I was very disappointed to hear that Google Reader is being shut down on on July 1st of this year. RSS feeds are a great way to keep up with all your favorite blogs and news sources, and Google's product made this really easy. In fact, when I open a browser window, the second thing I open is Reader (the first being Gmail).
Sure, there are other RSS clients, but most of them use Reader as a backbone. This works well because it helps keep your feeds organized and in sync. Fortunately, it sounds like some of these third party apps are preparing for life after Google pulls the plug.
I didin't get fully immersed into RSS until a few years ago, but it sounds like there were some good RSS clients that were pretty much destroyed when Google Reader came along. Hopefully we'll see some innovation now that there's room for these apps again.
I think that, as a rule of thumb, it's good to pay for things you like. Free web services are great, but in the end it only works if companies can sell you to advertisers. In a lot of cases it ends up swashing the competition and then, if it's not profitable enough, it goes away. And consumers are left with nothing.