How does the news business fare in the digital age? If anything, news gets drowned out in a sea of shouts and noise. The information superhighway has become the misinformation superhighway. How can you make sense of it all the conflict and turmoil?
One easy way is an old technology that still works well today. It helps us segregate and navigate the toxic hell stew of misinformation that permeates the interwebs.
RSS. How does it work?
RSS. That RSS. Really Simple Syndicate, Rich Site Summary, RDF Site Summary, or however or whatever you want to call it, an RSS newsreader is the go-to way to sift through a wave of information to find not only what interests you, but what’s worth reading.
Simply put, most websites these days use RSS as a subscription format that displays an article’s headline and a summary. To view it, you need an RSS reader, of which there are many for Mac, iPhone, and iPad. Some are free. Some have a modest price tag. Personally, I use the popular News Explorer because it has versions for each device, and syncs settings using iCloud.
If you know how RSS works and you use it, there’s no need to read on. If you haven’t used RSS, then read on for a few details that can save you an immense amount of time, help you filter out the flood of misinformation, and keep you updated to what goes on in the world with far less effort than browsing or using Safari bookmarks.
An RSS reader captures an RSS subscription from a website. For Mac, iPhone, and iPad users, all you need to do is find a website you like and click to tap on the Sharing button, select Open In… News Explorer (works with almost every RSS reader), and the news reader grabs the RSS feed and displays both article title and a summary in an easily organized sidebar.
Here’s what it looks like.
The lefthand sidebar displays categories of websites you subscribe to and can be organized however you like. The middle section displays headline and summary of each article from a selected website. The right main area displays the article in a browser-like window.
That arrangement– and the fact that RSS operates automatically in the background to grab new articles from all the websites on your list– is time honored and the most efficient way to view articles from websites you visit frequently.
As noted above, add RSS subscriptions is simple. Open the website in Safari. Click on the Sharing button. Select News Explorer (or, whatever RSS news reader you choose). The subscription is added automatically.
But most good RSS readers can do much more, including integration with Pocket or Instapaper, import OPML exports from other news readers, open an article in Safari, save for later, mark as favorite, and mark as read. Almost every RSS reader works the same way.
An added benefit? A few. Here are two.
Kate MacKenzie found that an RSS reader exposes many websites as little more than information and link bait regurgitation machines. Kate also found that many websites display articles that are advertising disguised as articles or news– easy to see which is which when you have a few dozen websites in your RSS news reader.