As hard as it may be to believe for those of us who live in RSS, both from a content production and content viewing perspective, RSS and the associated feed readers remain vastly under-utilized by most adults. Over the past weeks I asked many adults if they use RSS or a feed reader to manage their online reading. Only one person used a feed reader. Very few even knew what feed reader are. In fact, I showed one reasonably tech-savvy friend how to use Google Reader. He told me a day or two later that Google Reader had completely changed the way he approached the internet. He loved it.
Meanwhile, many of my adult friends continue to consume the internet inefficiently and ineffectively by bouncing around from one website to another, in search of content that could so easily be centralized via Google Reader. Yes, there are other feed readers, but they are more complicated and, frankly, not as good as Google Reader.
Wikipedia defines a feed reader as follows: “A feed aggregator, also known as a feed reader, news reader or simply aggregator, is client software or a Web application which aggregates syndicated web content such as news headlines, blogs, podcasts, and vlogs in a single location for easy viewing.” In other words, you can take all that content that you run all over the place trying to find and read, and you can put it in one centralized place. It puts you, not the various website developers and their advertisers, in charge of how you consume online information. For those (and you know who you are) who continue to claim that the internet is a dangerous and scary place- Google Reader is perfect for you. You get the content you’re after right from Google. And while Google is certainly trying to corner the market on data storage and online advertising, it’s certainly not going to rob you or give you a computer virus. As an aside, most of the people I know who are scared of the internet already have computer viruses because they are too afraid to find and update an anti-virus program, yet not afraid to open love emails and other obviously bogus missives from people they don’t know.
RSS feeds are not just for blogs. Just about every newspaper, online news source and other content provider has RSS feeds. Generally, they have many, broken down in a news, weather, sports, etc. manner. Here is a list of Yahoo’s feeds. Here are CNN’s. And here are the feeds for the New York Times. If you find all that stuff too boring, here’s mine.
There is one slight drawback to feeds. Lots of people use full feeds, which means that the entire story appears within the feed reader. Many news sources, however, are psychologically bound to the dying advertising model that traditionally paid their bills. So some of them use partial feeds, which show only a headline and sometimes a summary within the feed reader. You have to click through to the provider’s story (e.g., to its website) to read the whole thing. This is a pain in the ass, but even so, feed readers are still the best way to organize and access your online content. As another aside, big media can probably get away with partial feeds for a few more years, but anyone else who uses partial feeds is begging not to be read. If Mashable and TechCrunch can make full feeds available, then so can you. And if you don’t, many others with the same or better content will. As you can tell, I really don’t like partial feeds.
Back to Google Reader and why you need it.
Here’s a video by the folks who developed Google Reader explaining all the great things Google Reader will do for you (link for feeds).
So what are you waiting for? Go give it a whirl. It will change your (online) life.