Let’s go back to the earlier days of the Internet. Back then, you may have bookmarked a handful of your favorite sites and you’d go about visiting them individually over the course of your day to see what’s new. Then, a miraculous new technology hit the scene called RSS. Standing for Really Simple Syndication, it gave you a much simpler way to amalgamate all the content across all these sites, getting an automatic notification when there was anything new to be read.
I still RSS quite heavily to this day, but you may have heard that Google Reader is going to be shut down this summer. Many of us have come to rely on Google Reader, and while we could move on to other RSS feed readers, perhaps it’s time we reconsider how we get our daily news. Going beyond the “traditional” feed, perhaps it’s time we start looking at some RSS alternatives to getting our daily dose of news and other web content.
You could refer to social media in general, turning to your friends to see what they’re posting on Google+ or Facebook, but I feel that Twitter is still one of the best sources of up-to-the-minute news. You get the random shares from the people you follow, but you could use one of the many Twitter clients (HootSuite is a personal favorite of mine) to track certain keywords and hashtags too. You can even filter your stream to look for links posted by the people you follow. This is hardly a perfect solution, particularly if you follow thousands of Twitter feeds, but it’s good way to keep your finger on the pulse of the Internet.
What if you don’t want to actively monitor what’s happening with your Twitter buddies? Paper.li effectively lets you set up a custom newspaper on the topics of your choosing. It connects to your different social networks and scours the web for content that may interest you, processing millions of posts and articles. You can choose the sources, including RSS feeds, and then Paper.li will generate a daily digest for you. It won’t capture everything, of course, but the automated curation should provide you with a good variety of content to enjoy. Better still, you can automatically share your Paper.li newspaper with your friends and followers too.
IFTTT + Pocket
There’s a huge community of IFTTT (If This Then That) users that are constantly baking up new recipes. The idea is that you can “create powerful connections with one simple statement.” You set up certain channels as your triggers and then you associate those triggers with actions. There’s no real limit to how you can use this. Perhaps you want to follow every story on the Vancouver Canucks. You can use ESPN as the source, getting triggered when they reference the Canucks. The action can then be to save the article to Pocket, the service you may have previously known as Read It Later. You can achieve the same thing with Instapaper or any number of other possibilities.
You may encounter quite the danger of falling down the bottomless rabbit hole when you dive into Reddit, but it’s a fantastic way of keeping up with the most popular stories on the Internet. You can look into any number of “subreddits” like gaming, technology or science, reading the most up-voted stories related to that topic. There are a lot of random memes and not so useful content on Reddit, but this is a great way to stay in the know when it comes to what people are talking about on the web.
Along with Flipboard, Feedly, and other magazine style RSS reader apps, Pulse News isn’t really a complete departure from the traditional RSS format. The difference is you get a different layout, typically with a more visual focus. You can still subscribe to your favorite feeds, but one of the newer features is called Pulse Highlights. By connecting to your Facebook account, you can then see what posts have been “highlighted” by your friends and you can do the same in return. This way, you get both your personalized news by way of RSS subscriptions, but also social news by way of your online friends.
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