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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!