Pop quiz time. Do you read several blogs each day? If yes, do you navigate to each one separately? If yes, would you like to save time by subscribing to each one and reading it in a feed reader?
If you are not sure what a feed reader is, this article is for you.
I use a feed reader, and I foolishly assumed most blog readers do, too. But recently I read a couple of books. One was Professional Blogging for Dummies. The other was Create Stunning HTML Email That Just Works. Both of these books mentioned statistics about the number of people who use feed readers or RSS readers, as they are also called. The percentage was very low –- 15 or 20%. The number shocked me a bit, because feed readers save a lot of time for people who like to read blogs.
When you use a feed reader, every new blog post comes to you. You don't have to keep running about the Net checking blogs. To make that happen you simply subscribe to the blog's feed. If you have a particular interest you can assemble a collection of blogs on a specific topic and subscribe to them all. Catherine Morgan's post, Health & Wellness Bloggers: I want YOU (for my Google Reader), is an example of how she uses blog feeds to follow a topic. I use my reader to bring in posts from every blog I want to read, and check it a couple of times a day like I do my email.
If you've never tried using a feed reader it's very easy. Here's how.
I suggest you use Google Reader. It's free with your Google account. It works no matter what computer you are using because it's a Google thing, not an application on your computer. Sign in to your Google account and click the link for Reader. If you don't see it, look in the pull down list under "More."
Once you've found the Google Reader, you need to add some subscriptions.
Any time you see an icon like this on a page or in the browser location bar, it means there is an RSS (or Atom) feed available. Copy the page URL and head over to Google Reader. To subscribe to that feed in Google Reader, click the Add Subscription button. A form field opens up where you can paste the URL of the page you want to subscribe to.
That's it. You're now subscribed to an RSS feed. There are other ways to accomplish the subscription process, but this is the easiest one with the fewest steps.
Every time you open Google Reader, fresh blog posts will be listed for your reading pleasure. In Google Reader, you can drag the blog names around in the list of subscriptions to organize them. You can put them in folders to further organize them. You can unsubscribe by clicking the little triangle by a blog name. If you're reading something in Google Reader and would like to visit the blog to leave a comment or take a closer look at something, just click the post title and you'll go to the blog.
On BlogHer, you can subscribe to topic feeds. Select the topic from the menu and the top and use the URL for that page. You can also subscribe to feeds for groups: BlogHer Groups get new RSS feeds!.
Need more? Here's a detailed explanation of using RSS that I wrote for Time Goes By. Watch a series of videos from Butterscotch.com on Google Reader and RSS Feeds that explain subscribing and more about using Google Reader. If you're a Mac user, check out this article about NetNewsWire, a feed reader, at Mac Tips.
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