RSS feeds. What are some of the main benefits for the user?

RSS icon with knight helmet isolated on blue background. 3d illustration

Each year, the content uploaded to the Internet grows exponentially, which creates a real challenge in trying to keep up with what’s being published.

Staying informed can feel like a full-time job in recent years and many hours are sunk in for this task alone. You’re probably one of the many people who feel greatly fatigued and are in need of a better way to stay on top of your reading.

That’s why you should look into one of the oldest tools born at the dawn of the Internet – RSS!

RSS feed explained

RSS is a protocol that allows users to syndicate content published on multiple sites through a third-party client, which is called an RSS feed reader. Readers can be entirely web-based or come as mobile applications. RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication.

How you use RSS is straightforward. You use your feed reader to subscribe to any site via an RSS feed. RSS feeds are XML files, which are found in a site’s source code. RSS feeds automatically update information when a new post is published and the feed reader then retrieves it.

In the past, readers retrieved only essential information like a summary or excerpt of the post, link to the post, publication date and author. Right now, users can read entire articles with most embedded media in full in the RSS feed reader itself.

What are some of the main benefits?

You have all the information at one place

Whether you’re a journalist, content writer or even a student doing research on assignments, RSS is a life saver when it comes to organisation. You have all your sources in one convenient place. All new updates arrive in chronological order and you can monitor important sites simultaneously. The chief benefit to this model of content distribution is that you don’t need to split your focus between different sites and platforms.

RSS feed readers are designed for written content on blogs, news sites, online publications with good support for comment sections, forums and subject categories on different sites. WordPress is particularly friendly to RSS even to this day. The major updates now expand on the type of content whether you want to monitor social media pages or newsletters or even podcasts. 

Saves you a lot of time

A byproduct of having all relevant sources in one location is the pockets of time you free up for other tasks. You don’t need to manually visit multiple sites and are no longer at the mercy of the social media algorithms. New updates arrive in real time, because RSS feed readers sync up with each site’s feed, and are arranged in chronological order. This makes it even easier to follow your subscriptions and take notice of developing news stories.

RSS feed readers have perfected automation to add convenience to users’ experience. In addition to a real-time update, users are able to organise their subscriptions in folders, add tags and even filter out irrelevant stories. It really depends on the type of reader you choose. The only time you have to invest is getting your setup ready. Afterwards, everything is done automatically.

It is very easy to use

RSS feed readers are the very definition of intuitive. The design is simple enough as you have a main dashboard that displays new posts and a layout that’s similar to your email inbox. It’s a trait shared by most RSS feed readers on the market and you don’t need to make your experience any more complicated than that. The learning curve is fast and users can discover new features on their own and organically.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle would be subscribing to sites since RSS support has been in decline over the years, so users might need to search for the feed or even create their own. However, there are readers that make it a point to lower the difficulty. Inoreader has created its Chrome extension for this purpose alone. The extension can easily identify any feeds present at a site!

You always receive information from trusted sources

Trustworthiness has become a rare thing in recent times. Between misinformation and news that increasingly sound like articles written by The Onion, the line between truth and fiction has all but been erased. RSS readers give users back some sense of control over what they read without having to resort to fact checking themselves through Snopes, for instance.

You are responsible for what you add to your subscriptions. As long as you have trustworthy news agencies and publications, you can be sure that what you read can be trusted. Even when searching through the reader’s database, you can be sure that these sources have been vetted by others.

You keep up to date with the latest trends and news

The chronological timeline doesn’t only save time, but enables you to follow news without the extra mental gymnastics of piecing together the narrative yourself. It’s hard enough to keep a sharp focus during the pandemic as it is without having to fracture your focus further thanks to the purely random way content is delivered to you through social media.

I’m not the only one who has been recommended an article from four years ago, which sounds fresh and urgent only to have to reconcile it’s already happened. RSS feed readers eliminate uncertainty as a whole from your online experience.

Follow topics you care about

Perhaps the best new improvement to RSS feed readers is the ability to follow specific topics and discover new content. Readers like Feedly and Inoreader have dedicated areas that suggest feeds and articles based on subjects and internal search. You tap into the whole database of these readers and open up doors to content you didn’t even know was available. Go through major categories such as business, and then dive deeper through suggested subtopics. You might discover a number of sources, which otherwise you might have missed.