Google Reader is going away, but these two alternatives can help advisors stay up to date on custom news sources.
Earlier this month, Google caused minor anxiety across the Internet by announcing it will retire its Google Reader service on July 1, 2013. Launched in 2005, Google Reader is an online service used to organize and read website updates, called feeds, in one convenient location.
What's a Feed?
In the mid-1990s, new content posted to the Internet began to grow at an exponential rate. Staying up to date on new information quickly became a Sisyphean task. Early Web developers sought to create a simple way to collect and organize updates from a variety of websites, ultimately creating the Rich Site Summary feed (RSS, or commonly referred to as Really Simple Syndication).
RSS files are formatted plain text files that contain the contents of a website update (e.g., written text and embedded images). By creating a standard for RSS feeds, Internet users could now subscribe to any number of feeds and stay informed on specific websites of interest without browsing repeatedly across multiple sites.
RSS feed readers were then developed to help users organize and manage all of their RSS feed subscriptions, with Google Reader among them.
RSS in Decline
According to this month's announcement from Google, usage of Google Reader (and RSS feeds in general) has declined. With the rise of real-time social services like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, Internet users have many more ways to monitor and receive updates about news and information posted online.
But what if you still want to leverage existing RSS feeds to stay updated on events relevant to you?
First, consider creating an account with Feedly, one of the most popular RSS reader alternatives to Google Reader. Feedly proved to be so popular that the company attracted more than 500,000 new users in the days after Google announced Reader's retirement.
But maybe you don't want to subscribe to a whole new program like Feedly just to say informed about updates from a handful of websites. Instead, you can create your own feed update system using IFTTT.com (see Make Your Social Web Smarter).
With your free IFTTT account, first copy the RSS feed URL of the website from which you want to receive updates. For example, the URL for my blog, FPPad, is http://feeds.feedburner.com/FPPad (which you'll find by clicking the orange RSS icon in the right-hand sidebar).
Select the IFTTT Trigger labeled "Feed," and paste in the feed URL. Next, select the email (or Gmail, if applicable) Action Channel and fill in the information you'd like to receive in an email. Much of the metadata from the RSS feed is already populated in the email template, so you likely won't need to change any of this information. Finally, click Create Action to complete your IFTTT recipe.
Each time a new update gets posted to your website of interest, IFTTT will see the change in the RSS feed and email the update directly to your inbox.
IFTTT's RSS triggers offer a free and easy way to receive updates from those select sites you find most relevant. But if your subscriptions quickly grow into the tens or hundreds, a purpose-built solution like Feedly will likely be your answer to keeping the flood of information organized. If you happen to be an existing user of Google Reader, you have just over three months to identify your RSS reader alternative before the service fades away.