If you have to visit a number of news sources and blogs every day for research or to stay on top of the news, you can quickly find yourself overwhelmed. Instead of spending a lot of time clicking around to individual sites looking for fresh content, take advantage of an easier option: RSS feeds.
RSS, or “really simple syndication,” is a technology that aggregates Web content and dumps it into a single, simple interface (called a feed reader) so that you can browse all the Web sites and blogs you’re interested in – and whenever a new post or article is published, it automatically appears in your reader. (Of course, automatic doesn’t always mean instantaneous – there can be a time lag of between a few minutes and a few hours between the original publisher and your reader of choice.) In short, RSS feeds offer an easy way to stay on top of newly updated content without wasting hours surfing.
Different feed readers use different displays, but most of them feature some riff on the layout Microsoft made popular years ago with Outlook: a column showing a nested file tree on the left, with more detail on the right. For example, here’s what the Google Reader looks like. Web sites are listed on the left, with article details on the right.
And here’s a screenshot from a Bloglines feed. Again, publications are sorted into folders on the left, with detail on newly updated articles on the right.
If you have Outlook 2007, you can configure it to receive RSS feeds. Click here to find out how. Your RSS feeds appear in their own folder off the same branch as your Inbox, Sent Items, and other popular folders.
No matter which reader you use, you can subscribe to a particular publication’s RSS feed by looking for this icon, usually at the bottom of a post or in a prominent spot like the sidebar or masthead:
The newest version of Internet Explorer looks for RSS feeds as soon as it loads a site; if a feed is available, that RSS icon in your Explorer toolbar will appear in color. Just click the icon to subscribe to the feed.
You can also subscribe to feeds by going into your reader, following the directions to add a feed, and entering in the URL of the feed you’re interested in.