Understanding and Using Feed Readers

rss_necklace by n0seblunt

If you read a lot of blogs, then you have probably seen the terms feed and RSS very often.

You may ask what are feeds? What is RSS? What are feed readers? How do I subscribe to feeds?

This is a beginner’s guide to understanding feeds and subscribing to them.

What Are Feeds?

A feed is just a channel that is used by readers to pull content from websites.

Most websites use the RSS (Really Simple Syndication) format. RSS will convert a website article or blog post into a format that is readable by feed readers.

What Are Feed Readers?

Feed readers / RSS readers are the software that you use to read website feeds.

The advantage of using feed readers are:

  1. The software automatically checks for the latest updates
  2. The software tells you which items you have not read
  3. You can organize feeds in categories or tags
  4. You can save articles for future reference
  5. You can easily share feed items with friends

Feed readers come in online or offline versions.

Online feed readers require you to login to a website to read all your subscriptions in one place. The advantage is you get to read your subscriptions from any computer.

Offline readers will download your subscriptions into your computer / mobile device. The advantage is you get to read your subscriptions offline.

How Much Does It Cost to Subscribe?

It’s absolutely free.

Why I Love Subscribing to Feeds

Personally I find it really convenient to subscribe to feeds because:

  1. I read a lot of blogs and sites. It will be too tedious for me to visit over a hundred websites daily to find new content
  2. I don’t have time to surf the web every day. If I subscribe to a feed, I won’t miss a single article
  3. I get to categorize feeds, so I can set aside some feeds to read only when I have the time.
  4. Having all items in one place allows me to quickly process hundreds of articles a day.
  5. I can read articles using my favorite fonts and font sizes

Why Bloggers Love Subscribers

You might be wondering why it’s such a big deal to have subscribers. I’m sharing honestly from a blogger’s point of view:

  1. Subscribers allow me to estimate the size of my readership. Honestly if I have 1 or 2 subscribers, I really have to think twice about continuing to blog.
  2. Subscribers can be used to gauge the quality of website content. More subscribers means people want more of your great content.

How Do I Subscribe to a Feed?

  1. Find the website’s feed. Normally there will be a RSS icon or an invitation to ‘Subscribe’. For example, this blog’s feed is http://feeds.feedburner.com/Adino
  2. Click on the link and it will bring you to a subscription page.
  3. If you can’t find the feed link, sometimes try to put in the website url (e.g. http://www.adinochang.com). Some feed readers can discover the site’s feed automatically.
  4. Choose a web-based reader like Google Reader, Bloglines or My Yahoo.
  5. That’s it!

Alternative Method to Subscribe to Feeds

I prefer this method because it’s slightly faster.

  1. Find the website’s feed. Normally there will be a RSS icon or an invitation to ‘Subscribe’. For example, this blog’s feed is http://feeds.feedburner.com/Adino
  2. Select a suitable feed reader. I like Google Reader.
  3. Find the ‘Add Subscription’ button and paste in the feed link.
  4. Add the necessary tags and you’re done!

What If I Don’t Like Feed Readers?

If you don’t like feed readers, there is usually an option to subscribe via email too. This option may be suitable for those of you who prefer to centralize your workflow to your email inbox.

You can easily do that too, usually by looking for a ‘subscribe by email’ link and clicking on it. For example, you can get my blog posts through email.

Some sites require you to fill in a form, and confirm your email subscription.

Conclusion

I hope this short guide will help to enrich your blog reading experience.

Feel free to share your blog reading methods in the comments below.

Finally, please add my blog feed via RSS or email.

Photo By: n0seblunt / CC BY 2.0

[tags]RSS, How To, Feed Reader, Guide, FAQ[/tags]

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