It’s been close to five years since Google decided to shut down Reader, the ubiquitous and beloved RSS news client. At one point, I used to do almost all my internet reading through RSS. I kept my feeds meticulously clean, poring over personal blog entries and tabbing quickly down the news, opening stories that piqued my interest. The loss of my favorite platform felt like a personal betrayal.
After Reader died, I switched to Feedly, which I’m still using today. But my relationship with it is very different. If Reader was a neat lawn, my Feedly is now an overgrown lot. I’ve got nearly 30,000 unread articles across 186 feeds, including several for websites that no longer exist — I leave some of them on the list because I’m lazy, and some because I want to keep their memory alive. (RIP Gothamist, forever preserved in my “NYC” folder.)
What happened? For one thing, covering a long list of topics at The Verge turned me into a news hoarder. I loathe to delete even a site that I almost never read, because someday I might need those five posts from the US Intelligence Community’s Tumblr blog, or those dozens of news announcements about small drones, a topic I have not covered in-depth for years. So new stories come in so quickly that even scrolling through all the headlines would require huge amounts of time.
Also, RSS is now competing for my time with Twitter, Reddit, internal Verge chats, and other news sources. It’s still an important place to check in on specific sites, but it’s not where I see the pieces everyone else in my field has been reading and sharing. 2017 has highlighted the downsides of this sort of curated news, though. I’m not talking about the much-discussed ideological “filter bubble;” I probably encounter more ideas I disagree with on Twitter than in Feedly. But social curation (as well as automated algorithmic shuffling) tends to let a few big stories take up more space than I’d like. I need niche, non-important-seeming raw material in my media diet, and RSS is perfect for that.
Even after all these years, I love Feedly. But it no longer feels like a space that I organize. It feels like just another feed.
I also know that my situation is fairly unusual, though. Most people aren’t scanning Twitter like a Bloomberg terminal for several hours a day, looking for news. As my colleague Dieter Bohn wrote all the way back in 2013, RSS is far more important for users who want to take in the equivalent of a digital newspaper at the end of the day, something that’s difficult or impossible to do with a service like Twitter. So I’m curious — how many people are still fully invested in the format, and how many have stopped tending their feed gardens?
Are you using an RSS reader?
This poll is closed
I check in sometimes