Are RSS feed readers still a thing? What are their main benefits?

Maybe there’s a flash of recognition when you hear the words RSS feed reader (or maybe this is the first time you’re hearing about it and scratching your head).

Isn’t this a bygone of a different era? Does anyone still use RSS readers?

You would be greatly surprised by the answer. However, let’s start at the beginning.What is an RSS feed reader?

It’s time to rewind the clock for those of you who might have missed the time when RSS used to rule the land. RSS – Really Simple Syndication – is a way to receive and follow content from many different sites in one place. You use an RSS feed reader to subscribe to a site’s RSS feed (much like you subscribe to a newsletter today) and then receive new posts on your reader’s dashboard as soon as they are published.

A most convenient way to look at what’s being written on 15 sites all at once without bothering with the manual labor of visiting each site yourself. RSS readers used to display basic details like title, excerpt or summary, timestamp and author. Today, you can use your RSS reader to actually read entire articles in the app itself and even share them on social media.

Is it still used?

It might not be the preferred tool de jour, but RSS readers have their place today. Private users like writers, students and researchers have embraced RSS readers as ways to effectively organize their digital reading resources.

But there are also other applications on a purely professional level. Small businesses have turned to RSS feed readers to perform a variety of tasks pertaining to marketing, content development and SEO. The way feed readers work today allows users to engage in trend research, competitor research, brand monitoring and keyword monitoring.

All you have to be is a little bit inventive to adapt RSS feed readers to your particular needs.

What are some of its main benefits?

Have different integrations

RSS readers might have been a standalone application in the past, but right now developers have gone full in on inter-app integration. More and more RSS readers like Inoreader have integration for services like Pocket, OneNote, Evernote, Dropbox and Drive built in.

Platforms like IFTTT and Zapier also level the playing field in integrating any RSS feed reader with almost every other digital service or application. You can pair triggers with actions so that an important RSS post can be shared automatically on Twitter, in Slack or even create a Google Calendar event. That’s the true power of RSS feed readers.

It is very easy to use

Integrations might sound complicated, but they don’t really detract from RSS readers’ main selling points – simplicity and usability. All readers share the same basic layout and functionality. There’s a dashboard where all new RSS updates are displayed in chronological order. That’s it.

You get the title and a brief excerpt, which makes it easy to browse through articles. To the left, you have all your feeds displayed and when you click on a feed, you’re directed to only its unread headlines. From there on, it’s up to you how you group different feeds together or what tags you want to use for specific items.

The flexibility here caters to those users who want nothing more than a single feed as well as power users, who need to organize.

You have everything in one platform

Nothing can beat the convenience of opening a single application and seeing every single one of your subscriptions in one place. Automation is a beautiful thing, when you don’t have to manually visit every single news site, blog or forum individually. You’ll also notice that RSS feed readers have expanded their support for different types of feeds, or even create a feed when there is none to begin with.

Newsletters, Twitter accounts and hashtags, Facebook pages, LinkedIn groups and even YouTube channels can be all directed to your dashboard. You won’t miss out on a single post!

You do not waste your time searching for great content

It’s proven we spend most of our time in a content bubble online. With the Internet so big, there’s only so much you can discover on your own and so much you’ll see shared by your friends. You might turn to Google for fresh inspiration, but the algorithm is working against you in many ways and can make searching for quality content time and resource demanding.

RSS feed readers come to the rescue. Internal search is something that most RSS readers are now offering their users. Inoreader famously has three distinct levels of search. Access to the whole database of feeds in order to find fresh sources of information. Plus, the Google Chrome extension makes capturing new content so easy.    

You have many proposals for popular topics, feeds, collections

Content discovery is especially important for RSS readers as a way to keep users coming back. In a way, the freshly promoted content resembles news aggregation similar to Google News but in a branching tree of topics.

Feedly, The Old Reader and Inoreader all offer users some way to discover new content. You can choose between topics and top feeds, which are promoted based on overall in-app subscriptions. Inoreader also promotes user-created collections. A collection can be created for any reason – one of the most popular ones contains the sites of all Google Products available.

Have great business features

RSS readers might have started off as tools for personal use in their infancy (though writers and journalists have always found use for them), today’s generation has adapted to handle the processes and needs of the digital economy. This is particularly good news for professionals in information-heavy positions. Many readers allow users to create their internal newsletters.

Others have developed a social feature like Inoreader’s Teams Feature, which helps coordinate as many teams as you want in data gathering. Automation, managing duplicated headlines and further integration with useful services like Readwise greatly improves marketers’ and SEO specialists’ workflow and productivity. 

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