Sunday, September 13, 2009

Using a News Reader

I've been a heavy user of the Internet for 18 years. I kept a hand written journal for 24 years before that. When blogging first became possible I was a reader, although not a writer in the beginning. If we wanted to follow a blog we subscribed to an email notification, which is one reason why I get so much mail.

In July, 2009, here in Christchurch NZ, I collected data about how people really use the Internet. I asked people to give me NUMBERS, no opinions, about their Internet use. One surprising number was that of 90 people who responded, only ONE wrote a blog, and he had not updated for some time. Even more surprising was that only THREE people read blogs. Those numbers seem incredibly at odds with what most surveys tell us. The reason for that is in the methodology. Both sets of data are correct. e.g. "80% of Internet users read blogs." The question was "In the last 12 months have you ever read a blog?". My data says "3% of Internet users read blogs" and my question was "How many blogs did you read in the last 7 days". 97% of my respondents replied NONE.

Another startling statistic. Not a single person in my sample uses an RSS Reader. Now at the time I didn't use a reader either. I had FeedDemon on my computer, but I never opened it. Installed but never used in 2+ years. For me the old email system worked OK, and I'd never bothered to change. But now I'm interested, why don't people use RSS Readers, or News Readers? Essentially because they don't know about them.

RSS stands for really simple syndication, which explains exactly nothing. It's a formatted text feed, with integrated pictures and video, so in a reader it presents like an electronic newspaper. Depending on the source, you get a heading and the first 250 words or so, or you get the full feed. Clicking on the heading opens the original source in your browser. News readers have lots of tricks for searching for information and saving the very best, and for discarding the rest.

Every Internet user should as part of his or her daily routine open a News Reader. That news reader should be subscribed to RSS Feeds from people or information sources that interest you. You should be getting the FEED, and not the EMAIL. It saves a lot of TIME. Also because it's so much easier to do, you'll actually end up reading much more, and being better informed.

What Feed Reader should you use?

My knowledge here is suspect. I've only ever used FeedDemon to any extent. I've had a play with Google Reader, and that seems OK too. Here is what a few hours work tells me. First of all there is a fundamental choice; do you use Google or not?

Google Reader and variations.

Google Reader is widely praised as being easy to use and with lots of tools and shortcuts to suit many needs. I found in my short time using it that I quickly adapted to it's style.

FeedDemon 3.0 is a standalone programme that synchronizes with Google Reader. If you are at home you use FeedDemon because you prefer it's style and functions, but if you are somewhere else, all your feeds are also available on Google Reader.

NetNewsWire 3.2 (Mac Users) This is the Mac version of FeedDemon.

Feedly is a Firefox Browser addon that links to Google Reader.

Other Options:

NewzCrawler 14 day free trial - US$24.95

Amphetadesk is a free, cross platform, open-sourced, syndicated news aggregator - it obediently sits on your desktop, downloads the latest news that interests you, and displays them in a quick and easy to use.

Bloglines (Web Based) Voted Best Blog/Feed Search Engine by the Search Engine Watch Awards in 2005

John Stephen Veitch
The Network Ambassador
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