How to Properly Use an RSS Feed Reader?

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RSS is making a much needed comeback and you can’t convince me otherwise. It’s my favorite tool to date and has made quite the difference in how much time I spend online.

It’s also helped me focus (we all know how difficult focus retention is these days with working from home), because I have everything that I may need in one place, and RSS is a fantastic way to discover quality content that’s trustworthy.

What is an RSS feed reader?

It all begins with RSS feeds. RSS stands for ‘Really Simple Syndication’ and strips away a site’s published content to its most essential component (title, link, author, text and publication date). An RSS feed consists of these condensed posts, which automatically update whenever there’s a new publication.

This brings us to RSS feed readers, which are created to access these feeds (a user can’t read an RSS feed without a reader). Readers are able to subscribe to numerous feeds and syndicate content from as many sources as one pleases. Effectively removing the menial tasks of going to and reading each site individually.

Why use an RSS feed reader?

RSS feed readers have stood the test of time. They’ve been around for two decades and even after their pinnacle of popularity have stuck around undergoing considerable changes to their DNA. The readers of today arm themselves with features and functionalities, which grant them flexibility and control over what they read.

RSS feed readers are excellent for research and can now support just about every type of feed. The more advanced the feed reader, the more you can do whether that’s keyword tracking, looking for a new job or performing brand monitoring. You can learn more about it here.

How to properly use it?

Hopefully I’ve convinced you RSS feed readers are a must in your digital toolkit. If you haven’t had the pleasure to use one, then you’re probably wondering about the mechanics. Is there a steep learning curve? What’s important to know?

I’m going to stick to Inoreader as an example, because it’s the one reader I’ve come to love and know inside out. We’re going to start with the basics and you can go on from there to explore the many other facets.

Get the app or the Chrome Extension

Inoreader is available as a mobile application, which works on a variety of devices and operational systems. The main advantage is that you take your feeds wherever you go and there’s the option to access your feeds even when you don’t have Wi-Fi at the moment. That’s quite the benefit for professionals on the go, who need to stay connected regardless of their location.

There’s also a browser version, which is excellent for when you’re on your laptop all day and do not want to open a hundred tabs on your browser. Everything is neatly arranged in your dashboard and ready to use.

If you’re on Chrome, the browser extension is a must to increase your productivity. You have most of Inoreader’s functions in a tiny menu. What I appreciate most about it is that it automatically detects if there’s an RSS feed on any page you’re on rather than having to find out the hard way.  

Discover topics you like

Inoreader begins your journey by asking you about your interests and automatically subscribes you to popular feeds on these topics to get you started. This is a great way to generate some activity on your dashboard and you can always unsubscribe later.

Topics are an integral part of the Inoreader discovery mode.  Inoreader divides its database of feeds into six main branches. You have – news, technology, creative, lifestyle, business and science. Go to any of these broad categories and you’ll see that the bigger branches into niche interests. Take for instance lifestyle. It means a lot of things to a lot of people and that’s why you’ll see subtopics like comics, reading, cooking and digital nomads.

Discover popular feeds

Sure you have a long list with feeds in a given topic, but what’s the criteria?

Why are these the feeds that come up? What’s the process behind the selection? Inoreader will not steer you wrong. Its mission is to shorten the distance between the user and the trustworthy content they deserve. That’s why Inoreader turns to its user base for recommendations.

Popular feeds are all based on the number of users subscribed to them. The bigger the subscriber number the higher the feed appears in the ranking. This is a rather simple metric, but speaks about the trustworthiness of the source. If so many people follow its content, then it must be worth your time. User engagement is also quite useful when it comes to the refresh speed and sync of the feed with its source.

Discover popular collections

As I’ve highlighted, Inoreader prioritizes user experience first and foremost. Curation doesn’t just remain in your personal dashboard, but also extends to the wider community as a whole. Part of the discovery mode of Inoreader is the opportunity to subscribe to whole collections.

Created by users themselves, these collections offer a personal point of view. Consider them as a natural extension of the topic categories – only created by one person. What’s interesting about collections is that they may very well feature feeds that are not on everybody’s radar, don’t have the strongest subscriber numbers, but are nonetheless a source of valuable content.

Turning to collections solves a key dilemma, “Where do I start?”

Choose the topics you like and enjoy reading

What’s left to do other than choose your preferred reading and go on with your life. Inoreader is all about convenience and structure. Users have endless ways to organise feeds and tag articles. If you’re interested in only some of the material a site posts or want to follow just one of the writers in the roster, Inoreader has you covered. Take charge with the filters and rules, which whittle down bulky feeds to their essentials. All in the name of your convenience.