Haven’t you heard? RSS feed readers are cool again.
I mean… They’ve always been cool, but it’s only now that people are talking about them again. With good reason. Everyone will have a much easier, less nerve-wracking time online, if they had an RSS feed reader.
I’m here on a mission to convince you of RSS’s incredible powers. Whatever your age or job, you can benefit from having an RSS feed reader. We all did in the early 2000s.
So what’s an RSS feed reader?
RSS feed readers are curation tools made for users to consume content from multiple sites at once. In your RSS feed reader, you have one dashboard, but articles from as many sources as you want. It used to be only text-based sites, but now there’s no limit to what you can subscribe to – videos, podcasts, Twitter, newsletters, Instagram. Everything goes.
All this is possible through Really Simple Syndication (RSS) – a protocol as old as the Internet itself. RSS connects a site to a reader via an RSS feed file and once you’re subscribed, you receive new posts at the moment of their publication.
Why use it?
RSS feed readers are in a Renaissance. What you remember about Google Reader ten years ago is old news. The current generation of readers understand just how fragmented content distribution has become. Video, audio, text, social media – you can share your message to the world in so many different formats that it’s impossible to keep up in a meaningful way.
Through syndication, users like me and you can take back control over our online habits and be a little bit more focused. RSS readers are popular with students, writers, journalists and marketers as they can easily be used to perform brand monitoring, generate sales leads and even find a new job.
6 main benefits of RSS
It is easy to use
Considering all RSS can do right now, it’s remarkably easy to use. RSS feed readers meet you where you are and how comfortable you are with new technology. You don’t need more than the initial settings and layout.
All readers are designed with simplicity and usability in mind. There’s no learning curve involved whatsoever. The most you need to do is watch a short tutorial and follow instructions provided by the reader itself. Front and center is your central feed and to the left are your subscriptions. That’s usually as much as you need to get started.
The rest comes naturally once you explore what your particular reader can do. Inoreader shines with its discovery tool and browser extension. The Old Reader is ideal for more socially oriented users and Newsblur is known for its filters.
You can personalize it
RSS readers are quite flexible user to user. On a most basic level, you can choose from different color themes, which is a small thing on its own, but makes all the difference in the long run. Then there is the layout of the dashboard itself. Although most readers have a single column, depending on yours you can divide your screen up to five different columns.
Then there’s the matter of the feeds themselves. Group feeds together into as many folders as you like. Filter your feeds based on specific keywords, save articles, tag them and even share them. It is a free for all.
You can choose the topics you care about
Curation is the name of the game.
I’ve opted to move my online reading to RSS, because I don’t necessarily enjoy the articles other people share on social media. I’d open tabs on my browser out of vague curiosity but without any real value to my interests, projects or development. If you, like me, are trying to practice a more intentional approach to how you spend your time online, RSS is the way to go.
You limit your exposure to trusted sources. Benefit from built-in search functions. Have options as to how to further filter your feeds. Perhaps you read only one author on a site. Or you never want to see another COVID article ever again. Both can easily be achieved with some fine tuning of keywords.
It saves time
Ultimately, it saves time. I’m lazy and I find it annoying to go through every single news site, blog or online magazine that I frequent for any new headlines. Like most people, I fall into the trap of infinitely refreshing the same homepages over and over again for that sweet hit of dopamine when a new headline appears.
RSS feed readers update automatically and you don’t have to manually visit each site. All articles pool into your dashboard in chronological order. That’s a single click on a single app. My kind of convenient.
Be up to date with important information
RSS feed readers are excellent for tracking developing news stories. They’ve carved themselves a nice niche in the world of reporting as a way to reliably receive new information from multiple sources such as news agencies, social media and newsletters. If journalists use it, then readers can definitely benefit from RSS.
All hot news is delivered to your dashboard seconds after being published, so you have a finger on the pulse of the now. Depending on your reader of choice, you can send notifications to your email of an important update or even enable push notifications on your phone as is the case with Inoreader.
Never miss a thing
Most importantly. You never miss a thing. Your RSS feed reader is an archive. You can safely keep articles that are important and they’re not going anywhere. In some instances, you might even have offline support. Stuck at the airport without Wi-Fi or data? You’re not without something to read.
I generally enjoy RSS, because I don’t feel the pressure to keep a close eye on what’s published at every moment. Before I would keep a close eye on publications on social media, because I knew how quickly something can get buried among all the other digital noise. No such worries today.