Intelligently Browse RSS Feeds With NewsBlur

Are you overwhelmed with all the feeds you’ve subscribed to in your favorite RSS app such as Google Reader? Need a better way to keep up with the news and updates that are most important to you? There’s not enough time in the day to read all the new articles that are published across the net, but it can be hard to sort out the great from the forgettable articles.

Most RSS feed readers work just like an email subscription, and all new posts will automatically show up in your unread list. Today we’re going to look at NewsBlur, a new feed reader webapp that brings an intelligent approach to RSS feeds. It automatically shows the articles you’ll be interest in based on articles you’ve previously liked, and makes it easy to browse the original site or the RSS feed itself.

Getting Started

Similar to Google Reader and other feed apps, NewsBlur lists feeds in folders on the left, and then displays the feed contents in the main content section of the page. Just browse to their site and you can automatically try it out without creating an account, simply by browsing the feeds that are already added to NewsBlur. This is a great way to get a feel for the interface before taking the time to create an account and add your own feeds. You can also install it as a webapp in Chrome directly if you wish.

Try NewsBlur out without signing up

Try NewsBlur out without signing up

Once you’re ready to signup, click the top black bar on the left to get back to the main screen. Here you can get more info about the app or signup for your own account. You don’t need to enter much info; just import your Google Reader account or add a new username and optionally add a password. One click later, you’ll be ready to start managing your own feeds with NewsBlur.

Signup directly with your Google account, or enter a new username

Signup directly with your Google account, or enter a new username

Using NewsBlur

Your new account will be sparse at first, but not for long. If you signed in with your Google Account, you’ll be prompted to select the feeds you want to keep; otherwise, you’ll have no feeds by default. Just click the green plus in the bottom left to start adding feeds.

NewsBlur helps you get started with info bubbles

NewsBlur helps you get started with info bubbles

Here you can add a feed from a URL or RSS feed directly, import your Google Reader account or add new folders to keep you feeds organized. Alternately, if you’ve been using a desktop RSS program such as NetNewsWire or FeedDemon, you can import your feeds from an OPML file. Check your current RSS app’s help if you’re unsure about how to export the OPML file.

Add feeds directly, or import from Google Reader or an OPML file

Add feeds directly, or import from Google Reader or an OPML file

Free NewsBlur accounts let you add up to 64 feeds, so if your Google Reader account or OPML file included more feeds you’ll need to select some feeds to disable. NewsBlur will automatically select the feeds in your list that are most popular, but you can adjust it as you want. Alternately, for $12 per year you can upgrade to a Premium account which lets you add unlimited feeds and access premium features when they’re added.

Add up to 64 feeds to a free account, or upgrade for unlimited feeds

Add up to 64 feeds to a free account, or upgrade for unlimited feeds

Training NewsBlur

Now that you’ve added your feeds, you could just start using NewsBlur, but that’d take away the best part. NewsBlur can automatically highlight the posts in your feeds that you’re most likely to find interesting, but you’ll have to train it to know what you like first. To do this, click the Launch Intelligent Trainer button on your NewsBlur dashboard after importing your feeds. This will present a page for each of your feeds, listing the top authors and tags on the site.

Teach NewsBlur what you're interested in

Teach NewsBlur what you're interested in

See if you'll like articles before you read a feed

See if you'll like articles before you read a feed

You’ll need to do this for each feed, but once you’ve done it, you’ll find your RSS experience much more personalized and less time consuming. Articles NewsBlur thinks you’ll like based on info you’ve added will be listed in green, while unrated articles will be yellow and red articles cover topics you’ve downvoted in the past.

Read Feeds the Way You Like

While Google Reader and other RSS apps usually only let you read feeds in RSS view, NewsBlur includes a unique interface that shows the original site with the RSS feed listed underneath. This way you can still take advantage of each site’s unique design with the convenience of seeing which articles you haven’t read yet. It’s also nice for reading sites that include a truncated RSS feed without the full article content.

RSS combined with the original site in NewsBlur

RSS combined with the original site in NewsBlur

Alternately, you can view articles in a traditional feed mode. Here NewsBlur’s design shines with a clean, elegant interface that makes articles nice to read.

Traditional RSS mode makes articles clean and easy to read

Traditional RSS mode makes articles clean and easy to read

Like or Dislike Articles

You can keep training NewsBlur as you read articles so it’ll get better at knowing what feeds you like. If you like or dislike an article, click the thumb symbol on the left of the feed name. Alternately, if you just want to save the article to read later, click the star and you’ll be able to quickly find it in the Saved Stories entry on the top of the feed list.

Like or save articles to keep training NewsBlur and make it easier to use

Like or save articles to keep training NewsBlur and make it easier to use

If you pressed the thumb icon, you can now mark what you liked or disliked about an article. NewsBlur will use this info to keep your feeds focused on what you want to read. Over time, you should find yourself able to quickly read the news most important to you and let NewsBlur help you ignore the rest.

Mark what you like and dislike about an article

Mark what you like and dislike about an article

Or, if you’d like to read something out of your ordinary readings, you can always turn down NewsBlur’s filtering to let you see articles you otherwise might miss. Your choice!

Conclusion

While many people have switched to only reading links shared on networks such as Twitter or Facebook, NewsBlur shows how you can have a curated and personalized news experience from the sites you love. It does a great job surfacing the articles you’ll find most interesting, and seemed to run faster than Google Reader. At the very least, you should spend less time using it since you’ll only see the most important items.

You also have much more control over your experience than you do in Google Reader, and can even run it on your own server if you wish as NewsBlur is fully open source and can be downloaded from GitHub.

Do you use Google Reader, NewsBlur, or another RSS reader app? We’d love to hear what you’re using, so let us know in the comments. While you’re at it, don’t forget to give NewsBlur a try!


Summary

NewsBlur is a new feed reader webapp that intelligently shows you the stories you're most likely to find interesting. Use it hosted on Newsblur.com or download from GitHub and run on your own server.

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  • http://angelobeltran.com/blog Angelo Beltran

    This looks like an amazing RSS webapp. Sucks that you’re only limited to 60 feeds for a free account. Make it 100 free feeds!!!

    • http://techinch.com/ Matthew Guay

      Well, if you’d like more for free, you could download the source from GitHub and roll your own NewsBlur for yourself on your server/hosting account :)

  • http://www.samuelclay.com Samuel Clay

    Hey, thanks for the review! I’m absolutely thrilled about this. Clearly, you must’ve done your homework to dig up the Chrome app. The iphone app is set to launch within a few months, as I’ve got it functional but ugly right now.

    If you have any suggestions or bug reports, send me to me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/samuelclay/

    • http://rishabhagarwal.com Rish

      Android app too please :)

  • http://rishabhagarwal.com Rish

    I use RSS Owl. The best part about RssOwl is that it is compatible on windows as well as linux. So, when I’m on my Ubuntu installation, I still can have all my feeds up in the reader. GReader however is too featureless to use now a days. Newsblur however looks promising. But it is indeed limiting to 64 feeds for a free account. Plus, if they have their source code open on GitHub, why would anyone like to purchase the premium package? One can anytime install newsblur on their own server and get all the awesomeness along!

    • http://www.samuelclay.com Samuel Clay

      That’s the point of having the source code. If you are determined to not have to pay $1 / month, and have the resources and know-how to host everything yourself, then it’s there waiting for you.

      But that means you have to upgrade multiple times a day (since newsblur.com is kept up-to-date all day), and you have to set up feed fetching yourself. NewsBlur will do it the fetching and parsing for you,but you will have to set up a cronjob to make it happen, and that’s if you don’t have too many feeds. Tip the scales and you’ll have to use a queuing server, which is how NewsBlur is able to distribute its feed fetching to so many feeds.

      The hosted version is run on 5 servers! You probably won’t need that, but this is where your dollar a month goes. Takes out all the headache and work. Plus, that’s only if you have more than 64 feeds. (I don’t, and I built the dang thing!)

      • http://techinch.com/ Matthew Guay

        Interesting you mentioned that … I actually found the 64 feed limit nice because it made me focus on a smaller number of sites and not get so overwhelmed with hundreds of posts a day.

        Speaking of which, maybe you should add advertisements (perhaps something high-quality such as The Deck, Fusion Ads, Yoggrt, or others…) to make money from all the free-riders :)

  • http://vanstrapp.com van

    It’s pretty, and has some nifty features (I can’t see any of them as being indispensable), but I’m inclined to stick with Google Reader for now. The sharing and friend functions alone make it infinitely more useful (to me).

  • http://twitter.com/mor4ee mor4ee

    Best RSS Webapp for me, is Feedly http://www.feedly.com

    • http://techinch.com/ Matthew Guay

      Feedly does look nice … I’ll have to give it a try! Thanks!

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  • hegearon

    Hey,
    I really like your service, and if you wish to get your hand dirty for more than 64 feeds there’s a solution: Yahoo Pipes. I didn’t really dive into it, but it can combine multiple feeds into one.

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  • Art Krueger

    How can I email a blog story to a friend? I have looked everywhere but no link found. I have Outlook.

  • Art Krueger

    Your program will not open my email client which is outlook so I have to cut and paste the addresses i want to send to. I pass the mail on to a mailing list from Outlook.

  • Pingback: I have fallen in love with NewsBlur | It's a Dangerous Business

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