Is It Time to Try a Newsreader?

Your paperboy just got smarter. This article will tell you how to easily read more information on the Internet in a shorter period of time. In short, you can use much of the Internet without all the clutter.

I used to spend 2 or 3 hours per day visiting specific web sites over and over in an attempt to find new information. I regularly visited CNN.com looking for news, weather.com looking for the latest weather forecast for my home town, various stock market web sites, and, of course, genealogy sites looking for information about a variety of topics. The old method meant visiting each and every web site, one at a time, then waiting for the page to appear on my screen, then looking at menus to find the new information, waiting again for the new pages to appear, and so on. It was a tedious way to search for new information.

Today I can accomplish the same thing within a very few minutes instead of spending hours searching for elusive information. Today I “subscribe” to CNN.com, weather.com, and several hundred other web sites. New information automatically appears on my computer’s screen whenever I want; I no longer have to open a web browser to visit dozens of web sites in search of new information. I only see new information. Older information that has already appeared on my screen earlier is not displayed to me a second time. Most of the advertisements are also not displayed although a few do manage to appear. The result is in the a form of a “custom newspaper” designed for me, containing new information about topics of interest to me.

My computer automatically retrieves information daily from dozens of web sites and places it all on a single web page, using RSS format. RSS, or Really Simple Syndication, is a method of publishing and subscribing to frequently updated content, such as blog entries and news items. In short, many web site(s) publish information in RSS format, and software in my computer automatically retrieves that information in RSS format and displays it on my screen in an easy-to-read format.

A newsreader, sometimes called a “feed reader” or simply an “aggregator,” is a program that aggregates or consolidates data that has been published in RSS format. You can “subscribe” to news headlines, blogs, podcasts, and video blogs in a single location for easy viewing. You do not need to “surf the web” looking for content; the newsreader delivers—or feeds—the new information to you automatically in packaged and convenient “newsfeeds.”

RSS-formatted data works well for information that changes often. For instance, stock market information and weather forecasts are a natural fit for RSS newsfeeds. The same is true for the latest news and even for new articles posted to a genealogy newsletter’s web site, such as www.EOGN.com. Almost all genealogy blogs also offer RSS newsfeeds.

RSS newsreaders reduce the time and effort needed to regularly check for updates to multiple websites, creating a unique information space or “personal newspaper.” Once subscribed to a feed, a newsreader will check for new content at intervals you determine and display the updates for you.

I used a newsreader program installed in my computer for several years although I later switched to a newsreader that runs on a web site. I configured my old newsreader to check for new updates once a day except for the weather forecast. It checked for new weather forecasts once per hour. It retrieved stock market prices late in the afternoon, soon after the closing bell. It also retrieved other information automatically at whatever time intervals I specified. All this happened in background while I was using the computer for other tasks or perhaps even doing something away from my computer. My newer, web-based newsreader is a bit simpler: it shows all the new articles every time I use it.

Unlike subscribing to newsletters or other information by e-mail, with a newsreader you can easily unsubscribe from any RSS feed. The unsubscribe process typically takes just two or three mouseclicks.

RSS newsfeeds are also completely anonymous; the information providers cannot see who is reading the published information. As a result, the publishers cannot add you to lists of e-mail addresses and use that for a spam mailing list. I appreciate the privacy and the convenience offered by RSS newsfeeds. In short, I remain in control. I am not at the mercy of a web site owner who wants to flood my in-box with email messages.

RSS programs can either run as client software that you download and install in a Windows, Macintosh, Linux, iPhone, iPad, or Android computer or as a Web-based program that runs in a Web browser. While both types of newsreaders run essentially the same way, each style has its advantages.

RSS newsreader software that installs in your own computer tends to be much faster in operation. If you are struggling with a slow Internet connection, you will prefer a locally-installed RSS newsreader instead of using one on a web site.

On the other hand, Web-based newsreaders offer the convenience of simplicity and of “access from anywhere.” If your newsreader runs on the Web, you can read the latest news from your desktop computer at home, from the computer at the office, or from a laptop while riding the commuter train. I use the Web-based RSS newsreader often in my Chromebook laptop. Using a web-based newsreader on any operating system is very simple: there is no software to install and almost no complexity.

Even better, with a Web-based RSS newsreader you are not bothered by duplicates. You can read the latest information on your handheld computer and mark all articles as read. Later, you can launch the same RSS newsreader on your desktop computer at home and will be shown only the new articles. Anything you have read before will not be displayed a second time (unless you specifically tell the newsreader otherwise).

The content that a newsreader will retrieve and interpret is usually supplied in the form of RSS or other XML-formatted data, such as RDF/XML or Atom. RSS is an acronym for Really Simple Syndication and Rich Site Summary. The technical details of RSS data may be interesting to some, but I am going to skip all that. In reality, the casual user doesn’t need to know the technical details, only that it is a format used by newsreaders. If you would like to read a technical description of the inner workings of RSS, look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RSS.

Webmasters typically use software that automatically creates an RSS file containing headlines and descriptions of specific information. That information might be weather forecasts or news stories or articles about genealogy, depending on the purpose of the web site. For instance, when I post a new article on the www.EOGN.com web site, software installed on that web site displays the article as text on the web site’s home page and also automatically converts it into RSS format. The RSS version of the article is in a separate file that is visible to RSS newsreaders.

RSS has been popular for years. The reason is simple: RSS is a free and easy way to promote a site and its content. Almost all web sites containing frequently-updated information now offer RSS feeds of their latest information. Indeed, Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter at http://www.EOGN.com has offered RSS newsfeeds since June 2004.

Using RSS is simple. In fact, you can start using newsfeeds within minutes after reading this article. Perhaps the simplest method is to visit a web site that provides newsreader functionality, create an account (which is usually free), and then specify the newsfeeds you wish to read. My favorite Web-based newsreader is Feedly at http://www.feedly.com. Since it is Web-based, it works well on Windows, Macintosh, Chromebooks, Linux, Android, iPad, and even iPhones. You can find other web-based RSS newsreaders also but I would suggest starting with Feedly and seeing how it works. Later, you might want to experiment with other newsreaders.

If you are new to Feedly, I suggest you first read the online Tutorial at https://blog.feedly.com/get-the-right-content-on-your-feedly/.

Another reason I am staying with a web-based RSS newsreader is that I now enjoy the convenience of reading new RSS newsfeeds from my home computer, from my laptop when traveling, from a smartphone, and from an iPad. I never see duplicates when using any of these with Feedly. If I had separate RSS newsreader programs installed on each computer, keeping them in sync might be an issue. Use of a single, cloud-based RSS newsreader on the Feedly.com web site avoids synchronization issues, providing me new articles without duplicates of what I have already seen. However, if you only use one Windows system or one Macintosh, you still might prefer an RSS newsreader that installs in that system.

If you wish to install an RSS newsreader in your computer, you can find many such programs available today. Best of all, almost all of them are available free of charge while a very few of them cost money. Again, if you are new to RSS, I will suggest you only consider free RSS newsreaders until you become familiar with their use. You may or may not later decide to upgrade to a paid version of a program that has additional features you like. I suspect most users never upgrade.

For a long time, my favorite newsreader was NetNewsWire, a program for Macintosh. However, I switched to Feedly while I was waiting and am happy with it. If you think you might prefer an RSS newsreader that is installed in your Mac, check out NetNewsWire at http://netnewswireapp.com/.

If you use a Windows system and think think you might prefer an RSS newsreader that is installed in your system, check out the list of popular Windows RSS newsreaders at https://www.lifewire.com/free-windows-rss-feed-readers-1173954.

The Apple App Store, iPhone and iPad App Store, and Google Play (for Android devices) also list many, many RSS newsreaders.

I suggest you investigate RSS newsreaders. They can simplify your life.

8 Comments

Been using Feedly for 5 years now, and is the way I keep on top of all my interest areas. In fact, I read this EOGN article on my iPad, but I also use it on my iPhone, and Mac, and they are always in sync.

Like

Just read this post on my iPhone using Feedly. Wouldn’t think of keeping up any other way.

Like

Having followed your work for years through a feed reader, I love that you are bringing this topic up. I’m a huge fan of feed readers. I used Google Reader until it closed, switched to Feedly, and when the costs became too cumbersome, switched to Inoreader and love it. Easy to use, feedly-like interface, and simple sharing to social media, Evernote, OneNote, and everywhere including a WordPress site.

We need to constantly remind people that the power of the web goes beyond the browser. Thanks!

Like

I’ll wait for the next version that also reads and memorizes it on your behalf.

Liked by 1 person

Thanks for this article. If it weren’t for your sharing of technical expertise over the years, I probably would still just be using just my word processor and floppy discs.☺

Like

I tried RSS a number of years ago and iI spent more time and effort than it took to check the sites I normally check.’

Like

Is feedly free? comment from Lorelle says it is not free

Like

    —> Is feedly free?

    There are two versions: Feedly is free while Feedly Pro costs $5.41/month (billed annually). Pricing details are given at https://feedly.com/i/pro/landing-pro

    I suspect that the free version of Feedly meets the needs of most users. For instance, the free version allows for monitoring up to 100 RSS feeds. I will admit, however, that I am a heavy-duty user of Feedly so I pay for Feedly Pro and am happy with it.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Name and email address are required. Your email address will not be published.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title="" rel=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <pre> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong> 

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: