Sweet Spot for RSS?

Ben Ubois was on The Changlelog the other day. Ben is the creator of Feedbin, my preferred RSS service. I say “service” and not “reader” because while I sometimes use Feedbin itself as a reader (it’s good), I also bounce around to other readers for fun. The API they offer enables this, which is a godsend. Right now I’m using a lot of NetNewsWire on my non-mobile machines, but ultimately it’s Feedbin under the hood syncing my read items and favorites and whatnot.

Adam Stacoviak mentioned that while he’s a Feedbin subscriber, he’s not much of an RSS user. They dig into why that might be in the show and it’s really interesting. Adam lists off a bunch of sites he’s got in there, and the problem sounds like the sites themselves. While it’s great the sites offer RSS and all, there is a bunch of “firehose” style news sites, with a signal/noise ratio that is not great for any one reader. Don’t subscribe to sites that do news as a business, was part of the advice, and I like that.

The “sweet spot” they honed in on is sites that publish more like weekly or monthly. So your RSS reader is kind of a catcher for less-oft published articles. That’s almost tough to hear as an RSS lover, because a little machine to catch random articles you might miss is quite a niche thing. No wonder RSS never seems to be able to take off.

I think I’d widen that sweet spot to even daily or multi-daily publishing sites, but if you’re getting to 5x and above daily, it’s too much for a good RSS experience. I’ve never been able to put my finger on that, but now I think that’s it.

I’ve had a draft post “Should we be able to pause an RSS feed as a reader?” for a while, but I’m deleting it now. That’s a niche feature for a thing that is already niche. If a feed is overwhelming to you, it’s unsubscribe town. Pausing isn’t an answer. If any publishers out there agree, I think an answer might be an RSS feed that is somehow trimmed down. A best-of-the-week collection, perhaps.

4 responses to “Sweet Spot for RSS?”

  1. Geoffrey says:

    I need something just like this, but then I realized I’m basically pining for an algorithmically generated news feed, which is what makes Twitter less useful.

    I’ve solved it by creating a “Frequent” folder with all the sites that post daily or more often.

  2. Josh Betz says:

    I think reader apps could help with this. If the apps could emphasize some articles on those high volume feeds, it would make them more usable. The challenge is deciding what to emphasize, but services like Feedbin and Feedly surely have enough data about what other people do to make some suggestions.

  3. Alex says:

    I use flus.fr, which allows me to customize whether I want one day, three days, seven days or all of the content in the RSS feed. For very active websites that I don’t care too much about, it’s pretty cool as I just select the latest day’s news and only see that.

    In general, I’d say I add things to my RSS feed if the blog posts once a day or less. More than that and I probably don’t follow them at all, because it can’t all be relevant to me – for news organisations for instance, I like to rely on a more curated weekly newsletter… which I’ll throw into my RSS feed if possible.

  4. sawyer says:

    my solution to this has been to do one of two things: either unsubscribe and bookmark the site into a folder called “taking a break” or something like that, or move it to a folder in RSS like that. Good points though! I’ll probably link-blog back to this.

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