If only I wasn’t so dependent on content going viral on Facebook! If only I didn’t have to keep checking my favourite pages for updates!

Fear not, my friend! Let me introduce you to Really Simple Syndication: RSS!

Content is syndicated when it is released through multiple outlets. So web syndication involves viewing the content of one website through another website or app.

If you want your website to be available for syndication, you provide what’s called a feed, which contains your most recent articles (or summaries thereof) in a standardised format (such as RSS or Atom). And you might advertise the existence of such a feed by displaying this icon:

Feed icon

Familiar?

If not, don’t worry: almost all blogs and news sites provide feeds, even if they don’t display the icon.

The beauty of RSS feeds is that, by using a feed reader, you can monitor all your favourite sites, and quickly skim through new content in one convenient place. A feed reader effectively creates your own personal newspaper, consisting of all the articles you haven’t yet read from all your favourite sites. Open it once or twice a day, flick through, and you’re done! No more time wasted manually checking whether there’s anything new on your favourite sites. And you get to read things that are genuinely worth reading, not just the more polemical articles that go viral on Facebook.

So how do you get started?

First, sign up for a free feed reader. The three highlighted in a recent Wired article are:

  • Feedly. The most popular option, and the one I use. Limit of 100 feeds, unless you pay (or unless you signed up ages ago)
  • The Old Reader. Also very popular. Similar restrictions to the number of feeds with a free account
  • Inoreader. Newer. Unlimited feeds for free

Then, if you are a user of mobile technology, it’s worth installing an app. The readers listed above all have their own apps (Feedly, The Old Reader, Inoreader), but the following often provide better features, and synchronise with the feed readers mentioned above:

  • Android
    • Palabre. Edit: I’m currently using this app
    • gReader. The one I use, though it hasn’t been updated in a couple of years, and doesn’t claim to be compatible with Inoreader. Edit: not currently available, not being listed on the Play Store, although the app’s own page still exists
  • iOS
    • Newify. Feedly only, apparently
    • Reeder. Costs a few dollars

Other recommendations? Leave a comment below… Edit: see here for a list of RSS readers.

Finally, you can start adding feeds! Click here for starters…