first is called Collection sharing, which allows me to let others know about the sites I follow by putting them into a separate folder. This function is still in beta mode, but it is hugely convenient when it comes to giving my students information sources: aside from publishing my own subscriptions, I can open folders along the lines of “living bibliography” on a given subject, in which I tend to include feeds generated by searches on Google News as a kind of cuttings collection on a company or a key word in real time.

I see collection sharing as an incipient social function that could well be developed when one of my shared folders could be the equivalent of “saved for later”, a place in which to put interesting news items, something I currently do through services such as Flipboard or Pinterest, which would be pretty much a recreation of the social functions that older users might still remember from Google Reader.

The second function I have begun to try out, and that has me completely fascinated, is Power search: an ambitious search engine that allows me to index the timeline of your feeds, refine the search by restricting it by appearance of a word in a headline, content, or author, filtering its on the basis of popularity or format (video, audio, document, etc.) and with the possibility of extending the search beyond the feeds that we have in our subscriptions. Since the function was introduced in on January 27, it has become one of the search tools I use most when documenting my articles.

Beyond these kinds of developments, which obviously require a lot of time and resources in a small startup of barely 10 people such as DevHD, the company behind Feedly, it’s clear to me that the product a has strong potential to become one of the social reading tools that are beginning to be developed in companies that aim to create and maintain innovation. Last year I put this to my students on the IE International MBA course as an exam, and I have recently had the opportunity to discuss this with the company: Feedly as a way of creating individual folders in which employees create sources of information for their work, with the possibility of storing relevant information, resending it, publishing it, or sharing it. This is a subject that I am sure we will be discussing again soon.

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