Information overload. The concept is over forty years old, and it almost seems like a cliché today. But it has also never been truer. With the Internet’s pervasiveness, we are generating more and more information every day, and disseminating it in faster ways. Most of us spend a good part of our days trying to keep up with the news and information onslaught. Fortunately, technology can also help us manage this seemingly never-ending stream of news and information. Smartphone and tablets, and the apps that run on them, allow us to easily keep up with the latest news and information throughout the day. RSS news feeds are the key. This post will discuss RSS news feed reader apps that make it a snap to keep up with all that’s going on.
Subscribing to news feeds
What are RSS news feeds? RSS — Really Simple Syndication — is the technology that makes this all work. Information providers (e.g., newspapers, blogs, magazines) use RSS to publish new content on a continuing and periodic basis through RSS feeds. You subscribe to these feeds using an RSS feed reader app. On many blogs and news web sites, you will find a link to the site’s RSS feed (most sites use the small RSS icon). You can use these links to subscribe to the feeds. You can subscribe to and view news feeds in your web browser, but we are going to talk about accessing feeds on your mobile device. Way cooler!!
What features do you want in a good RSS feed news reader app?
Organization: You will want an app that lets you to organize your news feeds in folders, and allows you to view articles by individual feed or grouped together by folder.
Easy Marking As-Read: A good app makes it very easy to mark individual articles as-read. It will also let you quickly mark the an entire feed as-read, along with an entire group of feeds.
Marking Favorite Articles: As you are reading through articles, you may want to mark some as favorites. A good app makes this a no-brainer. It should also let you quickly view all your favorite articles.
Connection to Sharing Services: This is a big one. The best feed reader apps offer the ability to send articles to a wide variety of sharing services. For example, you may not have time to read an important new article. You should be able to easily send it to your favorite read-later service, such as Instapaper, or email the article to yourself (or to colleagues). A good news reader app should let you send articles to a wide variety of services — Twitter, Facebook, Evernote, Delicious, Safari, etc.
Sync with Google Reader: Another big one. Google Reader is one of the best services that Google provides (and, of course, it is free). Using Google Reader, you can aggregate all your news feeds, organize them in many different ways, and view and read articles. Just as you can access your mail from anywhere with Google Mail, you can access your news feeds from any computer with Google Reader. And Google Reader keeps track of the feeds you have read between sessions. You can use the web-based reader available at reader.google.com — even on your mobile web browser. It is quite good for a web app. But there is nothing better than the experience an excellent native news reader app can provide to smartphone and tablet users. A truly excellent news reader app should allow you to connect to your Google Reader account.
Easy Subscriptions: It should be very easy to subscribe to new feeds, whether or not you use Google Reader.
$2.99 for the iPhone; $4.99 for the iPad
Reeder is my favorite iOS news reader app. The Google Reader synchronization is spot-on. Reeder also provides connections to lots of sharing services — Instapaper, Pocket, Readability, Facebook, Twitter, Delicious, Safari, Mail. The Reeder for iPhone interface is intuitive, clean, and elegant. But it is the iPad app where Reeder really shines. Reeder for iPad makes excellent use of pinch, swipe, and other multi-touch gestures. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it is great to see apps that really take full advantage of multi-touch and the iPad’s screen size. Lastly, there is a Reeder Macintosh application available in the Mac App Store. So if you live in the Apple ecosystem, Reeder can provide you with a great news reading experience on all your devices.
Feeddler RSS Reader
Free on the iOS App Store; Universal (Pro version: $4.99)
Feeddler is another excellent iOS news reader. It provides synchronization with Google Reader. Unlike Reeder, Feeddler is universal — one app provides for distinct iPhone and iPad interfaces. Both interfaces are rather utilitarian, but they do the job very well. A nice Feeddler feature is its price — free. So you can try it out and see if you like it. But a number of features — connections to important sharing services (Instapaper, Evernote), more syncing options — only come with the Pro version. Still a very good deal.
Free on Google Play
The Google Reader app available on Android does a great job in managing your news feeds on your Google Reader account. It is fast and easy. The Google Reader app does not have as many features as an app like Reeder (e.g., connections to sharing services), but it does connect to the most important ones (e.g,, Facebook, Twitter, Instapaper).
Free on iOS App Store; Free on Google Play
For a unique and fun news reader experience, try Flipboard. This app, available for free on both iOS and Android, presents articles in a graphically distinctive way. Flipboard provides a magazine-like reading experience. It is very easy to subscribe to a wide variety of content, but you can also link Flipboard to your Google Reader account. I feel that Flipboard is better for casual reading. I use it when I want to relax and leisurely read articles from my feeds. I use Reeder when I want to quickly review my feeds. These apps complement each other very well.
Do you have your favorite RSS news reader app? There are many options, and I have only scratched the surface here. Please let us know!