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RSS and Newsreader tutorial: Part 1, What is a Newsreader? (Why would I want to use one?)

by Brian Brown (follow me on Twitter): March 8, 2007

A Newsreader, also called an RSS Reader, is a program that allows you to read dozens of blogs, news websites, and searches, in the time it would normally take to read a couple.

The main thing is that Newsreaders save time. A lot of time.

How a Newsreader works
For most readers, they simulate an email program by using a two-pane system, folders in the left pane, content in the right. Folders contain the feeds you are tracking. When someone writes a new post in the feed you are tracking, it becomes bold and displays a number next to it showing how many posts are unread. This is just like receiving an email in your email program.

Bloglinesscreenshot When the reader shows that someone has written a new post, you simply click on the folder containing that feed and the post appears in the right hand pane. You don't have to actually visit the blog to read the post, the content of the post appears in the reader. In this way, you can quickly skim headlines and posts without actually having to visit dozens of feeds individually.

Every blog produces an RSS feed (though it may be called an Atom feed, or RDF feed or XML feed among others). In addition to blogs, these RSS feeds may be found at news websites, searches (Google News, Technorati), and with other websites where content is constantly being updated or changed by its users (Flickr for example). Any site that has a feed can be loaded into an RSS reader.

The benefit of tracking blogs this way is obvious...it cuts down on the time it takes to read several blogs at once. But using the RSS feed for searches can be even more useful.

For example, do a search for your company in Google News. This will list any articles written recently that include the name of your company. This search has an RSS feed that you can load into your Newsreader. Now, whenever someone writes an article that includes your company's name in the future, you will automatically receive a notice in your Newsreader that there is a new article.

Use this method to keep track of articles about your company, your competitor's company, or for individuals. Also, use this method to track keywords that important to your industry. Whenever someone writes an article containing those keywords, you know about it. It's completely customizable news.

Two great Newsreaders: Bloglines (web-based), and Great News (download the program to your computer).

In Part 2, we'll take a close up look at the components of a Newsreader to see how it works.

Follow me on Twitter by clicking here.


Comments

Another great post I'll be passing on to my clients who run business blogs.

Thanks Terinea. I appreciate the word being spread!

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