Recently Amazon announced that customers who purchased music on CD from them over the past few years were going to be given access to MP3s of those albums for free. This was a huge announcement since I’ve spent thousands with Amazon on music since 1998 (when I got my first credit card!) and I love when companies work hard to take care of their existing customers.
I posted the news to Facebook, and one of my friends replied “How do you know about things like this?” Here’s the answer, and it’s a lot simpler than you think.
Every morning, you probably sign on to your favorite sites to check what’s new. You may check CNN to get the latest news, look for articles you’re interested in, and click on them. But what if you didn’t have to go to CNN.com to see what was new? What if you could quickly see a list of the latest articles and then click on exactly what you were interested in? Better yet, what if you could check the new articles being posted throughout the day without visiting the site?
Today – you’re going to learn how to do this.
Most websites with regularly updated content include support for RSS, which allows you to see headlines, summaries, and get the links to full stories. I’ve been using this method of getting information for over 10 years, and I have yet to come across a better way of doing things. Here’s the method I use.
1. The first step, is to install Firefox, which is a browser for displaying webpages. If you never understood why anyone would use anything other than Internet Explorer, you’re about to find out. (Note – Internet Explorer does support what we’re about to do – just not as well.)
Here’s what my Firefox page looks like. Notice the bar right under the address bar. Those are the sites that I monitor using RSS.
2. Once you’ve installed Firefox, you need to turn on the Bookmark Toolbar. This can be done by right clicking some empty space in the toolbar and selecting “Bookmark Toolbar”. Make sure it has a check-mark next to it.
3. Next browse to some sites that you frequent, and look for this icon – . Once you see that icon, click on it, and a page will appear with the option to “Subscribe Using Live Bookmarks”. Push that button, which will add that site’s RSS feeds to your Bookmarks Toolbar. You have now added a button on your toolbar that you can click and quickly read through articles to find ones that interest you.
Pages don’t always make it easy to find. In the case of MSNBC, the part for RSS feeds is all the way at the bottom of the page. Click that link, then the “XML” button for the feed you want to follow.
From there, you’re presented with a page to actually subscribe to the Live Bookmark. Push the “Subscribe Now” button.
Some sites make their RSS feeds impossible to find. I looked on CNN.com for a while to find their RSS feeds, and ended up just searching on Google to find the page below. Same process, though.
Some notes about RSS – this is not a popular technology. It was, but many people have switched to following their favorite sites using Facebook, Twitter, or other social media. I find that to be not as effective, because things can easily be missed. One of my favorite bloggers, Christopher Price, had this to say on the topic:
People today are using social networking as a poor-man’s (sorry, that’s not PC… let’s try low-information consumer’s) form of RSS.
Technically-inclined people still use RSS, despite the efforts of Apple and Google to minimize the technology. RSS has vanished from OS X Core, OS X Mail, OS X Safari, and Windows Safari. Google, despite having the world’s most-used feed reader (Google Reader) has no native RSS support inside of Chrome. In fact, when you click on an RSS feed, you either get gibberish, or a prompt to install a Chrome Extension.
Chrome has Gmail support. Chrome has Google Calendar support. Chrome acts as if Google Reader doesn’t exist… unless you already use it and seek it out.
Why is this? Companies can’t profit from RSS. Ads on RSS don’t work. Google just killed a multi-million dollar acquisition (FeedBurner) because RSS ads were so full of fail.
Ironically, Microsoft is the one that has stayed the course with in-browser and in-OS support for RSS. Internet Explorer 10, Windows 8, and Windows RT all support RSS.
Chris is right (except for leaving out that Outlook supports RSS!). The technology world doesn’t use RSS much – but that doesn’t mean it’s not valuable. Start looking for the Live Bookmarks icon on sites you visit regularly, and you’ll be realizing how many sites you visit daily that can be incorporated into your new routine.