Interview: We chat with Cyril Moutran of Feedly

Google may be going to shut down its Google Reader RSS service on July 1st, but other RSS reader companies are reporting a massive surge of new customers, which shows that the feature is still in demand among Internet users. One of those companies is Feedly, which announced that it added a whopping 500,000 new users in the first 48 hours after Google revealed it would be closing Google Reader.

Neowin got Feedly's Cyril Moutran, the head of its product and strategy, to answer our questions about the company's current and future history, including Feedly's plans to offer Windows 8 and Windows Phone apps at some point.

First, for the people who might not be familiar with Feedly, can you give us a background on the company's history?

Feedly was founded in 2008. We are a small team of 10 serial entrepreneurs. We are passionate about design and building innovative products. As more and more devices surround us in our daily live, we saw a great opportunity to rethink how to best access the wonderful content of the web across all these devices.

The RSS feed is still a part of most websites, yet there seems to be an attitude that with the rise of Twitter and Facebook it is old fashioned. How does Feedly respond to that kind of attitude?

We believe there is still a great need for Open Feeds like RSS and Atom. With Feedly, and other mobile readers, there is a whole new set of applications that are making feed reading accessible to a larger set of internet users. Content does not start on Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest. Feedly users are usually curious people who are selective about what and when they want to consume information. They are designers, writers, teachers, researchers, developers, moms, students busily feeding their minds, connecting dots and sparking new conversations. Open Feeds (like RSS/Atom) are their sources of content. They are the users who share the best content on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and other social networks.

Open feeds, like RSS and Atom, allow for a lot more personalization than Twitter or Facebook do. For instance if you want to track specific auctions on eBay, new apartment listing on Craigslist, specific coupons no RetailMeNot, each user has different filtering needs. This is not something you can do on Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest. Also, web feeds allow for very rich content, and very niche topics. For example if you are a baker, or interested in making your own bread, you have wonderful sites like http://tartine-bread.blogspot.com, this is not the type of content you will find on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and only very partial links would be shared on the social networks.

Can you give us an idea of how many people downloaded your mobile apps and your web plug ins and how many new customers has Feedly signed up since the Google Reader announcement?

Prior to the Google announcement, we had over 3 million Feedly users. In just the first 48 hours after the Google announcement, over 500,000 new users selected Feedly as their Google Reader alternative. We quickly jumped to the top news app across all the app stores, and since then, we've seen huge amount of downloads.

What can you tell us about your plans to create a Google Reader type of service for Feedly, Normandy?

A lot of Feedly's early adopters were Google Reader users. Among our users we have many professionals that read feeds to keep up to date with the latest news in their industry, learn new skills, or get inspired for projects they are working on. Google Reader was the tool early adopters were using for that, even long before Feedly, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest came into the picture. Over the past year, It seemed obvious that Google started to shift resources away from Reader, and was not improving the product anymore. We saw that as a great opportunity. About 6 months ago, we started on an ambitious project of building Normandy, a whole backend that could replace Google Reader as a platform for content centric applications.

Do you have any plans to launch mobile apps for Windows 8/RT, Windows Phone 8 and/or BlackBerry 10 at some point?

All three have been requested by users, and are in our plans.

There are quite a few RSS services and apps out there. What makes Feedly stand out from the rest?

Feedly stands out by its acclaimed designed, its ability to process truly any feed on the web, and to sync reading across devices. 

Can you give us any hints about what else Feedly has in the works?

Next is a major update of Feedly mobile (both iOS and Android). Stay tuned :-) 

Finally, is there anything else you wish to say about Feedly and its future?

We do intend to offer a Premium version of Feedly. We are not quite ready to announce the details behind the Feedly pro version, but very soon. We have had a lot of requests from our users, who want us to have a Pro version. It is not specifically about any feature, but more about the fact that they see Feedly as a key app in their daily routines, and as they are ready to pay for Dropbox and Evernote, they would be willing to be paying for Feedly as it is today. The monetization model goes beyond a pro version. At Feedly we believe in the future of open feeds like RSS and Atom. With Open Feeds, as opposed to Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest, content lives distributed on the web, can be highly personalized and anyone can participate. But one of the main problem of RSS and Atom have been the lack of support for monetization, for both publishers, and developers of content centric applications. Feedly intends to lead in that space with Normandy, and offer support for premium content feeds.

We would like to thank Mr. Moutran for answering our questions!

Images via Feedly

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9 Comments

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Unless, oddly, that company is Digg and the whole Internet tells them to screw off.

See, we want competition, but only the competition we approve of.

Joshie said,
Unless, oddly, that company is Digg and the whole Internet tells them to screw off.

See, we want competition, but only the competition we approve of.

What happened with Digg? Last heard, Google accidentally removed them from their search.

Joshie said,
Unless, oddly, that company is Digg and the whole Internet tells them to screw off.

See, we want competition, but only the competition we approve of.

That's sorta how the free market works dude

Majesticmerc said,

That's sorta how the free market works dude

Spare me, please.

This is cool kids logic. Something is hip, then it isn't, and SHALL NEVER BE AGAIN UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES.

Regardless of the degree of innovation or customer focus, if a product is delivered under a brand that consumers have dismissed as out-dated or uncool, the product, too, is dismissed.

GoDaddy could fire their entire executive staff, start over from scratch, and implement revolutionary new business models, and they would be stamped out by a petty and spiteful internet community that talks about elephants and SOPA the way people talk about Nazis.

MySpace could launch a truly open, universal, new kind of network that puts privacy first and people would LOLWUTSPACE.

There's a widely held belief in fifteen minutes of fame for tech companies--that you have a small share of spotlight while you're a scrappy young start-up, and then your time is up. Period. There is no recovery. You may get some attention from hipsters in a few years, but you will never be mainstream again. Eventually you'll be absorbed by a conglomerate to die, because users have the sort of attention span that makes Twitter appealing and a Neowin article that Ars posted 12 hours earlier "old news".

techbeck said,

What happened with Digg? Last heard, Google accidentally removed them from their search.

Just searched digg and found digg.com...I know the community hates them for some reason...then reddit came along.

That's because the internet lacks forgiveness. It's the same problem that we have with our privacy. Nothing is forgotten, ever. But it's not a problem limited to the internet, it's simply more visible. Restaurants live and die by their customers. One case of food poisoning makes it into the news and it's all over for you. People don't forget poor customer service and poor value for money. There's no denying that the internet exacerbates this issue for online services, but that's just how it is.

Over in the UK our biggest brick-and-mortar entertainment shop HMV recently went into administration, simply because they were late. They didn't take advantage of the internet, and Amazon took all their sales. Then, even after HMV started offering a competitive online service, and even a loyalty card, people didn't come back, and now their business is in the toilet. There's still hope for them, since they're not completely bankrupt and still open in some locations, but it's highly unlikely that they'll ever be the force they once were.

Also, you're example with GoDaddy is flawed, if only for the fact that they're still one of the biggest (if not THE biggest) domain registrar/host on the net. So they're not exactly crying over the crap they pulled. In the end, no-one really cared about their stance on SOPA.

Anyway, I digress. The market decides what thrives and what dies out here (mostly). If you screw around with people and then go out of business, even after radical changes, TOO ****ING BAD as far as I'm concerned, your changes obviously weren't radical enough. The market has spoken, and even if it's unfair, that's unfortunate, because the consumers said otherwise. There's no get-out-of-jail card here, there's no bail out fund or "too big to fail" mentality, just customers and an abundance of choice.

There's an abundance of examples on the web of sites that have stood the test of time, and gone from being hip to being genuinely big companies. Google being the most prominent one (contrary to the anti-Google leanings of Neowin). Facebook is a six year old, billion dollar, publicly trading company. Ebay, Amazon, Flickr, Twitter, and so on. All companies that have gone from being scrappy startups to full blown companies. Mainly because they didn't **** off their customers, and also because they knew how to suitably grow and stay ahead (or at least alongside) the game.

TL;DR: If you take a dump in the pool, you're sure as hell not going to be invited back in a hurry.

Majesticmerc said,
...

Thing is, that doesn't describe core free market principles. That describes flighty and flock consumerism. Being human nature, it isn't something to approach as a 'problem', exactly, but I'd never pretend that the way the market works is *virtuous*.

I think there are some interesting lessons to be learned from studies like the Mojave experiment--blind tests give incredible insight into what consumers think they want vs. what actually dictates their decisions. In any market, put the raw specifications of the choices on a table, brand free, and I imagine it wouldn't be uncommon for the winner to be a product that would fail in the real market.