RSS feed readers explained. When, how, and why to use them.

RSS icon with road signs isolated on orange background. 3d illustration

You might have heard about RSS feed readers, but you’re not sure quite they are.

Do you really need another application to crowd your phone? In this case, absolutely.

What is an RSS feed reader?

The RSS feed reader is a third-party application, which syndicates and displays content from more than one site. With an RSS reader, you’d have all the top headlines from CNN, New York Times, Reuters and The Guardian along with entertainment news all in one place. RSS readers don’t only syndicate content from news sites, blogs and forums.

You can subscribe to just about any feed there is including social media accounts, searches and groups.

How do you receive the information?

RSS readers use RSS feeds in order to subscribe to a site. RSS feeds are XML files encoded in the site’s source page and they would update automatically whenever a new post goes up on the site. The RSS reader crawls the site, checks with the feed and syndicates any posts published since the last crawl performed. It’s that simple.

All you have to do is add a site’s RSS feed to your subscriptions and you’re all set. New updates come to you automatically.

How to use it?

I will be looking into how Inoreader works, because it’s the RSS reader I’ve come to know best and has specific feature I’ve not seen in others. I personally have come to enjoy its extension for Chrome, which gives me access to my subscriptions while on another site and detects RSS feeds on the page you’re on. 

Choose the topics you like

Inoreader has one of the best content discovery tools around. Its database is accessible through the content discovery zone where you can browse different topics like business, technology, top news, science and art. Each topic then breaks down into narrower topics. Users are asked to select their topics upon creating their account and you’re immediately subscribed to some high quality feeds.

Check collections

A unique feature is the collections, which are user-curated. If there’s a specific topic that’s near and dear to your heart, you can perhaps find another person with similar interests who has paired up all the relevant feeds into one collections. Ideally, you can do the very same yourself and share what you’ve been reading to others.

Additionally, you can create your own internal newsletters consisting of content you read and feeds you follow to fellow colleagues and friends. It all depends on what you need.

Check feeds

Subscribing to feeds is done fairly easily. You type the site you want into the search bar and if it’s in the database, you can directly subscribe to it here and now. Previously, you had to subscribe the other way around by going to the site and clicking on the RSS feed button. But those days are over and it’s rarer to see sites with RSS feeds.

Back to content discovery. The feeds you’re recommended in the topics or whenever you perform a search on a subject are reliable and trustworthy. They’re popular, because the majority of users have found them useful enough to subscribe.

Personalize your experience

There’s quite a lot you can do in Inoreader to organize how you receive and view content. As with many other RSS feed readers, you have options to group feeds into different folders. You also have the options to tag individual posts and save important articles for later, if you don’t want to lose sight of them.

Perhaps the best way to personalize your feeds is through the filter options. Users can limit what type of updates they receive from a particular site based on keywords, topics and even authors. An excellent feature to have when you’re researching a particular story or enjoy a niche interest.

Why use it?

Saves time

You can’t beat automation. RSS readers are just great for everyday use, because you don’t have to manually visit each site you like. Instead, you have one central dashboard with new publications at the top. All neatly arranged in chronological order.

A quick scroll is all it takes to check for any new posts and stay on top of news when in a hurry. You also say goodbye to one of the most unpleasant repetitive tasks – hopping from site to site. I consider that a great win for my time management and concentration.

Information from valuable sources

Misinformation has become a great concern for me these days. I don’t know whether an article I come across in the wild is factual or fabricated, and it’s a concern for many digital specialists.

RSS feed readers contain your reading to one single place and you only receive what you’ve put there already. So you have to do the heavy lifting in research and vetting once. Furthermore, all the feeds recommended in Inoreader are added by other users and backed with subscriptions in the hundreds. A sign that the content on offer meets certain standards and criteria.

Topics you are interested in

I’ve greatly improved my knowledge in areas of interest. On one hand, this is mostly because I’m not distracting myself online too much, but also because Inoreader has a great way of helping users discover content they want. I already mentioned the different topics and collections, but then there are also the different levels of search available.

You can browse not just your subscriptions, but the whole database for just about any article. Other features like Sort by Magic further help you stumble upon first-rate content from sites you would not have encountered otherwise.

No spam from websites

No more newsletters cluttering your inbox. I personally dislike newsletters in general, because I’m not the best at reading them and my inbox runs unruly. With RSS feed readers, that’s a thing of the past. Also reading articles in your RSS reader comes without the annoying pop up messages and ads.