Has Digg come up with the next Google Reader?

Struggling to replace Google's "most useful tool".

With Google Reader now just two weeks away from being smothered with a virtual pillow by the powers that be at the world's biggest media company, Digg may be coming to the rescue with an alternative.

Social Media site Digg says it has a five-person development team working on a "freemium" alternative (meaning presumably that it will ultimately have some paid-for elements).

The new reader is due to launch on 26 June and will, Digg says offer the following:

  • Easy migration and onboarding from Google Reader.
  • A clean reading experience that gets out of the way and puts the focus squarely on the articles, posts, images, and videos themselves.
  • Useful mobile apps that sync with the web experience.
  • Support for key actions like subscribing, sharing, saving and organizing.

It sounds perfect, so lets hope it works. As Jon Bernstein noted a few months ago, Google Reader is - for many journalists - Google's most useful tool.

For many, Twitter has replaced the RSS reader. And it is certainly true that Twitter is a much better place to go for breaking news because it disseminates stories before they have been turned  into polished prose.

But RSS readers remain for many - myself included - an essential way to keep tabs on the news agenda.

So far I have yet to find a replacement for Google Reader which is anything like as good. Feedly and Flipboard are the two sites which seem to be most widely cited as Google Reader replacements but I find both over-designed and cumbersome compared with the streamlined effortless efficiency of Google Reader (which I mainly use as a widget which sits on my phone).

Here's hoping that Digg's new service fits the bill. In the mean time, can anyone recommend another Google Reader replacement which is as simple and effective as the original?

Google HQ. Photograph: Getty Images

Dominic Ponsford is editor of Press Gazette

Photo: Getty Images
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The Fire Brigades Union reaffiliates to Labour - what does it mean?

Any union rejoining Labour will be welcomed by most in the party - but the impact on the party's internal politics will be smaller than you think.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has voted to reaffiliate to the Labour party, in what is seen as a boost to Jeremy Corbyn. What does it mean for Labour’s internal politics?

Firstly, technically, the FBU has never affliated before as they are notionally part of the civil service - however, following the firefighters' strike in 2004, they decisively broke with Labour.

The main impact will be felt on the floor of Labour party conference. Although the FBU’s membership – at around 38,000 – is too small to have a material effect on the outcome of votes themselves, it will change the tenor of the motions put before party conference.

The FBU’s leadership is not only to the left of most unions in the Trades Union Congress (TUC), it is more inclined to bring motions relating to foreign affairs than other unions with similar politics (it is more internationalist in focus than, say, the PCS, another union that may affiliate due to Corbyn’s leadership). Motions on Israel/Palestine, the nuclear deterrent, and other issues, will find more support from FBU delegates than it has from other affiliated trade unions.

In terms of the balance of power between the affiliated unions themselves, the FBU’s re-entry into Labour politics is unlikely to be much of a gamechanger. Trade union positions, elected by trade union delegates at conference, are unlikely to be moved leftwards by the reaffiliation of the FBU. Unite, the GMB, Unison and Usdaw are all large enough to all-but-guarantee themselves a seat around the NEC. Community, a small centrist union, has already lost its place on the NEC in favour of the bakers’ union, which is more aligned to Tom Watson than Jeremy Corbyn.

Matt Wrack, the FBU’s General Secretary, will be a genuine ally to Corbyn and John McDonnell. Len McCluskey and Dave Prentis were both bounced into endorsing Corbyn by their executives and did so less than wholeheartedly. Tim Roache, the newly-elected General Secretary of the GMB, has publicly supported Corbyn but is seen as a more moderate voice at the TUC. Only Dave Ward of the Communication Workers’ Union, who lent staff and resources to both Corbyn’s campaign team and to the parliamentary staff of Corbyn and McDonnell, is truly on side.

The impact of reaffiliation may be felt more keenly in local parties. The FBU’s membership looks small in real terms compared Unite and Unison have memberships of over a million, while the GMB and Usdaw are around the half-a-million mark, but is much more impressive when you consider that there are just 48,000 firefighters in Britain. This may make them more likely to participate in internal elections than other affiliated trade unionists, just 60,000 of whom voted in the Labour leadership election in 2015. However, it is worth noting that it is statistically unlikely most firefighters are Corbynites - those that are will mostly have already joined themselves. The affiliation, while a morale boost for many in the Labour party, is unlikely to prove as significant to the direction of the party as the outcome of Unison’s general secretary election or the struggle for power at the top of Unite in 2018. 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.