TMCnet Feature
January 27, 2022

What is an RSS Feed Reader? Simply explained

What is an RSS Feed?

RSS has been here since the beginning of the Internet and its legacy cannot be overstated enough. The abbreviation is known as ‘really simple syndication’ or ‘rich site summary’. RSS reduces the updates posted on a website to the most important components and does so in a standard format as simple text files. An article would be reduced to its metadata, title, URL and either a portion of the text or the entire body of text. These simple XML text files are called RSS feeds and are found in the site’s HTML. RSS feeds would update as soon as a new article or post is published.

How does it work?

The whole idea is that an RSS reader would subscribe to an RSS feed and retrieve any new posts as soon as they’re published. As the user, you would be able to see new updates from as many sites as you want without having to visit each site individually. This is the reason RSS exists in the first place – a way to navigate the rising number of content as the Internet became commercially widely available at the start of the millennium.

Whereas RSS readers used to display only a snippet of an article or a description, today you get to read posts in their entirety without leaving the application. Other changes have happened over the years. Previously, it wasn’t possible to load multimedia files, but now you can load pictures and videos in your dashboard. RSS also used to be only for text-based feeds – articles, comments, posts on forums and news stories. The list has since expanded to social media, newsletters, videos and even podcasts.

That’s basically the entire digital content machine contained in a single dashboard.

Is it still popular?

Quite so, though more so in the business world. RSS has fallen off the personal use market, but is going through with small businesses. They have the same capabilities as social media monitoring tools without the hefty price tags attached and make for a good starter application during the early stages of business growth.

RSS feed readers have made sure to corner all aspects of the business world. One of the best new features to be introduced is the collaborative team features. Inoreader, Feedly and Feeder all have a version of shared boards for sharing important articles with one another. Makes an excellent tool of research and collaboration. The integration through Zapier and IFTTT definitely improves the communication between apps.

Another reason why RSS is popular with business is the introduction of AI. The most notable example here is Feedly, which is known for its AI assistant, Leo. Leo can learn from users’ likes, dislikes and repeated behavior.

How to use it?

Choose the topics you love & discover new content

RSS feed readers are not just for adding the sites you already know. They support you in finding out new feeds to enjoy about the things you love. Many RSS feed readers have invested in content discovery for their users by suggesting popular feeds on different topics.

Different readers have different strategies to accomplish this task. Inoreader organizes popular feeds across topics like technology and business. Users can then specify what specific sub-topic they want to know more about. Inoreader users can also subscribe to user-curated collections about a specific subject. Another handy feature is the ability to perform searches in the entire database for exactly what you need.

Feedly also operates with a search bar to find you relevant content. Feedly also organizes feeds by industries, hobbies and skills. The Old Reader doesn’t so much promote feeds, but single articles that have received the most social engagement. You can even teach your reader what articles to recommend to you.

I’ve already mentioned Feedly and its AI assistant, but Inoreader has similar features as well. One of these is to ask for direct recommendations via the ‘more like this’ feature. Another is to try to get recommendations based mostly on your reading habits rather than total engagement scores via the Sort by Magic function.

Move everything to one place

It’s just more convenient to have everything I read in my RSS feed reader. Magazines, blogs and news sites are so easily managed and you only need to skim over the latest updates to keep up with new updates. What’s even better is the extended support for other types of feeds.

Kill the Newsletter has liberated my inbox from the onslaught of newsletters altogether. Migrate all the newsletters to your reader and be one step closer to achieving the highly impressive inbox zero. Podcasts, YouTube (News - Alert) videos and social media feeds can be added to your RSS feed reader. Not all readers are made equal, but the more feature-heavy like Inoreader and Feedly can definitely get every type of feed you need at a low monthly subscription rate.

The added benefit is how much you can accomplish with an RSS reader. It’s so easy to perform social media listening or even find the perfect job. 

Go Wild with Personalization

You’re in complete control over how your dashboard looks and how you experience your feeds. RSS feed readers allow you to change almost everything from the colors to how many columns appear on your dashboard. That last feature is quite useful for marketers or journalists, who need to be on top of evolving trends and breaking news stories.

After the initial setup there’s a lot more you can do in regards to how you organize individual feeds – folders, tags, highlights, saving articles for later. You can even share articles to social media or create private digests for other people from the articles you find most useful. There are also filters available to prune certain feeds, which have a higher output. Specify what topics you want to see or don’t want to see; keywords or phrases; even who wrote the articles.

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