Feed, commonly misidentified as RSS, is the proper name for the contextual version of your site as distributed through various feed types such as RSS, Atom, XML, etc. They are basically your posts stripped of your website design, read like articles in a newspaper.
Today’s feed readers are more than the simple text readers of old. Google Reader is now incorporated into Google Currents, a mobile app that reads a site’s feeds in a magazine format. Other mobile apps that create a magazine feel for reading site feeds include Feedly, Flipboard, Zite, Pulse, SkyGrid, and News360.
Today’s Blog Exercise is designed to teach you the basics of how to use a feed reader to find something to blog about, specifically topical issues associated with your blog topic and industry.
Imagine monitoring 1,000 websites daily. Could you do it? Could you create 2,000 bookmarks in your browser and visit all 2,000 sites once a day? Once a week? Once a month? Maybe once a year.
I’ve been using a feed reader since they were developed to help me monitor the world around me, specifically my world, the world of blogging and WordPress. I now have over 1,000 sources in my feed reader just on WordPress. With a feed reader, I can scan down the list of the sites in a few minutes looking for what is new and interesting.
Here is how a feed reader works, and I recommend Google Reader) to begin. Once you have it set up, do the following.
- Go to a site you consider a source of ideas and material for your blog. Copy the address or their feed address (often referred to as RSS).
- Return to Google Reader and click Subscribe. Paste in the address (URL).
- Repeat this for several sites.
Once set up, note that you have several viewing options, giving you a chance to scan the updates at your own pace.
Sites with recently published content are bolded, as are their post titles. When read, the bold turns off. You can customize the settings to filter out posts you’ve reviewed posts so they are not visible. To mark an article as read, click it to “read” it or choose “Mark as Read” at the bottom of the feed view of that article.
There are two core views in Google Reader, List and Expanded. List features only post titles. Expanded view displays the article fully or by excerpt summary. Choose List view for the fastest scanning, and Expanded to read every article.
You may add sites directly to the root or set up folders to group together related sites. I have folders for writing, blogging, WordPress, gardening, knitting, and other favorite subjects.
Click on the site name and you will see only the articles for that site in reverse chronological order.
If you are subscribed to Google and Google+, at the bottom of each post is a button for sharing the post on Google+. There are also options to Email the article, Mark as Read, Send To, and other options.
To use Google Reader:
- Go through the list and look for something worth blogging about.
- If you want to read the entire article in its website, or if it only features an excerpt, Windows users hold down the CTRL key and left click the title, or right click the title and choose “Open in New Tab.” Mac users use the CMD key. This will open the web page in a new tab for you to read and link to for a quote and citation.
- Mark the article as read and move onto the next.
Note that by opening the article in a new tab, you can copy the full web page address to create a proper citation link. If you use the title from the feed reader, it will be the feed link, which often looks similar to a link shortener link. It will still open the cited article from your site, but the link is not “pretty,” if that matters to you.
I use Google Reader for speed blogging and news and current events topics daily. I’ll share more tips on how to make this process more efficient in a later blog exercise.
Your blog exercise today is to set up a Google Reader account and start adding sites related to your blogging topics.
If you do not have any resources yet, check out my lists of Hundreds of Resources for Finding Content for Your Blog (old but there are some great ideas and sites in the list), or do a search from within Google Reader or through your favorite search engine.
Most sites today have feeds even though they might not be visible. If you do not spot one, just enter the main address to see if Google Reader can find the feed. If a favorite resource site does not have a feed, consider contacting them and recommending they either switch to WordPress or add feed functionality to their site.
If you have any sites you will add to your feed reader to help you blog better, please post them below in the comments so we can add them to our own feed reader.
For more information on feeds:
- Benefits and Uses of Website Feeds
- The Birth of RSS
- Don’t You Know What a Feed Is Yet? Get To Know Your Feeds!
- Using Your Feeds for Story Ideas
- Feeding on Lorelle on WordPress
- Creating Attention Getting Linkable Content
- Do You Need Permission to Use Feeds
- One Year Anniversary Review: What are Feeds?
- Feed Fatigue
- Understanding, Using, and Customizing WordPress Blog Feeds
Remember to include a hat tip link back to this post to create a trackback if you choose to blog about this subject, or leave a properly formed link in the comments so participants can check out your blog exercise task.