You can have your ad blockers, I’ll stick with RSS

October 2nd, 2015


RSS has never been fashionable — it’s always been a news gathering tool for nerds, not norms. But now, more than two years after the untimely demise of Google Reader, RSS almost feels cool — like listening to vinyl or hating things on Twitter. RSS is a stealthy way to obtain news that’s fast, friendly, and free from both ads and trackers. Its ubiquity makes me wonder why anyone bothers with browsers and adblockers at all, especially when mobile.

Surely you remember Rich Site Summary, or Really Simple Syndication if you prefer? You’d hunt for Stephen Hollander’s little orange icon, click it, and add your favorite weblog feed to your Reader account. It never really caught on, despite its popularity with news junkies of a certain technical persuasion. Its fate was ultimately sealed by the rise of Twitter and Facebook as preferred sources for news discovery. Today, interest is quickly approaching zero according to Google Trends:

With interest so low, RSS users like me can fly under the radar, quickly consuming vast quantities of news almost completely devoid of ads. Sure, some sites only feed headlines and a few choice blurbs, but many publish the entire content of their stories. Regardless, it's still the best solution I've found for keeping up with news.

Opening the excellent Reeder for iOS app probably accounts for a few dozen of the 150 times I check my phone each day. Hell, it’s the first app I open in the morning and the last I close before going to bed. Still, no publisher cares to make money off me and my kind because the pool of RSS subscribers is simply too small. Yet publishers still maintain their feeds either out of tradition or maybe just because it’s something they’ve always done. Either way, I win.

Following the ad-blocking debate from the ad-free anonymity of my RSS reader makes me feel smug, like I’m on the inside of a juicy secret.

I guess this is what being trendy feels like?

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