What is an RSS feed reader and why can it be useful for you?

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RSS has been an absolute godsend for my day job and I’ve certainly found good uses for personal interests. It’s the tool that keeps on evolving for the better and you should already be using it.

Look, I know that when Google Reader died we all collectively decided to move away from RSS (well, social media was a deciding factor, too), but now is the best time to come back!

What is an RSS feed reader?

RSS feed readers are a third-party client (whether browser-based or an app for mobile devices), which can subscribe to RSS feeds. In effect, users can subscribe to as many RSS feeds as possible and receive all the newest posts and updates from news sites, blogs and other sources.

Content comes to you rather than vice versa and it does so in perfect chronological order. I don’t know about you, but I miss chronological feeds in my life. Furthermore, readers refresh regularly so you receive new updates simultaneously to their publication.

Is it still relevant?

Wholeheartedly yes. Only not quite everyone seems to know this. RSS is now more relevant than ever and there have been quite a few publications discussing its comeback.

What you have to understand is that current RSS readers pack quite the punch nowadays. You’ll see quite a few readers with powerful search functions, customization functions and integration with other platforms. Zapier and IFTTT have a series of commands and chain reactions built for RSS in general as well as for specific readers like Inoreader and Feedly.

RSS readers have moved beyond their original design as a more general productivity tool. 

How does it work?

Here is where it gets a little bit tricky, because RSS is not quite as prevalent as it once was. Yes, WordPress still makes it easy to subscribe to RSS feeds, but many other sites either don’t have an RSS feed or don’t advertise them. In some cases, you have to guess whether there’s an RSS feed URL to begin with in order to subscribe.

Users have to either make an effort to find out where the RSS feed URL is located in the source code or use free tools to turn a site’s regular URL into an RSS feed URL. What I love about using Inoreader is that it has a browser extension that detects whether there’s an RSS feed (or feeds) and makes it easy to subscribe with a single click.

Why do you need to begin to use an RSS feed reader?

I’m a fan of RSS, because it declutters my digital life in a very non-intrusive way. I didn’t have to put too much effort in setting it up and it’s had an incredible effect on my focus.

I know that there’s a lot of talk about minimalism and while it does sound a bit pretentious, there are obvious benefits to keeping a minimalistic digital life. Digital clutter is just as bad as physical clutter.

Saves time

If there’s anything that the pandemic has taught us, it’s that time is weird and we never can have enough of it to get everything done in a day. My personal hurdle presented itself in the number of apps I cycle through to get caught up with what’s happened in the day. I also tend to procrastinate by going through my newsletters and ignoring work emails.

Once I switched to RSS, there’s not so much cycling through anymore and I don’t get sidetracked as easily anymore. Plus, RSS automates a lot of the work associated with checking sites for updates – I certainly don’t have to open unnecessary tabs on my browser any more. It’s all done internally from receiving the update the moment it’s published to reading it to even sharing it online. All is done from one place.

You become more informed about topics you care about

Even if you’re not in a position that requires you to do a lot of research (marketer, journalist or analyst), you’re bound to do quite a bit of reading in your area of expertise. Dentists might have graduated university with stellar qualifications, but even they have to read up on new procedures and groundbreaking technology.

RSS readers can be tailored to any field of interest, because the user is in charge at all times. Plus, current RSS readers have invested in content discovery. You’ll find a wide range of topics and subtopics in Inoreader’s discovery zone, which showcase the most subscribed-to RSS feeds in its database. There are two advantages to this – you’re already presented with a curated list of feeds and you’re assured that the content in each feed is of a high calibre.

But that’s only content discovery. The next step is to really filter and organize your reading. If you want to receive only headlines pertaining to one person, one event or one technology, Inoreader gives you several filters and rules to sift through incoming updates automatically so you don’t have to.

You have everything at one place

Perhaps the biggest strength that I’ve come to appreciate most about RSS readers is how easy it is to add everything that I may want or need to read in one dashboard. Of course, that’s always been the case with news sites and blogs. WordPress even made it a point to generate RSS feeds for just comments or certain categories of posts in a blog back in the day.

Even before RSS went out of fashion users could subscribe to Twitter feeds. The current generation has wildly improved on the promise to deliver everything on a silver platter. Inoreader has done a lot in this regard as it has built-in support for YouTube and Twitter. Users can receive videos of their favorite channels in their reader and when it comes to Twitter, they can go as far as subscribe only to the liked tweets of a given account. What else can you follow? LinkedIn groups and profiles, Facebook pages, Instagram accounts, newsletters, podcasts and job searches