This is a post that describes a product that I use every day when I am looking for stories and ideas to write about. Its an RSS feed program called Feedreader that really blows away Google Alerts. There are also other programs like Feedly and I will talk a little about those here too.
Lets start with why I am tired of Google Alerts when used on its own. Honestly, I click on Google Alerts and it allows me to have the alerts emailed to me once a day or when they happen or it can be used as an RSS feed. Most people use the email alerts.
If you have it sent once a day, you can get some good ideas for writing, but most of the alerts are from the day before. If you have them sent to you as they happen, you might wake up and have over 200 emails in your in-box you have to somehow work your way through. If your job is to find things to write about, that is a time killer you don’t need.
That is why RSS feeds is still the king.
Setting Up Feedreader
That brings me to Feedreader. First off, I have no association with Feedreader and I am only a customer, so this is simply a review and a how-to for using the product. I get nothing if you decide to use it and this is just here to help you.
The first step is to head over to get Feedreader. Now, there is a Feedreader product you can use directly online, but that has less tools for you to use and – honestly – it is better to have it on your computer. You can download Feedreader here.
When you get it downloaded, just install it on your computer.
After you open it, it will remain open working in the background on your computer so you will get instant notifications in a small popup box at the bottom corner of your computer monitor when new news comes, so you can be on the ball for breaking news.
But first, you have to set it up. When you open the program, here is what it looks like (you will see mine is already fully setup and loaded with feeds – yours will be empty to start):
The first thing you will want to do is load in all the sites you get your news from. As you can see in the left hand column, I have folders (sports, books, movies, etc…) so you can keep them organized.
Most sites have a clear RSS option. The first thing you should do is make sure whatever browser you are using has the RSS extension on. In Chrome, I use one called RSS Subscription Extension. This adds the orange RSS symbol in the actual URL window of your browser.
So, when you have a site you follow with that button, just click it. It will take you to the actual RSS page but not the actual FEED page. You will want to click the LINK hyperlink in the top right corner of that RSS page.
Click that button and you will come to the actual feed page. It looks something like this:
Copy that URL and head over to Feedreader. Click on FILE>NEW>FEED. Then past the URL there and hit OK.
You can then click on the added Feed name in Feedreader and drag it to your folder you want it in. You can see under my Movies feed, the large number of movie sites I follow. You should honestly keep it limited to a handful of sites for a topic or it could overwhelm you and make it harder for you when all is said and done. If you can multi-task easily, add as many sites under a topic as feels comfortable for you.
Next, you can add your Google Alerts if you have specific ones you feel are important to make sure to get all the news, even if your favorite sites haven’t got to it yet. To do that, head into your Google Alerts page and change the format for getting them from “email” to “feed.” That looks like this:
After that, just right click on the ORANGE feed box by that Alert, click “COPY LINK ADDRESS” and add it to Feedreader in the same way you did the rest.
What if a site doesn’t have a RSS icon?
Let’s look at what you have to do if you have to search for an RSS feed or if a site has multiple choices . If you head over to ESPN, you will want to find where their feed links are listed on their website. For ESPN, it is at the bottom:
If you just clicked on the ESPN RSS button in the URL bar, you are just getting the main feed. If you want specialized feeds, you need to do it this way. On ESPN, there are a bunch of choices from here, such as Top Headlines, NFL Headlines, ESPNU, and more all the way to specific sites, such as GatorNationEspn. Each one has a link and when you click on it, you go to an RSS page. This is not what you want to put into your Feedreader. Follow the instructions I posted above about how to find the actual FEED page and add it to your Feedreader.
With all your stuff in Feedreader, here is how to use it. You get news articles the minute they are sent to their RSS feeds, and the best sites do it immediately. You can choose how it looks under “VIEW” > “VIEW LAYOUT.” I use the “Wide” format, so that is what you will see in mine.
You can look at your articles all at once (which is too much for me), look at them by folder (such as sports) or look at them just by site (such as the photo below with ESPN). The first column has all your feeds, the second has the articles in the feed(s) you are looking at and the third column as either the article or a snippet.
Now, if you click on the title of the article in the second column, the article will show up either in full or as a snippet in the third column. You can do one of two things here. You can click on the title in the third column and it will open in Feedreader and look the same as it does on the Internet.
I used to do this, but my computer has so many processes running that it sometimes hangs up and locks up when I do this. Instead, I right click on the title in the third column and click “OPEN IN A NEW WINDOW.” This will then open the article in your browser of choice (Chrome, Firefox, IE, etc…).
The articles are listed with the newest articles first and are split up by “Today”, “Yesterday”, “This Week”, and “Last Week”, and – I think – “OIder.”
It makes it a perfect one stop to find the news or topics that interests you and it saves me a ton of time every morning when I am coming up with topics to write about.
There are other RSS options, I just prefer Feedreader for my writing needs. However, I also use the Feedly option in Chrome for something else. I like to follow blogs about writing – both by writers as well as blogs about writing itself. This is something I like to read when I am in bed or just out with my tablet.
That is why I love Feedly, because it is more of a magazine format, which is great for reading blogs. I liked it so much that I tried it for my writing ideas but it seemed to hard to just scan through to find ideas. Others might find it works better in the magazine format.
It is all about the writer. I like to read from Feedly better but when it comes to researching article ideas, Feedreader is best for me.
Anyway, this method is just a way to make searching for topics and ideas to write about quicker so you can spend more time writing. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me using the methods over on the right side of the blog and I will answer any questions you might have.