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RSS feed readers have made a much-needed comeback and they’re packing some heat. Right now, everybody from journalists to IT professionals to digital marketers and students all rave about how integral RSS has become in their life.
What is RSS?
The first time you hear about RSS? I understand you. RSS peaked over a decade ago and has not been in the mainstream for quite some time.
RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. You might also encounter it as Rich Site Summary. Either way it’s the same thing – an online protocol meant for the syndication of content from a lot of sites and publishing it in an RSS feed reader.
Explanation of how it works
The whole process is quite simple. Using an RSS feed reader, you can add the RSS feed of your favorite site and receive every new article as soon as it’s published. No more refreshing. No more having to visit each individual website.
Your dashboard will display all new articles in order of publication descending from newest to oldest. A quick skim of your dashboard gives you a glimpse of all the updates and makes it all the easier to spot important articles.
This whole process is made possible by the presence of an RSS feed in the site’s HTML. The feed updates itself every time a new article is posted and notes down only the most important data points such as publication stamp, title, writer and the text. Multimedia used to be stripped initially and users could only read a snippet of the article. You had to visit the actual site to read the whole thing.
Today, you can read entire articles complete with pictures. RSS feed readers can now also display videos, podcast episodes and social media posts just as easily.
How to make the most of it?
Perhaps the biggest strength and reason to use RSS readers in the first place is just how easy it is to customize to your liking. This goes beyond how many columns you want to have or what color theme works best for your eyesight. I’m talking about the freedom to create folders, add tags, star articles and set up filters.
Filtered feeds are the best thing about modern RSS readers. The ability to curate and select only the most relevant articles and posts coming your way. That’s what saves you the most time and is the ultimate advantage. On top of that, readers like Inoreader and Feedly can automate actions and you can easily create rules and triggers. Thanks to integration with services like Zapier and IFTTT your reader can communicate with all sorts of applications – Slack, Google Drive, Gmail, MailChimp, Trello, Hubspot and many more.
Choose the topics you care about
Content discovery is another wonderful feature. When you make your Inoreader profile, you are immediately asked what subjects are most interesting and relevant. Once you subscribe, you also get access to the feeds you need. Inoreader presents lists of feeds in broad topics like business that are then divided into sub-topics like web development or mobile development. Feedly gives you access to topics, but also feeds assorted by skills, industries and hobbies.
Subscribe to popular feeds and collections
Recommended feeds are based on their subscription numbers. The higher the number of users that read it, the further up it ranks in its respective category. That’s a good indicator that you’re in the right place.
As an aside, social curation also comes into play. The Old Reader, for instance, has a great feature where the articles with the most engagement in terms of shares and comments will become trending so you can see what interests a whole community in real time. Inoreader, on the other hand, has a special area for user-created collections.
Use the Chrome extension
You can take your RSS reader with you anywhere you go. They’re available as apps, but can also be accessed in your browser. The next step is full integration with your browser experience. The two most used RSS feed readers – Inoreader and Feedly – both have their own Chrome extensions, which only amplify the reader’s overall performance.
What are the main benefits to using a Chrome extension in the first place? As an Inoreader user, I will be looking at the Inoreader extension.
· You have a very convenient way to check any new updates in your feeds without having to move away from the Chrome tab you’re currently using. This is done in a very intuitive and unobtrusive way. You also have a counter with all the unread articles.
· Much like bookmarks, you are able to save pages while you browse. It’s easy and since you use your RSS feed reader, you will have all saved pages available for you to read in a much more visible way.
· Perhaps most useful is the ability to detect RSS feeds on the site you’re currently on and then add them to your subscriptions effortlessly.
Frequently check the new features
RSS feed readers are living, breathing things. The true mark of a high-performing, quality reader is its continuous growth and change. I’ll use Inoreader and Feedly as examples, because both pack quite the arsenal of features. Quite handy when you’re using the affordable paid plans, which are a must for any digital professional with ambition to excel in their line of work.
Both readers have a New Features section on their blog (that you can follow in your dashboard). Check for regular updates. Although some may not be applicable to your goals for using the RSS feeder in the first place, you never know what’s going to come in handy. Most recently Feedly has made it possible to follow sites without RSS feeds without having to jump through all the steps to generate one in the first place. Inoreader, on the other hand, has made it possible to turn any public Telegram Channel into an RSS feed, which you can follow.