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Instapaper, Digg, and the Social Reading Revolution

In the ensuing months after Google made the decision to unceremoniously discontinue Google Reader (which is,  in this journalist’s opinion, one of the best news-gathering methods around), panicked users have made the mad scramble to find a suitable replacement before the plug is pulled this July.

But perhaps our best option for a new reader isn’t even out yet — and it comes from a pretty unlikely place.

Well-known startup developer-turned-budding publishing company Betaworks is making a serious gambit to change social reading as we know it today. Last year, the company snapped up forlorn social news aggregator Digg, and gave it a new lease on life. Today marks the company’s follow-up acquisition of Instapaper, a stunningly simple article saving service that has been known and loved by journalists and the broader public for years. With both companies now under the same umbrella, it’s no surprise that Betaworks is planning on somehow revamping newsgathering on the web.

But how? Well, filling Google Reader’s shoes is a great start.

Back in March, when Reader was given the ax, TechCrunch reported that the Digg team hinted at a new answer for the traditional RSS reader. The allusion to the new product included a promise of something more than just the standard reader, incorporating news from Reddit and Hacker News onto a light and flexible application with more customizable options than your standard reader.

Now, staring in the face of one of the biggest tech acquisitions this year, it’s hard to not get excited about what the Digg team has up its sleeve now that it’s supercharged with Instapaper’s powers. One could imagine a way to automatically subscribe to a website after saving an article for later, or creating a special RSS fetcher that automatically saves articles from a given source. Factor in the idea of social sharing and social network reporting, and Digg’s reader has the potential to become the all-in-one news scraper every journalist dreams of.

It’s all speculation and hazy at best, but it’s hard not to look at the possibilities that lie ahead. Still, it’s clear that we won’t be bereft of readers once Google shuts the door — and we may ultimately see a blossoming of tools we would have never otherwise seen.

What do you think of Betaworks’ dynamic duo of Digg and Instapaper? Let us know in the comments.

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