As citizens of the fast-paced, information world, we’re tasked to hold our own against the tide of news coming our own way.
Although exhilarating and rewarding to stay informed, it can be exhausting at the same time. How do you stay away from news fatigue (a very real condition) and escape the clutches of doomscrolling? You put a barrier between you and the news you consume.
In this case, I’m talking about RSS feed readers. They’re the ultimate filtration system that delivers news in an orderly fashion. I have moved to an RSS reader, because I’ve lost my focus by jumping over from Facebook to Twitter to the CNN app on my phone.
RSS is a handy abbreviation for Really Simple Syndication. In other circles, you might encounter it as Rich Site Summary. Either way, it refers to the same technology – consolidating content from multiple sites on the Internet into a single location; the RSS feed reader.
This protocol has walked hand in hand with the Internet itself since its very inception. Even early on, programmers recognized the need to organize websites. That’s the origin story. RSS reached its peak in the late 2000s with the boom in blogging and has since become the foundation for many applications we have today like podcast subscription surfaces, YouTube channels and newsletters.
You need two things for RSS – an RSS feed and an RSS feed reader. The first is an XML file in a site’s source code, which immediately updates as soon as a new post is published. The RSS feed features the bare necessities: URL, headline, time stamp, author and a little snippet of the article.
The RSS feed reader’s job is to crawl the RSS feed of every site you’ve subscribed to, pull new posts and display them on your dashboard. Users receive articles in order of publication, which is a nice callback to the chronological timeline of social media. Readers are quite intuitive and give users the necessary tools to organize their feeds any way they see fit.
Today, subscribing to RSS feeds is a little bit difficult, so some RSS readers have developed other ways to help you identify whether there’s a potential feed on a site and subscribe to it. Inoreader has done this through its Chrome extension. Or… you can just create your own RSS feed.
RSS readers are invested in delivering a smooth, comprehensive experience.
Upon creating your account, some RSS feed readers will altogether ask you to select the types of topics that interest you. These are broad categories like business, technology or top news. Whether you are into political news or industry news, there’s an area of interest suited for you.
Within those topics, you can also find trending topics. For politics this might be the environmental crisis. For health, the coronavirus. For entertainment, the newest Marvel movie.
RSS feed readers show you what content you can discover in small categories. Inoreader formalizes this process by creating a nesting system, where more specific topics are found under the umbrella of say finances. That’s how you can easily navigate a rather sprawling landscape of news, opinion pieces and long form journalism.
As you explore topics, you’ll come across some unfamiliar feeds. How does the RSS reader decide which feeds make it to the top and which don’t? It all comes down to the audience. Inoreader and Feedly showcase the feeds that have the biggest traction with their user base. The more subscribers a feed has, the higher its chances to climb to the top.
Inoreader also gives users another way to share their most valued feeds – the collection. You can see the collections in the discovery area of Inoreader, where you see a variety of collections. Each is user-generated and curates RSS feeds according to their interests.
Even if you’ve filtered down the types of news you want to receive. Say you’re a tech person and want to follow news about a particular cryptocurrency. Even if you only subscribe to sites reporting on crypto, there’s still too much information on all kinds of companies, data points and trends. It’s unfeasible to have to scroll for relevant headlines when you can directly filter a site’s feed to show you exactly what you want to read.
RSS feed readers are known for all the ways they can make content consumption easy. Use stars, tags and folders to bring order to your dashboard, but that’s only the beginning. RSS readers can filter arriving articles based on specific keywords so that you only receive a post that features the name of the cryptocurrency that interests you.
Different readers have their own unique features. Inoreader has found a way to clear all duplicating headlines with a special filter best employed when a major news story breaks and all venues race to cover it at the same time.
What’s interesting to observe is RSS readers’ adaptation to an interconnected digital ecology. We are always online and our applications talk to each other. As a result, we talk to each other through many new applications. RSS readers don’t want to lose on the social sharing race. Users have a lot more freedom to connect on RSS feed readers.
The most social of all readers is The Old Reader, which connects you to your friends and makes it easy to send articles to each other in-app much like you’d do in any other social media platform. Inoreader has also made it possible to follow user accounts and broadcast articles you enjoy within the app. This applies to other behaviour like commenting and liking articles. Inoreader even lets users invite new people, who upon creating their account immediately follow the inviter.