How to Use RSS Feeds to Increase Productivity – Part 1

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One of the questions I often get is how I can read and keep up with so much information in an already busy schedule. I use several techniques, and today I want to let you in on one of my secret tools. I use RSS feeds extensively to gather new information from multiple websites into one place.


What is RSS?

An RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feed is a service provided by many websites that sends out information when new content is published. Every time a site publishes a new piece of content, details about that content — including either the full text of the content or a summary, publication date, author, direct link, and other information — are automatically generated into a file and displayed in reverse chronological order.

Because the RSS file contains details about every piece of content a site publishes, you can use RSS feeds for things like keeping up to date with every new article your favorite website publishes. You can also automatically create email newsletters or social media posts to promote the new content.

RSS feeds are typically coded in XML format and are unreadable in that native format. This is much like the HTML code for a website. You need a tool to convert the code into readable text and graphics. This is the function of a browser like Chrome or Edge.

So to turn an RSS feed into something readable, you need an RSS reader.

An RSS reader is an app that formats the XML code of an RSS feed and renders it to look more like what you’d see on a website.

RSS Feed in Feedly

In the past, when RSS was more common, websites had an RSS icon that directly linked to its RSS feed. This made it easy to subscribe via their preferred reader with a click of a button. Today, most websites no longer display an RSS icon. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t get that site’s content via RSS: In a later TechTips, I’ll provide information on how to find the RSS feed for almost any website.

With the right RSS reader app, you can get an RSS feed from just about any blog, podcast, social media account, or email newsletter you want to follow. But RSS works the other way around too. It doesn’t only pull content into an RSS reader; you can use it to push content to sites and other apps as well.

I use Feedly as my RSS reader — so I’ll use that in most of the examples below — but there are plenty of other great RSS reader apps to consider if you’re just getting started with RSS.


How to Use RSS Feeds

Following your favorite blogs is the simplest way to get started with RSS, but it’s just one of the many benefits RSS offers.

Keep track of new blog posts, podcasts, and YouTube channel uploads

I read many website articles. Staying up to date on what is happening both within the industry and in other industries is an excellent way for me to learn new things, develop new ideas for topics to write about, and find information worth linking to in the articles I write.

Using an RSS reader means visiting each publication’s website individually to see if new content has been published and is not necessary. I see the latest content from all of the websites I’m interested in within a single scrolling interface in Feedly. I generally look through my Feedly feed on my mobile phone. It is easy to quickly review the article and decide if I want to do anything more.

You can use RSS for more than following articles. You can also use it to see new podcast episodes and new videos posted to your favorite YouTube channels — all from within your RSS reader.

Often subscribing to an RSS feed for any content is as simple as pasting the URL of the page (an article page, podcast episodes list, YouTube channel homepage, etc.) that you want to follow into your RSS reader. If an RSS feed exists for that page, you can subscribe to it immediately.

What is your preferred way to discover and consume content?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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