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RSS readers.

I was chatting with a fellow label converter the other day and the conversation turned to blogs. He mentioned that he is now reading several blogs on a regular basis. I told him that was great and then I asked him what RSS reader he uses. There was silence and a blank stare. He had no idea what I talking about. The way he reads these blogs is he visits their web sites and reads any new entries. There is a much better and more efficient way--it is using what is called an RSS reader.

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Think of an RSS reader as a kind of electronic newspaper that gathers information from all the blogs you subscribe to. Whenever a blog is updated--that is, the blog author has written a new post--an RSS feed is immediately and automatically generated. An RSS feed is really just a standardized XML file with the new content that all RSS readers can work with. The role of an RSS reader is to gather all these feeds in an easy to read format for you. Like a newspaper. When you open your RSS reader you will see a listing of all the blogs you subscribe to that have new updates.

It is by far the most convenient and efficient way to read blogs. You don't need to visit the blog's actual web site, you just visit your RSS reader and it presents you with all the new updates. Best of all, after you have read a new blog post, it marks it as read, and it will no longer present it to you (unless you specifically set your reader to view all posts). An RSS reader always highlights new posts that you have not read so it is very easy to stay up to date.

So where do you find one of these RSS readers? They are becoming so popular they are now being built into news sites and email software. And there are also many dedicated RSS reader sites. I will give a short review here of three of the most popular ones, each one taking a slightly different approach.

Google Reader (http://www.google.com/reader/)

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Google has far and away the most popular RSS reader. Like most of Google's services (other than search) you need an account to use it. If you have a Gmail address then the good news is you already have a Google account: It is your email address. But you don't need Gmail to have an account; you can create a new account quickly and easily just using your existing email address. Once your account is created and verified, if you click on the link above you will be taken to Google Reader. Now, when you click on the RSS symbol and subscribe to a blog (always select Subscribe through Google) you will be able to read all the new posts from inside Google Reader.

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My Yahoo!

(http://my.yahoo.com)

Many of us have personalized My Yahoo! pages where you can gather all the latest news stories, weather reports, financial data, email and much more all on the one page. You can also gather RSS feeds here because My Yahoo! has a built in RSS Reader. When you subscribe to a blog via My Yahoo!, the blog's feed will be added to the headlines in your My Yahoo! page. If you are already going to this page for news headlines, this is a very convenient way to read blogs.

Microsoft Outlook (http://office.microsoft.com/enus/outlook/default.aspx)

Most of us spend a good part of our day inside Microsoft Outlook. It is the email client of choice for corporate America. In Outlook 2007, Microsoft decided to completely integrate an RSS reader into Outlook so you can read all your RSS feeds in the same place where you read your email. The advantage of using Outlook is that when you are away from an internet connection you can still read the content in your RSS feeds because they are downloaded to your computer just like your emails. When you subscribe to a blog, always look for Subscribe using Microsoft Outlook, and then confirm the feed from inside Outlook, or if you know the feed's URL address then you can enter it directly into Outlook. The feeds will then conveniently all appear like an email in your RSS Feeds folder.

I subscribe to more than 100 blogs. Now, I don't read every word that these blogs publish, but I like to regularly scan the headlines of these blogs in Google Reader to see if anything grabs my attention. Without an RSS reader it would be a full time job to keep up with all these blogs. But with Google Reader I can do it easily.

Peter Renton is the founder of Lightning Labels, Inc. an all-digital label printer in Denver, CO, USA. He is also the coauthor of the company's blog at blog.lightninglabels.com.
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Title Annotation:THE BLOGSMITH
Author:Renton, Peter
Publication:Label & Narrow Web
Date:Mar 1, 2010
Words:832
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