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Wednesday, April 10, 2024

The Best RSS Feed Readers (Because the Internet Is a Mess)

Whether you are sick of social media, want to get away from endless notifications, or just want to read all your news all in one spot, an RSS reader can help. RSS stands for “really simple syndication.” It's a protocol that allows an RSS reader to talk to your favorite websites and get updates from them. Instead of visiting 10 different sites to see what's new, you view a single page with all new content.

There are two parts to RSS: the RSS reader and the RSS feeds from your favorite websites. RSS has been around a while now, so there are a lot of very good RSS readers out there. Most of them feature built-in search and suggestions too, so you don't have to go hunting for RSS feeds yourself. You just might discover some cool new sites to read, too.

I've been using RSS for over a decade, and recently spent a few months trying out almost a dozen different RSS reader services. The picks below are the best RSS readers available right now. Once you've found one you like, put it on one of our Best Tablets or Best iPads for easy reading on the go. 

Best OverallInoreader

Inoreader offers a well-designed readable interface, good search and discovery options, and a nice set of features that are both beginner-friendly and offer plenty of options for advanced users. There's a web interface, as well as iOS and Android apps. Inoreader handles more than just RSS feeds—you can add email newsletters, Facebook pages, Twitter searches, and podcasts too.

Advanced users will like extra features like keyword monitoring. Enter your search terms and Inoreader will search all your feeds for any mention of that keyword or phrase and then create a feed of just those articles. You can also do the opposite and hide articles matching a phrase. Inoreader also offers a nice automation system you can use to create rules and filter your feeds, giving some higher priority. For example, you could get a push notification every time WIRED publishes a new review, but not the rest of our content. 

The automation does require a pro account. Pro accounts also get some other nice features, like the ability to integrate with IFTTT and Zapier, an offline mode for the mobile apps. It also includes my personal favorite: keeping your YouTube account in sync with your RSS reading. You can watch YouTube videos in Inoreader, and next time you log into YouTube, you won't have a ton of unwatched videos.

Inoreader offers a free (with ads) account, which is good for testing out the service to see if it meets your needs. If it does, the Pro account is $7 a month (it's cheaper if you buy a year up front), which brings more advanced features and support for more feeds.

Best for BeginnersFeedly

Feedly is probably the most popular RSS reader on the web, and for good reason. It's well-designed, easy to use, and offers great search options so it's easy to add all your favorite sites. It lacks one thing that makes Inoreader slightly better in my view—the YouTube syncing—but otherwise Feedly is an excellent choice. 

It even has a few features Inoreader does not, like Evernote integration (you can save articles to Evernote) and a notes feature for jotting down your own thoughts on stories. Feedly also touts Leo, the company's AI search assistant, which can help filter your feeds and surface the content you really want. In my testing, I found that it worked well enough, but a big part of what I like about RSS is that there's is no AI—I don't want automated filtering. Depending on how you use RSS, though, this could be a useful feature.

Like the others here, Feedly offers iOS and Android apps along with a web interface. Feedly is free up to 100 feeds. A Pro subscription is $8 a month (it's cheaper if you pay for a year) and enables more features like notes, save to Evernote, and ad-free reading. The Pro+ account gets you the AI-features and more for $12 a month.

Best For DIYersNewsblur

Newsblur is a refreshingly simple old-school RSS reader. You won't find AI or YouTube syncing here—it's for reading RSS feeds and getting on with your life. It can subscribe to all kinds of content (including newsletters), read full stories (even from RSS feeds that don't offer them), integrate with IFTTT, and even track story changes if a publisher updates an article.

One thing that sets Newsblur apart is that it's open source. You can see the code on Github, and if you're comfortable with the command line you can even set up your own self-hosted version of Newsblur on your own server.

There are apps for iOS and Android, as well as the web-based interface. Newsblur's free account is the most limited of the options here, with only 64 feeds and only 5 stories from each at a time, but the Premium account is also the cheapest at $36 per year. That gets you access to all the features and unlimited feeds.

How To Get More Out of RSS

The first thing you'll notice when you get into RSS is that not every website advertises its feed. More often than not there is a feed, but finding it can be tricky. Fortunately, there are some web browser extensions that can help. This Chrome extension and this Firefox add-on will add an RSS feed icon to your URL bar and you can click it to subscribe to almost any website you're on.

Some websites don't have RSS feeds though. In that case, you can use a feed generator like Fetch RSS or RSS.app. Neither are perfect, but in my testing both were able to generate feeds for seven of the ten pages I tested, which is better than nothing.

What about those really stubborn pages? Well, I just ignore them. There's a saying that “networks route around damage,” and not having an RSS feed is a kind of damage. Ignoring those websites is a way to route around it.

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