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Picking the best online/web based RSS reader

Brian Livingston, editor of WindowsSecrets.com and the co-author of ‘Windows Me Secrets’ and nine other books, continues his series on RSS readers by looking at the best Web based RSS readers. Web based means using an application based on the Internet where you log into a site as opposed to an application/piece of software sitting on your desktop computer.

Livingston took input directly from the big players, MyYahoo, NewsGator and Bloglines. His conclusion is that unless you need RSS feeds on the weather and stock quotes, where MyYahoo is the only way to go, NewsGator’s ability to read RSS feeds on different machines in different settings and early support for podcasting makes it his choice.

Scott Gatz, senior director of personalization products for Yahoo.com, makes a strong case that My Yahoo is the best online RSS reader, for the following reasons:

  • Non-RSS feeds. Yahoo has worked for more than 10 years to integrate constantly updated information from a wide variety of sources. This includes stock quotes, localized weather, current air fares, alerts to new e-mail (for users of Yahoo addresses), and more. Much of this information will never be available as an RSS feed.
  • Mobile information. My Yahoo has integrated its feeds into a mobile product for users of advanced cell phones and other portable devices.
  • A dashboard to your life. Yahoo says with its easy page customization, MyYahoo aims to be ‘a dashboard to your life,’ not just an RSS reader. Once you get the layout the way you want it, My Yahoo offers you a view of just those bits of information you need to check every day.

Bloglines has become hugely popular and according to Mark Fletcher, the founder of Bloglines, his service is designed to make the user’s experience fast and efficient:

  • You open it, it’s marked as read. The default behavior in Bloglines is not to show you an item you’ve previously seen, once you’ve opened a particular RSS feed you subscribe to. This behavior can be changed to retain items until you specifically delete them. But Fletcher believes Bloglines makes RSS reading fast, which users like, even if they’re logging on to their Bloglines account from different machines (and therefore might want to see an item more than once).
  • Universal inbox. Like Yahoo.com, Bloglines encourages users to create e-mail accounts ending in Bloglines.com. ‘You can create an unlimited number of e-mail addresses at Bloglines.com,’ Fletcher says, ‘and they’ll show up in your Bloglines accounts.’ This can reduce the number of browser windows you need to open to follow all of your e-mail and RSS notifications.
  • Saved searches. Both Bloglines and NewsGator Online have the ability to save a search, so you can check it later. ‘NewsGator requires you to pay for that service, whereas Bloglines has that for free,’ Fletcher says. NewsGator disagrees saying NewsGator Online users get up to three saved searches, called ‘smart feeds,’ for free with paying users being able to save between 10 and 150 searches.

Livingston reports NewsGator Online may have achieved a lower growth rate than Bloglines because NewsGator’s Web-based service originally charged a fee. Now that the basic service level is free, NewsGator Online is rapidly gaining users. He says NewsGator Online, offers several features that other online RSS readers can’t currently match (though I am not certain they are essential for lawyers):

  • Job bulletins. In partnership with the employment service Work.com, NewsGator Online allows users to subscribe to help-wanted listings within any given radius of their chosen city. This as an example of many up-to-the-minute services NewsGator is planning.
  • Integration with Media Center Edition. People who own a PC with Microsoft’s Media Center Edition can get multimedia feeds, including video. The service is accessible to MCE users by clicking Online Spotlight, News and Sports, NewsGator MCE.
  • Podcasts that come to you. Perhaps the most compelling new feature of NewsGator Online is its support for ‘podcatching.’ This buzzword means automatically downloading audio and video programs that are posted on the Web. This is implemented via Newsgator’s free FeedStation application.

Nice article by Livingston, but from a practical standpoint I am not sure there is a clear winner for law firms. LexBlog is still working with our clients to see what works best for them, both as to the subscription of feeds from particular sources/blogs and saving posts referencing selected keywords and key phrases.

Ultimately it may come down to what a lawyer feels the most comfortable with. Some folks use Google for search while others use Yahoo. It’ll probably be the same for Web based RSS readers.

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