If you were a fan of Google Reader, feel free to join me in a moment of silence today.
As of midnight Monday morning, Google officially "retired" its RSS reader product—a move it announced several months ago in a characteristically short and to the point blog post. Since that moment, users of RSS readers—online tools that aggregate news and information from various sources—have been anxious about their alternatives. Sure, Google will allow you to save your subscription information through its little known data exporting feature called "Google Takeout" (not an April Fool's joke!)—but that's just a stopgap. The world needs something to take its place.
Thankfully, social bookmarking site Digg announced shortly after that it would be willing to fill Google's Gap. Several days ago, Digg launched its invite-only Digg Reader product to anyone who asked for it. Starting with a target audience of "Google Refugees," the site is already generating some rave reviews. Not only did it jump on the opportunity that Google offered, but the method it used to do so can teach you a lot about how to take advantage of the gaps that your own competitors might leave in your market, and the opportunity that offers to grow your business. Here are three of the biggest lessons:
1. Never forget that timing is everything.
Probably the biggest reason for the viral success of the new Digg Reader so far is the timing of its release. Thanks to Google's departure, the moment was perfect for another brand to come in and fill the void. Digg was one of the first to publicly focus on this, and launched its first beta release of the reader out to initial users last week—plenty of time in advance of Google Reader retiring today. By getting the timing right, the Digg Reader is poised to take a leadership position in the world of RSS Readers. There is no substitute for being first.
2. Make promises you can keep.
Reading launch communications from the Digg team through its blog posts, one thing that's immediately apparent? The team has a roadmap for what it will be working on next. Beyond just having a plan, though, the brand makes a public commitment to what features and enhancements it will provide in the future. This public commitment builds more trust for its brand and drives its team to deliver. In Digg's case, making promises online could offer exactly the type of incentive the brand needs.
3. Be willing to grow beyond your niche.
Digg's foundation has always been in social bookmarking, and its audience was always tech enthusiasts. When the idea of Digg Reader was launched, it became an opportunity for the brand to expand in a new direction. The site was also recently redesigned to skew more visual—the new RSS reader also offers a perfect segue for introducing the shiny new site to different potential users.
Sometimes your competitors have a product that competes directly with yours and it's hard to stand out. That's a situation most business owners are familiar with. But sometimes you get a gift instead. Like Google Reader, that gift might involve a gap that your competitors are leaving in the market—either intentionally or unintentionally. When that happens, not only do you need to be able to spot it quickly—but using these tips might help you take advantage of the situation, just as Digg did.