RSS readers still exist as a way to keep up with the news. (Especially given, as of this writing, Twitter’s chaotic state.) While Google Reader’s demise years ago has led many to write off RSS feeds, they’re still a basic part of Web infrastructure, and included with most sites by default. Even with Google Reader gone, other readers still exist. Below, I look at a few of my favorite RSS readers.
Advantages of RSS feeds and readers
Back in 2018 I wrote about the advantages of RSS. To summarize:
- No algorithms or “fake news.” You’ll always get a chronological feed of all posts from a site, and you can subscribe to reputable sources (versus Fox News or Breitbart).
- RSS is a non-proprietary, open standard. This means, like email or HTML, anyone can use it, and it can’t be bought out or eliminated by questionable wealthy interests (or “spring cleaned” in Google Reader’s case). It’s also not locked to a specific platform, unlike Apple News.
- Cross-platform support. RSS works on everything, so it doesn’t matter what device or operating system you use. For instance, podcasts traditionally are just RSS feeds to an MP3 file, so podcast players can run on anything. Contrast that to closed platforms like Spotify, which don’t allow adding podcasts they don’t carry.
- User control. Users have full control over what sites they follow.
Favorite RSS readers
Since Google Reader’s demise, Feedly is probably the most popular RSS reader. Feedly is a web-based service, but also offers mobile apps for Android and iOS devices. Some other newsreaders can also integrate Feedly subscriptions.
Feedly also offers some suggested sites to follow. It can also site’s RSS feed by just entering a site’s URL, even if the site doesn’t list its RSS feed.
There are also organizational features, such as folders, etc.
Feedly offers both a free and a paid version. The free version limits you to 100 site feeds; the paid version removes this limit. The paid version also charges annually rather than monthly, starting at the equivalent of $6/month for the “Pro” tier (which increases the feed limit to 1,000 feeds).
If you need a cross-platform reader, or don’t have a large number of feeds to follow, Feedly should work fine.
NetNewsWire (MacOS, iOS)
NetNewsWire is my recommended RSS reader for Apple device users. It takes full advantage of MacOS/iOS features, is easy to use, free, and is open source based. It’s also the reader I use on my devices.
One useful feature for iCloud users is the ability to sync between Apple devices. With it, I can switch between my iPhone and Mac easily.
NetNewsWire also offers the ability to integrate Feedly accounts into it. Thus, if you’re already using Feedly, you can use NetNewsWire instead of Feedly’s iOS app.
Again, the only downside is NetNewsWire is limited to Apple devices. Android or Windows users might want to look into Feedly instead.
Reeder is a paid RSS reader that’s well designed. Like NetNewsWire, it offers a large number of features, including iCloud syncing, support for third-party services like Feedly, and more.
Reeder costs $10 for the Mac version, or $5 for the iOS version. It’s also Mac/iOS-only. Still, if you’re an Apple device user who wants to buy a reader (instead of using a free option or paying for a subscription), Reeder is probably your best choice.
Liferea is an easy-to-use RSS reader. Like NetNewsWire, it’s open source and free, and offers plenty of features. It can even play podcasts if you want, though I’d go with a music player or standalone podcast program for that.
The only major drawback of Liferea is it’s limited to Linux desktop environments. If you want a reader you can also use on a mobile device (or computers running Windows or MacOS), you’ll have to look elsewhere.
Other RSS readers
Below are readers I haven’t personally tried, but still seemed popular enough they were worth mentioning.
- NewsBlur (https://newsblur.com/). A web-based reader with iOS/Android apps. Comes with a free and paid tier. The free tier has a 64 feed limit, while the paid tier starts at $36/year annually (for 1,000 feeds).
- Tiny Tiny RSS (https://tt-rss.org/). A self-hosted, open-source reader option that works with your web browser.
Alternative to RSS readers: Google News, Apple News
Google News: https://news.google.com/
Apple News: https://www.apple.com/apple-news/
One possible RSS reader alternative is using the built-in news apps on your mobile (and in Apple’s case, desktop) devices. Google News and Apple News both offer a variety of news sources, and can be a way of staying on top of events.
However, Google News and Apple News have drawbacks. You can’t add sites that the apps don’t carry. In Apple’s case, some features are also only available for paying subscribers; similarly, Google News might turn up articles that are behind a paywall. Finally, Apple’s service is pretty much limited to Apple devices, though Google News is available via a web browser.
Still, if you feel setting up a reader is too much work, and you’re only following a few mainstream news sources, Google News or Apple News might work fine.