An introduction to RSS feeds and readers

Feedly BBC News

Nowadays, keeping up with the latest news for your favorite topics is not always easy. There are so many amazing websites, blogs, and other online services that you may want to visit but doing so every day is not always possible. The average person visits a certain number of websites every single day while they also have other pages that they visit infrequently or at least when they remember about them. But what can you do when you forget about the pages or when you finalize realize how tiring it is to open a number of websites multiple times per day? The answer, of course, lies in RSS feeds.

What is RSS?

RSS stands for Rich Site Summary though you will also see it referred to as Real Simple Syndication sometimes. The technology was originally created to serve Netscape but it has now evolved to serve a multitude of other online services. RSS technology basically allows any website to create a so-called feed, a stream of content that is usually directed into an RSS reader. Accessing and using these RSS feeds is completely free and since most of the readers are also free, you can set up your own websites in no time.

In essence, grabbing RSS feeds from multiple websites and pushing them into a single reader will allow you to catch up with new content easily, without having to visit those websites individually. This is fantastic for people who already visit many websites every day and it can be used to replace all those email digests you might already be subscribed to.

Getting an RSS feed

Before I tell you about anything else, there is one thing I would like to make clear first. Not all websites have RSS feeds as they have to be created manually by the administrator. We will also take a look at how you can create RSS feeds from any website but that process is not always viable.

To start with, head to any website and look for an “RSS” button. Clicking on that button will result in one of two different scenarios. In some websites, this button will land you in another page where you can see the live feed along with additional buttons that will allow you to add the feed to a number of different services or at least a URL that you will have to copy into your RSS reader.

RSS Feed

In the alternate scenario, the RSS button will merely point you to the URL of the feed so you will have to copy the address and paste it into your reader.

Getting an RSS reader

There is an extensive number of RSS readers out there and your choice should be dictated by the reader’s interface and the extra features they offer. If you do not care about such things, any RSS reader will do because they all “read” the feeds in the exact same way so there is no difference in the content that you will receive. For the purposes of this guide, I will be using Feedly to illustrate how you would normally use an RSS reader.

  1. Feedly, like many other RSS readers, is available in various forms. You can visit the website, grab the web app, get the mobile version for Android, iOS and even Windows Phone (though it is an unofficial app, it is supported by Feedly).
  2. Most RSS readers share the same features across multiple platforms too. First of all, you need to create an account though some readers also allow you to simply log in with Facebook and Google.
  3. Once you have created an account, it is simply a matter of adding feeds to the reader. In Feedly, for instance, you can do that by searching for your favorite websites or just your favorite topics in the Search box.Feedly Add Feed
  4. After adding all the content you want, just click on a feed and you will be able to view a stream of news. The feeds get updated automatically and you can interact with them in a number of ways, depending on the reader you are using. Most readers will simply dismiss the articles once you have read them but you are free to alter the settings to better suit your needs.
    Feedly BBC Feed

Get an RSS feed from any page

Turning any page into an RSS feed is a daunting task because actual RSS feeds take a little bit more work than that in order to work perfectly. With that said, if you favorite website does not support RSS, you can use a service like Page2RSS instead.

  1. Visit the page I linked above.
  2. Enter the URL of the page you want to turn into an RSS feed.
  3. Grab the link provided by Page2RSS and enter it into your RSS reader. Alternatively, click on one of the buttons on the right side to instantly add the feed to one of the supported readers.
  4. Done!

Page2RSS FileCluster

This method works fine for simple things but it may not work on every website. Furthermore, creating unofficial feeds such as this one might result in weird information coming through, such as mixed up dates and strange author names. Other services you can try include Feedity and Feed43. All three services do pretty much the same thing so just try them until one works for you.