April 15, 2008

ReadBurner Fired Back Up With Revamped GUI, Reader Integration

ReadBurner is back... with a serious makeover

The short history of ReadBurner, Alexander Marktl's pet project aimed at finding the most shared items on Google Reader has already been one of many twists and turns. First, it was discovered before planned launch, forcing Marktl into a wild one day scramble. The site rapidly gained followers, and competition, aiming to seize onto the shared links tabulating trend. But suddenly, Marktl went silent and on March 5th, said he was to shut the site down for good, or so we thought, only to see it resurrected less than ten days later, following the site's acquisition.

Now, under new ownership, ReadBurner is back with a bang, offering a dramatically improved UI, and a wealth of new features highlighting popular items and sources, as well as the most innovative new wrinkle, full integration of Google Reader within the site, making it more sticky as a destination site than ever, and keeping it one step ahead of Benjamin Golub's RSSMeme, who in ReadBurner's absence, aggregated more shared links feeds than anybody outside the walled garden of Facebook, where Mario Romero's Feedheads app reigns supreme.

The first thing you'll notice with the new and improved ReadBurner is its shiny Web 2.0 look, courtesy of PixelTalent. The new site embraces bright neon orange and blue, making it tempting to wear shades simply to browse the site. Maybe that's the idea, as ReadBurner tries to take what's honestly a very geeky application, on the fringe of blog reading and recommending, and make it seem "cool". Let's be honest though, talking up ReadBurner at most parties outside of Silicon Valley won't get you too many dates.

There are three major ways to filter the news, from the Popular (most shared in the last 48 hours), Upcoming (most shared in the last 24 hours) and Most Recent (a fire hose of shared items in near real-time). This is not new. But what is new is the way ReadBurner has now developed Categories (including an Apple category), Sub-Categories and in a TechMeme-like shift, "Related Items". Now, stories in the system are viewed based on their content, and they can be grouped together in story listings and individual item pages.

For example, Steven Hodson's WinExtra post (ReadBurner link) features similar stories from Mashable and SheGeeks. The other stories may not actually link to Steven in the way TechMeme's grouped stories tend to, but they are on the same wavelength.

ReadBurner shows related items.

Also new for ReadBurner is the ability for a blog owner to track their own site and how often items are shared. RSSMeme has long had this feature, (see: RSSMeme/louisgray.com) and now ReadBurner is doing the same (see: ReadBurner/louisgray.com). I've found this approach to be a good measure, beyond page views, as to which stories are best reaching my audience.

An item from louisgray.com on ReadBurner.

But while this seems intriguing on its own, the new ReadBurner team isn't done. From day one in version 2.0, they've added comments capability with Disqus integration (yes on the headlines and excerpt only, not the full story), as well as detailed statistics showing the top sources, as measured by total shares per story published (Example: 50 shares divided by 8 stories would have a score of 6.25). Unsurprisingly, like with TechMeme and RSSMeme, the household names are dominating this list, from TechCrunch to ReadWriteWeb, Lifehacker, Boing Boing and Gizmodo leading the way.

And integrating Google Reader is a great touch. Why go just to the Google Reader site if I can be one click away from ReadBurner? In combination, the pair offer a compelling destination for RSS goodness. I'd considered suggesting to the FriendFeed team that they should go the same way, but ReadBurner looks to have beaten them to the punch.

ReadBurner and Google Reader as one.

Outside of Feedheads, ReadBurner kicked off this rush to shared link aggregation, and with the help of a few friends, it should be back and on course. Be sure to watch the site closely as they continue to add users, tweak the algorithm and find new ways for distributors to leverage their data. We will be. Check them out at www.readburner.com.