The Beginner’s Guide To Reading Blogs

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The Internet offers you almost limitless content, but if you would like to follow more than a dozen blogs, you need to find some way to make all that content manageable. It just isn’t feasible to visit twenty different blogs each day. Further, hopping from page to page doesn’t give you an easy mechanism to organize and save the stories you need. In order to quickly see the content you want and easily discard the content you don’t, you need some sort of blog aggregator.

Luckily, because most blogs publish an RSS feed, you have a lot of options. An RSS feed allows bloggers to automatically syndicate data in a standardized file format, which lets readers receive updates from blogs and create a compilation of individual posts.

There are four common ways to follow blogs:

  1. Set up a feed reader such Feedly, which will automatically pull RSS feeds into a single webpage.
  2. Use a magazine-style reader like Flipboard for reading on tablets and phones only.
  3. Create a follow list on Twitter.
  4. Subscribe to email newsletters from your favorite blogs.

Feedly

feedly

By far the most user-friendly and efficient way to begin keeping up with a number of blogs is to use a commercially available feed reader. Feedly is the most popular of these and with good reason; it is easy to set up and has an attractive interface. You can use Feedly on the web or via its iOS and Android apps. Feedly is capable of managing a huge number of feeds and posts without choking. For example, I have approximately 200 blogs that I track, and I have over 15,000 unread posts (yes, I need to do a better job at catching up with my blog reading).

Getting started with Feedly is simple. Sign in by setting up an account or using your Google or Facebook login. Once you do, Feedly will suggest a number of blogs organized by topic.

feedly

You can also add feeds directly from a website. Websites will usually make this option prominent. Here are the subscriptions options for Lawyerist. Feedly also has an optional browser extension for Chrome that creates a Feedly mini button that, when pressed, will let you save a webpage for later, email the page, tweet the page, share the page on Facebook, or add the feed directly to Feedly.

feedly_Mini_-_Chrome_Web_Store

Once you have some blogs that you have decided to follow, Feedly helps you organize those blogs into categories.

Organize

Under no circumstances should you skip the chance to organize your blogs via category. Sometimes you really want to know about Justin Bieber and only want to see your entertainment blogs, and other days you will want to dive deep into law blogs. Separating things into categories will make that far easier.

Finally, you can customize how you would like your articles to appear. You can do a dense and compact list that will look much like an email inbox.

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Or you can also do a fancy tiled style.

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Finally, Feedly can pull whole posts from websites so you don’t have to leave the Feedly site.

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This last reading option is highly recommended if you work in an office where spending your day surfing multiple sites is both noticeable and frowned upon. With the whole posts options, you will only appear to be on the Feedly site rather than dozens of other pages.

Feedly offers a pro option for $45 per year, but in order for that to be worth it, you need to be a real blog power reader. The pro option will allow you to save articles to Dropbox, tweet out all your saved stories, and integrate with products like OneNote and MailChimp.

If you prefer to use open source software, consider NewsBlur. It isn’t quite as polished as Feedly, but the people behind it are very responsive to user requests and concerns.

Flipboard

If you don’t care about reading blogs on the web and instead want a magazine-like experience on your iOS or Android tablet or phone, consider trying Flipboard. Flipboard lets you subscribe to various feeds and publications and turns the humble RSS feed into a glossy magazine on your tablet. This is how the New York Times Critics’ Picks: Restaurants feed looks on Flipboard.

NYT_Critics’_Picks__Restaurants_-_Flipboard

You can not use Flipboard in your browser, but you can install a browser extension that will let you send articles to Flipboard for later reading on your tablet.

Flipboard is not as flexible or customizable to your needs as using a traditional feed reader like feedly or Newsblur. It is geared towards readers that would like a more curated magazine experience with subscription recommendations from other users. Flipboard is gorgeous, but gorgeous is only necessary when you are reading content that should be beautiful, like restaurant reviews or design blogs. Try as you might, it is unlikely that SCOTUSblog, with its text-heaviness, will look beautiful on Flipboard.

Twitter

If you are already comfortable using Twitter, you may wish to simply subscribe to the Twitter feeds of your favorite blogs. (If your favorite blog doesn’t have a Twitter feed where they tweet out each article, there is something wrong with your favorite blog.) This will work best, however, if you set up lists for each category of blogs you are following. Otherwise, you will just be inundated with a firehose of material, and you will end up missing key content.

Twitter will let you star your favorite posts for reading them later, but there’s no static list of posts the way there is with a feed reader. This means that Twitter is a better choice if you just want to quickly glance through some tweets to see if an article catches your fancy, but it isn’t a good choice if you want to make sure you see everything from your favorite blogs.

Email

If you really can’t stomach the idea of setting up yet another application to take care of your blog reading habits, consider simply subscribing to email newsletters from your favorite blogs. It is an excellent choice if there are just a few key blogs you want to track. It also works well if you have your email organized via sender to automatically tag and file things like newsletters so they aren’t cluttering up your inbox throughout the day.

While smaller law blogs may not send out newsletters, most larger blogs do. Non-law blogs like Lifehacker send out daily emails with top stories. The ABA Journal sends out several different emails. The Wall Street Journal tucks their law coverage into a general “Today’s Paper” email newsletter. You will be unsurprised to learn that Lawyerist has a newsletter and you can sign up for it here.

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  • Daniel Rust

    I much prefer @TheOldReader on PC and GreaderPro on the Android.

  • Jordan

    Inoreader.

  • Feedly is great tool for any professional. The app let’s you read blogs on the fly.