If You’re Into Politics, You Definitely Want To Use An RSS Reader

In the same conversation Hazel recommended that I get the forums going and push the archives, we discussed RSS. It could be the case my subscriber numbers are low because I am engaging a different set of readers than ones who would use RSS as a matter of course.

So here’s my tutorial on Really Simple Syndication:

1. By now, if you’ve been on the Internet for any length of time, you’ve seen those annoying buttons that are garish orange with a wavelike design upon them. Sometimes the garish thingy has been labeled with having something to do with subscribing.

If you click on the button, it takes you to a window which invites you to subscribe in a reader.

Why on earth would you want to subscribe in a reader? That would mean you have to check in with the reader daily to see if I’ve updated. And you would have to take the trouble to get a reader and fill it with stuff. That would add just another distraction to an already distracting Internet, and you don’t have time for any of this.

2. If you’re serious about New Media – if you believe that blogs are just as good as the mainstream media (MSM) in key ways – then it is by having a reader that you can show that you hold blogs and alternative news/commentary sites on a level playing field with the MSM.

You’ll notice you can subscribe to feeds by the New York Times, the WSJ, NBC – but you can also subscribe to DailyKos or Michelle Malkin if you like. You can subscribe to Paul Cantrell, who puts up mp3’s of himself playing Chopin on his blog (very good mp3’s, btw). You can subscribe to Kristine Lowe and watch her deal with journalists that think blogs are only run by amateurs, even as she blogs and does serious journalism herself. You can subscribe to me (hint hint).

Get the idea? You can create your own newspaper, your own media feed (podcasts and videos come via feed, too). The advantage is that if there’s a site or two you think is indispensable that you would miss out on otherwise, the feed reader remembers for you.

For those of us creating new content, having readers who can work with the feed reader technology is huge. It means in terms of your reading habits, we’re on a par with paid columnists, broadcasters, paid professionals, politicians and, in my case, academics. And honestly, there’s no reason why some of us shouldn’t be.

3. And that’s why the title of this post. If you use a feed reader, you’re actually tilting the balance of power from the MSM to those of us on the Internet who know what we’re talking about. In a sense, a feed reader is all the more dangerous to the MSM because other MSM organizations offer feeds: comparison is direct now, especially when all the bells and whistles are taken away from an MSM site and nothing is left but the content. Google Reader is the reader I recommend for anyone who’s starting, not just because they give a video tutorial, but because they deliver the content in plain text whether you’re getting it from the New York Times or me.

Trust me – whether you’re on the Left or Right, or even in journalism, you want this change to happen. It’s only going to make media better in the long run – it’s going to force competence and expertise to the surface. It’s a political act, and one that ironically enough allows you access to more voices about politics: that reader you’ve got now needs to be filled, and you’d be amazed at how many talented and thoughtful voices there are besides the ones that dominate print and the airwaves.

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  1. Thanks, Ashok. Good post. Will try to write more about the blogging world soon, working thru a swath of media posts I’d planned to write for a while right now (and then of course: new interesting issues, work life etc keep interfering:-)

  2. I don’t believe that the RSS readers will have the transformative influence that you think they will. It will just be a matter of time before they figure out how to “jazz” up the content on the RSS. They will be able to add all the annoying crap that keeps many people going there in the first place. They also do not want to miss a revenue stream.

  3. Josh – agreed. Some RSS readers happen to be “no frills” now, and it’s just a fortunate coincidence.

    Still, as of now, it’s a change. And if it can keep up, it can be a long run change that’s good.

  4. I use Yahoo’s reader which places the feeds on My Yahoo page, all in one convenient location for reading.

    RSS is a wonderful thing.

  5. Yahoo has some features that I find comfortable/convenient. I actually prefer their search engine to Google’s (giggle). For me, the most handy feature is my MyYahoo page which allows me to set up modules for the MyYahoo feed service (RSS), my weather information, a handy list of frequently used web addresses (links,etc. and previews of my incoming email.). As for Yahoo’s channels, I use the finance channel for stock quotes (you can also set up a portfolio there to keep track of your IRA or 401k holdings). Occasionally, I check out their Real Estate channel for listings and articles on the marketplace. My advice is to go check out their homepage and see if their channels would be of value to you. I use Yahoo for most of my email purposes, too.

    End of Yahoo! commercial. Now if I could only work out a deal to get paid–snerk.

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