Apps – Newsblur

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I read a lot of blogs.  I don’t know when that started, which is a lie, because the answer is late college and grad school.  When I had a job for 20 hours a week in the library, there wasn’t always enough work work to fill the day, and often, I would be left twiddling my thumbs.  Do I make busy work for myself?  Sure, I could do that, but it would mean potentially having to stop in the middle of a project to help a patron, or do some other project as assigned by my supervisor, and then having to find my place and restart, which would kill my productivity.  I could do homework.  AHAHAHAHA.  No.  I was terrible at trying to do homework much ahead of when it was due, and the whole procrastinating thing continues to be a problem.  I mean, I definitely read things for class…but it would usually be quick skimming of 8 articles that I was meant to have read for a class that I would have in about 90 minutes.  Whoops.  When I decided that neither of those things were for me, I started to read food blogs.  I was obsessed with seeing what people around the country and the world were cooking, and would drool over their pictures.  I have very specific memories of reading the back-catalog of Orangette and discovering dutch babies, and then needing to go home and try one out myself (it was pretty good, mostly because there’s so much butter).

But once I started following more than a dozen blogs, it became ponderous to visit each site each day to see if there were updates.  And it was around this time that I discovered RSS and Google Reader.  It was amazing.  Soon after I started using Reader, they instituted a “Share” feature, meaning that if you were friends on gReader with someone, you would get to see the cool stories they thought were relevant to the masses.  You could comment on people’s shares, and that became a sort of new social-networking space.  And then Google ruined everything.  In March of 2013 Google announced that they would be discontinuing the service because there wasn’t “enough usage”, and they would be discontinuing service July 1 of that year.  My friends and I were heartbroken.  Friends that I didn’t even really know from anything except the kind of things they shared.  So I went RSS reader shopping.

I tried a few – there were a lot of free ones out there being touted as “beautiful” and “simple”, but I needed a workhorse.  By this time I’d accumulated hundreds of blogs that I was able to follow because I only got the updates of new postings (this is what I get for starting to read blogs just before it started to be a thing that was monetized and people started posting more and more and more in order to make money).  But even though I’d culled things as I went along, I was still left with more feeds than any free service could handle.  I also knew I would miss the social interaction features of gReader, so wanted to find a replacement that would be able to do that as well.  Eventually I found my way to a Newsblur paid account.

newsblur-freemium-pricing

Now – a paid account is something I reserve for a service that I love, that I know works well, that I trust to be around, that I use regularly, and that gives me value for my money.  I paid for a Newsblur account soon after starting, it was that good.  They have a free option, but when you’re a high-volume information consumer like I am, that’s not really an option.  So if you only read a few blogs (like, say…Maggie Every Day?), a free account might be for you.  But really, who wants to let poor Shiloh go hungry?

newsblur-to-the-rescue

So what are the other features that made me love Newsblur and want to support it?  First off – it’s got a great format – the organization of feeds is first class.  You can put feeds in folders, and even create subfolders within the folders.  You can arrange and create to your hearts content, and if you accidentally delete a folder (even if it’s a practice subfolder), they’ll send you a nice email with a backup of all your feeds…just in case.  Not sure if this is for paid subscribers or everyone, but it’s awesome nonetheless.

You can also train stories to either be promoted or to not show up in your feed at all.  I was getting a lot of junk with some of the cross-posting that happens on corporate blogging groups, and I just didn’t want that gunking up my feed.  So I looked at the tags that appear at the top of every story, and figured out which ones to “thumbs down” and have the system ignore.  It’s pretty terrific.  Those same tags that appear at the top of a post in the feed will also usually tell you if a blogger is doing sponsored content, which is helpful when you’re making a judgement about the opinions you’re being fed.  (For the record – this post is another #notsponsored post).

go ahead, judge my blog list

Newsblur gives you lots of options about what to do with a story you’re interested in.  You can share it to your blurblog (Mine is here), which puts it out in the world.  You can see all the other Newsblur users who have shared that post as well, and for popular items (like xkcd comics) there’s usually a lively discussion.  You can save a post to your account.  These are things you want to keep for yourself.  I have a few things saved, but to be honest, I don’t look at them very much.  I should do that.  The third option is the one I use the most, and that’s emailing.  Newsblur lets you send the post, along with any comments you might have to yourself, someone else, or a group.  It’s super handy.  And if you pair that with gmail’s seemingly endless storage, you might understand why I’ve sent myself nearly 750 articles from this year alone.

The app version is pretty good, but emailing yourself the way that I do so regularly is a pain on a phone, though that may actually be a problem of the Newsblur app launching the mail app to do the sending, and potentially something that could be changed in the settings.  And it’s generally more difficult to navigate on a smaller screen, but I could see it being more useful if you were using a tablet like an iPad.  And even with that, the reading of articles – especially if I’m not trying to send them – still works very well.

So, basically it’s awesome.  I love it.  If you’re looking for an RSS/Newsreader solution, this is one of many options.  But it’s one that I’ve road tested for more than three years at this point, and it’s pretty terrific.  Anyone else out there using a Newsreader and have a preference?  Any other Newsblur users?  People who use Feedly who want to hate on me?  Did people really navigate entirely to tumblr, and is it possible to get the full breadth of content there, or is it just fandom and memes-resharing?

Details: Newsblur, $24/year

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