One of the most useful tools a researcher has is the newsreader. It is an extremely efficient way to keep up with a large number of information sources. While you must physically action everything that lands in your email inbox, with a newsreader you only have to “touch” the items you want to keep or action. Everything else is marked as read and removed from your view automatically. And, with a good newsreader and a little effort, you can set yourself up to have a surprising amount of research delivered right to your desktop.
Here you see the browser-based version of the Feedly newsreader platform. Feedly also offers apps for smartphones and tablets.
The newsreader is designed to find and display new content from a collection of news feeds you have subscribed to. A news feed is content arranged in a standardized format to support this online distribution process. As a result, web servers worldwide can recognize not only that content is being published as a news feed, but will also recognize the components of each article (title, author, source, summary, contents, etc.). News feeds come from a continually growing number of sources. Most news sources publish content as news feeds. All blog platforms have been designed for distribution as feeds. Many research archives offer content updates as news feeds. Search engines offer the capability to save search criteria, have the search platform automatically re-run those saved searches at specified intervals, then present any results as a feed. You build the search, subscribe to the results feed and forget it. When results are found, they pop up in your newsreader.
Unlike email, a newsreader doesn’t deliver content from unknown sources. Only feeds you’ve subscribed to will appear in your newsreader.
In addition to displaying all this goodness, the newsreader makes it easy to manage it. Your newsreader will help you find and subscribe to any number of feed sources, organize them into categories and provide features to help you process the information you receive. Processing the information is what makes a newsreader so useful. With email, you must manually remove unwanted items from your inbox. With a newsreader, as you scroll past items they can be automatically marked as read and removed from the display. You only need to “process” content you want to keep or action in some way. For example, you’re scrolling through your latest collection of news items and you see one about a new online database that you think your friend, Margaret, would find useful. Click a button, insert Margaret’s email address and hit Send. It’s on its way to Margaret and, as you keep scrolling down, it’s off your desktop.
In the example above, you are looking at the Add Content sidebar in the Feedly newsreader platform. Enter the address for a site and Feedly will present any news feeds associated with that site. In this example, there are multiple feeds available. Just click the plus sign to the right of the feed(s) you want and you are subscribed. It’s that easy!
Now, on a regular schedule, Feedly will check each of your subscribed feeds for new content. If it finds something, it will be delivered to your desktop (or device – Feedly has apps for most smart phones and tablets).
Feedly is available in both a free and premium edition. The Pro service costs $5/month or $45/year and includes one-click saving articles to Footnote and Pocket along with the ability to search within a news feed. You can work quite well without it, but it’s there if you need it.
Looking for some good genealogy reads? Check out the Recommended Reading article for some suggestions.