How to Save RSS

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I love RSS. It is the best technology for reading content on the web. For those that do not know what RSS is, check out this 1 minute video. According to this page RSS popularity started to decline in 2006. Today many people use Facebook, Twitter and newsletters to connect them with their reading content.

I’ve used all those methods for reading content and RSS is superior. Let me rattle off a few reasons.

  • Facebook hides posts. You may have LIKED a page, but that is no guarantee you are going to see all new content posts. Facebook charges content providers to display posts to their members. The more you pay, the more they will show your content. I cover this in the post Shutting Down the CriticalMAS Facebook Page. With RSS 100% of posts are displayed to 100% of subscribers at no cost.
  • Twitter is mostly a blast of short messages, but buried in the stream are links to articles you would like to read. But the stream over time becomes a tidal wave. There is no easy way to save and revisit content links. With RSS, they are saved and waiting for you. Try going back a week or even a few days in Twitter looking for something. Awful.
  • And because the stream of tweets on Twitter is so intense, content publishers will post many links to the same article. This is fine if you missed it before, but noise if you’ve already seen it. With RSS, you have a single reference. No duplicates.
  • Because Facebook is hiding posts and Twitter has become overwhelming, we are seeing the rise of newsletters. This is a problem because now your Inbox has become your reader. The Inbox becomes the dumping ground. I’m subscribed to 337 RSS Feeds. The thought of all those articles pouring into my Inbox frightens me. Having a dedicated RSS reader manage that content so that I can read at my own leisure is wonderful.
  • Newsletters are the rage now, but you need to give the content provider at least your email address. Hopefully they won’t SPAM you too much. With RSS, the content provider doesn’t know your email address.

I could go on and on listing reasons why RSS is superior, but I think you get the idea. Here are my ideas on how to make RSS better and more competitive.

Add a Newsletter Reader Feature

We are getting bombarded with requests to sign up for newsletters. There are some that I would sign up for, but either I don’t trust the site or just the thought of my Inbox getting slammed turns me off.

But what if Feedly (my RSS Reader) provided me with a unique email address that I could use for newsletters? And they managed the subscribe and unsubscribe process from the reader itself. All those newsletters could be directed into folders on my RSS Reader for me to read at my leisure. My Inbox doesn’t get assaulted. And the content providers don’t have my direct email account.

You know those annoying newsletter pop-up windows windows? What if a browser extension provided by the RSS Reader that detected it and offered to either complete the sign up or block the window forever? That would be awesome.

RSS Robot

RSS Robot by Rob McDonald

Add a Customized Twitter Feed Subscribe

There are any different types of Tweets. Quick messages, responses, retweets, quoted retweets, links to one’s own content or links to outside content. The content can be new or old. If you only care about specific types of tweets, it can be difficult to find the signal in the noise. Now start following 300 or 3,000 people and it becomes impossible.

If the RSS Reader managed the different types of Tweets and allowed the user to customize which ones they wanted to see and then handled all the duplicates, that would be valuable.

This feature might even be as simple as using the Twitter address to look up the site URL and locate the RSS feed. A much easier sign up. Maybe the same could be done with Facebook, Pinterest and Google+?

Filters

Many years ago Yahoo! created something called Pipes. It was a drag and drop way to customize RSS feeds. It no longer exists, but the idea is still solid. I have some feeds that publish way too much, so I end up not reading those feeds. But I still want to read the important posts.

Having a set of filters I can use such as author, category or keyword would be helpful. Imagine being able to subscribe to this site, but only wanting to see Fitness posts and not crazy talk about a future RSS Reader. 🙂

Do It!

RSS needs to mount a counter attack against the big entities that stepped in between content providers and readers. A single reader for content. No likes, no follows, no email address needed. If you are an RSS developer, we need your help.

14 thoughts on “How to Save RSS

  1. Brian

    RSS is the best way to get what you’re interested sent to you. I laugh how every year or so people sound the death knell for it.

  2. SCM

    Hear, hear. Your second bullet point re: Twitter is spot on. Unless you can be tuned into Twitter 24/7 you will miss links. RSS allows you to review what is important at your leisure.

  3. Brian

    Can you post an example of these newsletters you’re talking about? I saw a link to one in another of your articles, but nothing popped up. Two things that drive me crazy are the Foresee site surveys and the incessant offers to chat with what always appears to be a hot white woman.

  4. @Brian 1 – I don’t think RSS is going to die, but it is losing popularity to other formats.

    @Brian 2 – My newsletter sign up form is not a pop-up and is found over in the right column. However many sites bombard you. Chris Kresser and Mark’s Daily Apple are 2 that come to mind.

    Also I want to mention that the content from newsletters is often not the same as what is on the site. I’m currently signed up for the Spanish newsletter from FluentU. I would LOVE it if these newsletters went direct into my RSS Reader. But they don’t. They sit in my Inbox until I can go through them or if they pile up, I file them into a folder where they are sometimes forgotten.

  5. I assume you’re looking for a universal solution… but did you know that all you’re asking for is already in… InoReader? 🙂

    I’m affraid the solutions you propose are too techy to convince a large audience (everybody have of course its own answer :-).

    RSS have lost where the “Like” button (Facebook) and the “Follow” button (Twitter) have won.

    As decentralized and open formats, RSS/Atom still lack of simplicity at all stages.

    > Difficult to find RSS feeds on a website.
    If only every site proposed a “feed” icon on its homepage pointing to a “/rss” page listing all the feeds avaliable.
    If only each section of websites had it’s own RSS Autodicovery feed (another advantage of RSS in frony of newsletters, Facebook and Twitter).
    If only every CMS worked like WordPress 🙂

    > Difficult to subscribe
    If only every site used an open source button like SubToMe to facilitate the subscription process
    If only a universal browser extension (where the user could choose its online/desktop/self-hosted newsreader) could facilitate the subscribtion process,

    > Lack of an evangelizing community
    The RSS Advisory Board is silent for years!
    Dave Winer has put himself above the melee long time ago and have probably better to do…
    The Reboot RSS community is silent for months!
    RSS platform developers don’t understand that concerted (cooperative) actions towards common interests could expand the population of RSS users…

    If ever…

  6. Derek Hammonds

    If it wasn’t for RSS feeds I’d be so much less informed. It’s hard to separate the noise from the signal in so many technologies but RSS helps me do that on my own terms.

  7. AlanR

    Have you heard of Inoreader? They have the so-called mail2tag feature that gives you a unique email address for each of your tags, so you can actually receive emails inside. They also have filtering and rules. Sounds like something you can use. Just look at their blog. Search for mail2tag, filters and rules.

  8. @Serge and @AlanR – I was unaware of InoReader. Glad to know someone had the same idea.

    @Serge – Good points about RSS being too techie, There is a marketing role to play, but like you pointed out, those that should be leading the charge have been silent.

    I took your advice and added a SubToMe button to the end of each post.

  9. Brian

    Good point about websites making us hunt for the RSS feed info.

    Re. the newsletter, Foresee surveys and offers-to-chat boxes, how do we block those? I’ve uninstalled Flash completely from my system and use Adblock. In this game of cat and mouse, it’s now our turn. But how?

  10. @Brian – I do not see the surveys. I also run AdBlock

    @Julien – Did you see the earlier comments? It was recommended and I installed it on this site.

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