RSS: still the best way to keep up with the news

A reader recently asked if I’ve ever written a post describing my “content curation process”. The immediate answer is not specifically, because it never occurred to me that it might be interesting. However, as I rely on something called “RSS”, and as it’s a couple of years since I’ve mentioned using that for monitoring website changes, a recap may be in order.

RSS is a standardised file format that summarises the latest updates to websites. You can find our site’s here, if you want to take a look. Here’s one from BBC News and here’s one from the Daily Telegraph. They may look different to each other, depending on your browser (some will just be unformatted code), but they’re all readable by dedicated apps. Many website content management systems produce them automatically – possibly including yours.

The key to the usefulness of RSS is that a dedicated RSS reading app can – in a matter of seconds – check up on a whole list of RSS feeds and bring them all together in one combined presentation. If you’re a podcast fan, your podcast app does the same thing (in fact, it may use RSS) whenever you tell it to search your subscriptions for new episodes.

Set yourself up with an RSS reader: Feedly is a good example. Then start adding websites to the app. These could be competitor sites, or industry news sites, or anything really. All that’s required is that the sites have an RSS feed. If you end up with something that looks useful, why not make it the default page view when you start up your browser?

I have a couple of RSS reading accounts set up (I like an app called Reeder for iOS). One is for leisure reading, and includes new stuff from over 100 sites to do with music, football, investing, local politics and other interests I have. I find that I read it every day or two, and it keeps me updated with websites I’d never get around to visiting otherwise.

My other account (and returning us to the start of this article) is for inspiration for this blog. It checks up on the output from about 150 blogs, companies and marketing news sites which could give me ideas for an article. On any given day, there are dozens of new items to skim through, including announcements from companies such as Google.

RSS could have been a lot bigger than it is, but it’s a technology which is working quietly for millions of people. It’s worth a look if you’re not on board already.