RSS Basics: How To Never Miss A Blog Post

Blogs are becoming more and more popular. Not only are blogs popping up literally by the millions, but blog readership is skyrocketing too. Chances are most of you have at least one favorite blog that you read on a daily or semi-daily basis.

Most people still read blogs by typing in the URL and actually visiting the blog website to see what’s new. Problem is, not all blogs update themselves every day. (Even this here blog has seen a couple of hiccups in the posting schedule over the last week or so.) It can be disappointing, maybe even frustrating, to visit a site only to find there’s no new content. Wouldn’t it be great if you could know instantly when new content has been added to your favorite blogs without actually visiting their websites?

Have no fear. RSS can help!

What is RSS you ask? It stands for Really Simple Syndication. Here’s how it works:

Every blog has something called a “feed”, that is, a list of all the latest posts. Every time a new post is added to the blog, the feed is updated immediately. By subscribing to the feed, you computer can tell you when your favorite blog (or blogs) have added new content. It’s very similar to how your computer checks for new email messages. In one click you can download all the new content from your favorite blogs.

All you need to get started is an RSS reader, which is a software application designed to read and organize RSS feeds. Google and Yahoo! both offer free RSS readers. If you have a Mac you already have an RSS reader in Safari (if you use OSX 10.4) or in Mail (if you use OSX 10.5), although in my experience neither one has proven to be overly reliable. My favorite RSS reader is NetNewsWire. There are many other options as well. Just do a Google search for “Free RSS Reader”.

Once you’ve set up your RSS reader, simply tell it which blogs you want to keep track of. Most blogs have an RSS symbol that looks like this:

rss icon

Just click on the symbol, or look for the words “RSS feed” (or on some blogs it may say “XML feed”, but it’s the same thing). Your blog reader should latch onto the feed, and from then on you can read all the latest posts using your RSS reader. It will download and organize the feeds in a way very similar to how your computer downloads and organizes your email. Its much faster and easier that visiting each blog directly, and it will help ensure that you never miss a blog post.

If you want to give it a try, my RSS icon is at the top of the page just beneath the cartoon pig.

Happy blog reading!