— blending the mix

RSS readers versus “Live” news website

Something struck me as really odd this morning. As much as RSS readers are incredibly useful resources, I find that they are actually, really, really dull things to look at and use.

I use Newsgator and have (only) about 145 blogs/news sources I draw my news from. But whilst I use Newsgator much more than I ever used Google Reader, one thing struck me  – I much prefer (nay, find it easier) to use the websites/blog of the news source than read the feed-reader.

Why? The colours, the layout, the font style, the additional titbits of extra information you gather along the page, the comments you pick up, the additional links, the ads, the images…are all features which (in additional to the critical content) go towards giving a blog a personality and therefore influence my decision to want to read it (you will notice I have removed my picture for this very purpose!).

With RSS readers this "personality" is 99% removed.

Maybe my experience is unfairly metered against the excellent bbc news website and great blogs like Tara’s or one from Mack’s empire. I guess in the case of the BBC to be fair, it is more of a visual news aggregator rather than either a blog OR RSS reader.

But what I miss in an RSS reader is the random nature of news articles to draw from,  "impulse reads", things I didn’t know, things I didn’t even know I would find interesting, CGC features (new to the BBC), things I wouldn’t normally even consider reading. I would LOVE to monitor the tracking of my usage from an interesting blog or news website!

It is a maze, but one in which I am beginning to find of much more enjoyable using than conventional RSS readers. And I think it is all down to the visual nature of sites/blogs versus the largely textual nature of readers that draws me to them.

OK, some might argue that the BBC is not an RSS Reader and I am not comparing like for like, and that it doesn’t aggregate an almost infinite number of different, wide-ranging and unique voices and that there are inevitably many things I would miss…and I’d agree. But what fun is the other option? An RSS reader that is simply a long list of names and text with growing numbers of unread posts?

I feel trapped.

The only person whose content is the same on the blog as it is in a reader is Hugh’s…but his is only an image of a cartoon.

Maybe I just haven’t found a style of RSS reader which suits what I want, but IS that the problem? With high-speed internet the norm, have I become too graphics-dependant? Are my demands compatible? As consumers, should we expect visually-strong RSS readers? Is there actually any need for them?! Can my demands of strong visual content (i.e. website) sit alongside the benefits of organised content such as the RSS reader?

Is there an RSS reader which will enable me to enjoy the visual aspects of the many blogs I read which helps me interpret the true meaning of the post with the organisation of a "conventional" reader?

Robert Scoble famously said that he would simply refuse to read partial feeds, and I can understand why, but my feeling is not because of partial feeds, but because it is ALL textual and dull and white backgrounds and no colours and no personalities…all of which can be found on the blogs themselves but not in the readers.

Maybe the Guardian has hit the nail on the head with the impending launch of G24. An RSS-fed pdf version of the latest news, coming from 5 different (Guardian) streams.

Now, if the Guardian can do it using THEIR RSS feeds, can anyone else do it using 20, 30 even 50 different streams?

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  1. Olivier says: July 10, 200612:21 pm

    I also use Newsgator. I much prefer to read the feed-reader: it saves me a lot of time. I only open the posts themselves if I want to read the comments or if there is a video embedded…

  2. franki durbin says: July 10, 20061:27 pm

    I could not agree more about feeds removing “personality” from the content. I realized a month or so ago that my reader (NetNewsWire) was sapping all fun from my blog reads. What I do love, however, is that I can conveniently organize all of the site links and categorize them. This has proven much more efficient than bookmarks used to be. I recently “fixed” this by hitting the “enter” key each time I selected a new feed to read. The app becomes a low-fi browser at that point (you can’t see Flash content). I’m still speeding through my reads, but I regain the uniqueness of each sites look & feel. It also encourages commenting on posts, versus just taking in the information. (Another unfulfilling side effect of my reader.) Although I lose the ‘abbreviated format’ I am actually READING the blogs again. It has put the fun back into my RSS reader. Glad to hear I’m not alone!

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