Last month I talked about providing RSS feeds for your site or blog, in order to gain more readers and visitors. These feeds can actually save you an immense amount of time when it comes to keeping abreast of industry news.
Real Simple Syndication (RSS) allows users to subscribe to information articles (like blog posts, news reports and reviews) and peruse posts in a separate environment. More detailed definitions and usages can be found in my previous post: Should I Offer RSS Feeds?
Most RSS news readers are free and available in the form of desktop applications, web-based apps and mobile apps. Using them is fairly simple: You enter a feed url or click a link on a specific site to subscribe.
How Will They Help Me?
If you’re like I used to be, then you find yourself navigating dozens of web sites daily, seeking information that applies to you or your business. Perhaps you use bookmarks to make the daily trek, or maybe you start at a single site that provides useful links. Either way, having to navigate across the web increases the possibility of being distracted by other articles, videos and images, even if they have nothing to do with your needs.
By using an RSS reader, you eliminate the clutter and focus on what matters most – news and information that benefits you. The result? Less time wasted, as well as decreasing the likelihood of overlooking other important information.
My morning ritual is simple. I use the NewsRoom app on my Palm Pre Plus to swipe through headlines and introductory text across nearly 30 web sites. On some mornings there may be well over 100 articles being fed, but it takes just a few minutes to scan them and “favorite” the ones I need to read. Then, over breakfast, I read flagged articles and then opt to keep them flagged (to further research) or ditch them. I’ve successfully cut about 2 hours of daily reading down to less than 45 minutes total.
What RSS Newsreader Tool(s) Should I Use?
This depends on how you work. Since I use my smartphone, I can email myself stories to read on the desktop, but primarily my Palm device does everything I need. You also may prefer to work in the cloud so you can access your feeds and bookmarks from anywhere.
Here’s a few places to get started:
- Google Reader – If you’re a Google fan, then this reader provides all the basics, including the ability to star items for later use. iGoogle, by the way, only links to articles on sites – it does not pull articles into the Google environment.
- My Yahoo! – Yahoo! sports a basic environment for reading feeds, without any bells and whistles.
- Microsoft Outlook – Yes, you can subscribe to feeds and read them right within your email client.
- Thunderbird – Articles will look like emails (unfortunately, the formatting is not foolproof) and you can easily view read/unread and even save article links just as you would messages.
- Desktop Software – You’ll find a slew of desktop apps with basic descriptions at RSS Specifications. As with all software, I recommend you read user reviews.
- Smartphone Apps – RSS readers are available for most platforms, so check app catalogs and read reviews and ratings, and, if available, watch video demonstrations. On smartphones reader functionality can vary from app to app.
To Which Feeds Should I Subscribe?
Subscribing to any RSS feed is based on your need for the information the site provides. However, don’t expect every post or article from a given site to apply solely to you. I subscribe to several tech RSS feeds and routinely ignore more articles than I read. It’s a trade off of combing through unnecessary information (like Playstation and XBox articles, because I use neither) in order to be educated on the “goods”.
Your best bet is to subscribe to feeds on sites you frequently visit (and trust), as well as search for feeds in your line of work. Remember, you can always unsubscribe from a feed, and since no email address or full name is required to subscribe, it’s not like they can call you out.