By no means do I keep it secret that I love consuming content via RSS feeds. It’s been my preference since I first heard about the technology 15 years ago or so in college. At first for me it was primarily for early podcasts consumption, but over time I realized that it’s also possible for websites to use as well. Of course this is talking about the blogging boom and the concept of “subscribing” to their websites. However, I’ve rarely sat down and actually tried to type out some of why I prefer this method of delivery, at least until now.
Why do you love RSS?
I believe a lot of my preference for this comes down to how I like the abstract notion of notifications and also how I go about daily work. With work, I definitely could make use of notification centers and also checking regularly which clients have responded to which tasks, but instead I use the email notifications that get sent to me to know that, at least for immediate things needing done. As a positive consequence, I regularly have near-ish “inbox zero”. Those don’t get built up and ignored.
This is going to be the same idea with RSS feeds, though obviously not as response critical for me. The feeds are notifying me of new items from news sites, Reddit, an the multitudes of blogs that I follow. Casual consumption of content. I don’t need to spend time visiting each and checking for new content, because I’ll be notified automatically when I open up Thunderbird, which is my RSS Feed Reader of choice.
RSS actually even contributes to my day job as well, since the WordPress.org support forums have RSS feeds for each plugin. This helps me keep an eye on new support requests that I need to respond to.
Isn’t RSS dead?
That’s definitely a narrative that’s out there, but is quite inaccurate. RSS is far from dead, it’s just unfortunately obscured. Browsers seem to no longer, or at least do little to, help foster discovery of feeds via built in UI. Many also herald Google taking down Google Reader in mid 2013 as a final nail in the coffin, but that’s just one of many readers available. It did benefit from having the Google brand on it, for sure.
Where is RSS thriving?
Remember how I mentioned I was introduced to RSS feeds via the early days of podcasting? Well, podcasting certainly hasn’t gone away with Google Reader. In fact, podcasting as an industry has been booming for years and that growth isn’t expected to slow any time soon.
In this June 2019 article on https://www.theverge.com/2019/6/3/18650526/podcast-iab-advertising-industry-revenue, they predicted that the podcast industry will create $1 billion in annual revenue by 2021. If you’re subscribed to a podcast on your phone or iTunes or potentially Spotify, chances are you’re using RSS feeds already, and you didn’t even realize it.
It’s estimated that WordPress powers roughly 39.6% of the internet in 2021. That’s a lot of websites, and there’s more being produced all the time, and many of those are probably making use of WordPress.
Out of box, WordPress offers a ton of RSS feeds for the main blog page, as well as every tag, category, date, and author archives. That’s just for a brand new install, then you get into custom post types and those can get their own feeds as well.
Blogger.com, Tumblr (now owned by Automattic who handle WordPress.com), and many others, are all still around and I have to assume also offer RSS feeds. Feel free to correct me where I’m wrong.
Reddit has a user feed which is how I consume their content. However, this is all that I can think of off the top of my head during the crafting of this post.
What can be done?
The sad truth is probably not a lot can be done at this point. Social media has definitely taken over as the source for new content notification and I don’t foresee that changing any time soon. People are already used to scrolling on those sites, and they’re easy to use for the typical web user.
However, I still love when I find a new site that advertises their feed via that orange icon we are likely all passively familiar with. I also love occasionally going to insert social media site here and asking people for their blogs, so that I can check it out and hopefully subscribe to their content.
In the end, I think I just wanted to restate this detail. RSS is alive and well, in 2021, and I hope you consider making use of it soon.