Read Blogs and News stories Better with RSS
According to Technorati’s State of the Blogosphere 2009 report, around 900,000 blog posts are uploaded in a twenty-four hour period. If you’re an avid blog reader it can be tricky to stay up-to-date without feeling overwhelmed. It’s easy to accidentally skip a blog and a critical piece of information. You also might find yourself continually refreshing the page on a favorite blog as you wait for a new update. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could read the new posts for all your favorite blogs in one place?
You can, and the answer is Real Simple Syndication (or RSS for short). RSS is just as easy as the name implies—it allows you to subscribe to your favorite blogs and read them all in one place. It’s like subscribing to your favorite magazines instead of waiting for them to show up on the newsstand.
Almost all blogs have an RSS feed, which is a version of the blog in special simplified format of just the important content like text, links, and images. Blog readers can subscribe to a blog by clicking on the link for the feed, which is usually labeled something like “Subscribe Here” or “RSS Feed.” The RSS logo is also often used, and looks like this:
Once you click the link you will be asked what RSS reader you want to use to subscribe. RSS readers are also known as news aggregators or simply aggregators. RSS readers gather all the posts of your favorite blogs that you subscribe to in one place. Each individual post is called a news item. There are many RSS readers available and some of the best ones are free:
Many applications you already use have built-in RSS readers including Microsoft Outlook and Internet Explorer, Apple Safari and Apple Mail, and Mozilla Firefox (through a feature called Live Bookmarks).
Note: Some built-in readers require you to copy the URL of the RSS feed. This is found at the top of your browser where you would type in the address of a webpage. Click on the RSS link for anything you want to subscribe to and then copy the URL.
FeedDemon is a very popular full-featured feed reader for Windows. Some of the many things FeedDemon can do include tagging items with your own keywords, automatically downloading podcasts, and alerting you when a keyword you specified pops up in a new news item. It is a stand-alone application, which means you don’t have to use any other programs (such as a web browser) to use it. FeedDemon is considered very east to use with its intuitive user interface.
NetNewsWire is created by the same people as FeedDemon, a company called NewsGator. The feed reader is popular with many Mac OSX users for being a powerful yet easy to use stand-alone application. Features include multiple viewing options, the ability to save items as HTML, and the capacity for tracking information and automatically determining which feeds are most important to you.
Google Reader allows you to read your favorite blogs all together in your web browser on your computer or your smartphone. It uses the same login as the rest of your google account and links you with all of your gmail contacts so you can share news stories with your friend. If you use gmail the user interface will seem familiar. A popular feature of Google Reader marks new items as read as you scroll down the page. You can also quickly star items that are important to you.
Another popular feed reader that works in your browser is called Bloglines. Bloglines has some great features like notifications, which is an add-on for your browser that notifies you when a new item is added to your feed. It has a mobile version that looks great on smartphones and it provides stellar recommendations on new feeds that might be of interest to you.
When most people think of RSS feeds blogs come to mind but you can subscribe to other things online as well.
Google News Alerts
You can add Google News items to your RSS reader on any topic or search term. Simply go to news.google.com and type in a search term. You might search for “technology” or the name of your favorite politician. Then down at the bottom of the page you will see a link titled “RSS” with the orange RSS logo next to it. Click on the link to choose your RSS reader or copy the RSS link at the top.
RSS is a great way to find a new apartment, job, or flat screen TV on Craigslist. Go to the city of your choice and enter your search terms. On the lower right-hand corner of the screen and find the orange box with the words “RSS.” Click it and just like subscribing to a blog.