Ten years ago, I was a huge user of RSS. I loved the simplicity of it and ability to follow topics that interested me. My preferred reader was Google Reader, whereby I could simply add a URL of a site that I wanted to follow and subscribe to updates in close to real-time. Since I controlled it, the content was highly relevant to my interests.
Today, however, you barely ever hear about RSS anymore. The protocol is still around but unless you’re a tech geek you’re probably not using it. Additionally, popular services like Google Reader have since been shut down. Social media has taken over the job of delivery news in real-time. Most people, whether they want to or not, get their information from Facebook or Twitter.
The thing that really bothers me about Facebook is that you can’t control it. Sure, you can “like” things so that they can tailor your interests and what’s shown to you in News Feed, but you’re completely at the mercy of Facebook’s algorithm. The News Feed itself is garbage: a mixture of personal status updates, random posts from my “interests”, and crappy 3-second videos desperately trying to capture my attention on. So as a way to get news, I find it completely useless.
Twitter lets you have more control, so in theory, it should be better. You can “follow” specific people and things that interest you and generally the content is more relevant. The problem with Twitter is that it’s complete chaos in terms of consuming information. It’s a mixture of unstructured “conversations”, witty remarks, advertisements, and the occasional nugget of useful information. In terms of getting news, I find that it’s also pretty useless unless you want to be glued to the app and checking it religiously throughout the day.
So if it’s not Twitter or Facebook, what other options are out there to get your news in 2018? One option is Google News. Part of the reason I think Google killed Google Reader was to focus on Google News as a more mainstream tool for real-time news. It’s actually not bad and I used it for several years. It’s real-time and gives you a decent amount of control to follow topics that interest you. It’s great for staying up to date about general things happening in the world, but I still found it lacking in terms of following specific sites or blogs that I cared about.
This led me back to RSS. About a year ago, I started using Feedly. It’s the best “Google Reader” alternative that I know of that still exists today. Like traditional RSS, you can subscribe to specific sites or blogs by inputting the URL or searching for the site. The thing I like about Feedly over other RSS apps is that it’s backed by a web service that keeps everything in sync. So if you read articles on your phone or another device, it shows up on all devices. The other killer feature, that Feedly has is the ability to mute things. You can set up rules to mute keywords and topics indefinitely or for certain amounts of time. I find this incredibly useful to keep my news feed focused and informative, without it being emotionally draining every time I look at it.
My current favorite app though is the Apple News app. It’s simple to use and I find the reading experience to be the most enjoyable. Feedly, for example, often has to load the web view of a site whereas in Apple News it’s quick and snappy. Apple News gives you a surprising amount of control. You can follow specific publications, topics, and keywords. Most of the big sites that I was following via RSS in Feedly are available in Apple News. I imagine they are using RSS on the backend, however, it’s not an RSS reader. So for more niche sites or personal blogs, I can’t access those in Apple News and I still use Feedly for those. Also, similar to Feedly’s mute feature, Apple News lets you “Block” certain topics or publications. This is really cool. Whereby Feedly only shows you what you have explicitly subscribed to, Apple News will serve up content that it thinks interests you. I like this because it serves up content I wouldn’t otherwise discover, but it’s still controlled based on things I don’t want to see. Fake examples below:
So in summary, I’m currently using Apple News for general news consumption. Feedly for more niche sites and personal blogs. I also check Hacker News every couple days and subscribe to Morning Brew (if you want to use my referral link), a daily email which is great for getting an overview of the important things happening in tech and business in < 5 minutes per day. I’m finding this current setup to work well for me so that I can stay up to date on things I care about, while also minimizing my time investment each day. I’m sure a year from now I will have a different setup as I’m constantly trying new tools. In fact, Google just recently refreshed Google News so I might give that a try soon.
How do you stay up to date on news? Do you use any of the tools I mentioned?