In this two-part series, we will take a look at some of the best options out there for managing and reading news from various sources around the Web. This first article focuses on news aggregation services that allow third-party apps to link in, giving the user the ability to choose a client that has the UI and feature set they need.
News aggregators, and the many clients that plug in to them, are built with a goal in mind of making it easy to read news from many different sites from a single, consistent source. This can be a big time saver, and also a quick and easy way to keep updated with the news that matters most to you, without having to visit each site individually.
Blogs (like this one), news sources, podcasts, online retailers, and even many social networks out there offer some form of RSS feed to users that enables them to gather new data as it becomes available, without having to visit the full site to do so.
Some aggregators are more provider friendly that others, allowing for advertising and other supportive content to remain in the feed. Others strip this content away, delivering the vital content to users without ads. This makes them a double-edged sword for content creators. The important fact to keep in mind is that these readers make it easier for someone to add your site to their list of resources, and keep them in the loop when a new post comes out.
Let’s take a look at some of the most popular news aggregation services, and some of the features that make them worth considering. All of the options in this list make their services available to third-party clients through a full-featured API.
When Google Reader got the axe from Google, Feedly was considered by many to be the obvious first choice for its replacement. Its service is integrated into over 100 desktop and mobile apps, has a clean and intuitive Web interface, and it’s free.
Feedly makes it easy to find news sources through its extensive feed library. You can browse by topic, search for a particular source, or enter the URL of an RSS feed you would like to have added to your list.
For $5 monthly or $45 yearly, you can upgrade to a pro account and set up automatic sharing of feed entries through third-party services like HootSuite and Buffer. You can also search within your Feedly library for specific information, and save it to Evernote or OneNote with a click.
Feedbin is another excellent choice. It is clean and easy to use, with Readability integration that makes it easy to load an entire article inline with the app, instead of jumping you to the source page.
Feedbin allows you to sort through your feeds using a tags system that allows you to assign multiple tags to a single feed and access it in a variety of ways. This offers the user a little more flexibility than assigning a single category.
Like Feedly and the other options in this list, Feedbin has a robust API that makes it easy to add to third-party clients and integrate with other services.
Feedbin is free for 14 days, after which you will need to pay either $3 per month or $30 per year.
There isn’t enough time in the day to read everything that comes across your news reader. Fever offers an interesting solution to this through gauging content’s value and gives you the best of the best.
If you follow 50 feeds, you might be hit with 500+ pieces of content in a day. Fever can find the most important ones through measuring interest and conversation, and put them at the top of your list. Unread counts are hidden by default, making this the solution of choice for anyone that hates walking away from their reader with a number in the unread column.
What sets Fever apart is that it isn’t a centrally hosted service. You would add Fever to your own server and run it as you would any other server application. For a one-time $30 fee, all of Fever’s features and functionality is at your disposal.
Because Fever is a self-hosted solution, a lot of the setup and support falls on the user. This can lead to mixed results and additional hassle.
NewsBlur tackles news aggregation in a social way. Instead of just grabbing the latest entries in your favorite feeds, it incorporates context so you only see what you want to see. You also have the opportunity to discover new content through story sharing on shared feeds called Blurblogs.
NewsBlur’s default UI is a bit rough around the edges, but you are able to enjoy a few beneficial features such as full-page rendering within the reader, parallel scrolling that lets you see where you are in your feed as you scroll through the rendered page, and more.
Perhaps the most useful feature of NewsBlur is the user’s ability to train it. If you like content that has videos and is related to science fiction, you can let NewsBlur know and it will display this content more prominently. On the other hand, if you would rather avoid content that talks about politics or legal issues, you can tell it to avoid these tagged topics in the future.
Few solutions available today are as third-party friendly as Feed Wrangler. Not only does it integrate with plenty of third-party clients like Reeder and Unread, but it has built-in support for Instapaper, Pocket, and Pinboard for advanced “read later” functionality.
If there is a topic or keyword in particular that you aren’t particularly interested in, you can set it to be automatically marked as read, clearing out your inbox of unwanted items. You can also search your news feed for particular topics.
Feed Wrangler is entirely funded by its users. Its full-featured API and available apps for iOS make it a great solution for anyone that values choice and mobility. At $19 per year, it is also one of the most budget-friendly advanced solutions out there.