I’ve been looking for a slick, fast, easy to use RSS reader with a nice interface for my iPhone.

I use Mr. Reader, Flipboard, and Zite on my iPad. Though Flipboard and Zite work well on my iPhone, they have limitations. Zite is a personalized magazine that feeds me relevant content by categories, but it does not present my feeds. I can set up a section on Flipboard for my feeds, but they are not presented by category, nor can I view them chronological order.

I may have found what I am looking for in Feedly. It will work in various browsers, including Chrome and Mozilla, and on both the IOS and the Android operating systems. Like other reader apps, Feedly integrates with your Google Reader.

Feedly has received mostly favorable reviews and has a five star rating in Apple’s App Store.

In addition to allowing me to view my feeds by category, Feedly presents content in slick visual cards for each post similar to the Flipboard look.

The sharing feature is nicely displayed and easy to use. Better than Zite and Flipboard, Feedly integrates the Buffer App service so that you may share items you’ve read on other social media at pre-selected times.

A unique thing that Feedly does is suggest other feeds that you might like based on your subscribed feeds. It also creates a visually compelling ‘front page’ by actively filtering and featuring the most relevant articles based on your personal tastes and ratings of other users.

Check out Feedly and let me know what you think.

I started getting feeds from the Irish Independent, Ireland’s largest newspaper, a couple months ago.

My interest in Ireland comes from my first job as lawyer, 30 years ago, being in Ireland and now the IDA (Irish Development Authority) having visited me this year about the benefits of doing business in Ireland.

I don’t get the entire Independent in my feeds, just the business section. It’s a nice way to stay in touch with Irish business. I am also able to engage the Independent’s reporters as well as the people who are the subject of stories.

I was able to give a kudos to an IDA business development person located in the Silicon Valley for the IDA’s landing a US business who will be expanding in a tech park South of Dublin.

Last week I exchanged tweets and agreed to stay in touch with a director of WPP, one of the largest advertising agencies in the world, after blogging about a story about him in the Independent. Though he is in Asia now, he is from Ireland and got his current position through social media.

‘Listening’ to stories and ‘conversations’ in the Independent enables me to grow my network and stay abreast of business that interests me as well as prospective clients and strategic partners.

What are your clients, prospective clients, strategic partners reading? Where are they doing business? Where would you like to expand your business? Who would you like to engage and add to your business network? Does it feel silly not to stay abreast of the news your clients and prospective clients are following?

Do you have an office over seas where you serve local clients? Do you read their local publications? Most all have English versions. Most all have RSS feeds by section that could be fed to your iPad for easy reading.

Technology has changed everything. One can network with and end engage people around the world.

If you are not, you’re falling further behind. Not knowing how to use technology is not a good excuse.

Yesterday at our PLI program in San Francisco on social media for business development for lawyers one of the panelists said we’re not too far from the day when it will be an ethical requirement to use an RSS reader.

The point was that it would be malfeasance for a lawyer to not stay abreast of developments in the law and collaborate with peers via information and dialogue easily and freely available via RSS.

15 to 20 percent of Americans use an RSS reader to receive customized news and information.

The group tends to be comprised of very busy people who are required as part of what they do to stay up to speed with news, information, and insight. They don’t have time to get information the old fashioned way through print or online by search, browsing, or bookmarking websites.

The group also tends to include professionals who need to collaborate with and learn from peers in their profession as well as engage those around them in their industry.

Doesn’t matter to these folks how they get their RSS feeds – Google Reader, Zite, Flipboard, Mr. Reader, or customized feeds coming from publishers, they just have to have the right stuff in a quick, easy to use, and time saving fashion.

Who are these folks?

  1. Very busy executives who have an insatiable desire for information and who are looking to achieve more in their career and to lead their organizations to new heights.
  2. Virtually all news reporters, publishers, editors, and influential bloggers.
  3. Lawyers who leverage the Internet to grow both professionally (be a better lawyer for their clients) and business wise (get the type of clients they want based on their word of mouth reputation and relationships).

So it really should come as no surprise that a leading appellate lawyer presenting at PLI told the audience that he stays abreast of legal developments as well as insight and dialogue on case law via his RSS reader and that he basically could not live without RSS feeds.

What did take me by surprise was his comment that it may soon be a requirement that for a lawyer to use an RSS reader. How else could a lawyer monitor the sources and subjects they needed to in order to do an effective job for their clients?

I practiced for 17 years as a trial lawyer. I learned the practice and stayed up to speed by reading and attending conferences with leading trial lawyers – in my state and nationally. I didn’t need to worry about CLE credits because I had more than enough as a result of me just doing my job of being a good lawyer and growing my network of trusted colleagues I could call upon.

If I were practicing today, I’d be using an RSS reader and Twitter to do my job. To learn and to network. And you know what? Doing so I’d learn more and collaborate more with leading legal minds than I ever did the old way of reading the print and attending conferences.

I am not saying don’t read the old way. Nor am I saying don’t go to conferences.

I am asking though shouldn’t it be a requirement that lawyers stay abreast of the law and hone their skills in as good a fashion as they can? And if so, could that make an RSS reader and the use of feeds an ethical requirement for a lawyer?

RSS for lawyersAudiences are surprised when I tell them the most important part of social media is listening. I explain after a LinkedIn profile, the most important social media tool to use is a RSS reader.

Social media is all about networking so as to build relationships and enhance your word of mouth reputation. Networking means listening first. Your RSS reader is your ears.

Though Google Reader is the leading RSS reader, I find it clumsy to use. Adding feeds isn’t always the easiest. The interface isn’t the best to read from. And sharing on Facebook and Twitter what you’re reading isn’t the easiest.

The Financial Times’ Chris Nuttall (@ftchris) has a nice piece this morning on news feeds becoming better reads with tablets and apps.

RSS readers used to be the standard way for web users to collect and consume news from different sources, but the advent of tablets has brought personalised photo-rich magazine-style experiences rather than long RSS lists of headlines.

RSS readers arguably provide better news, especially for industry professionals like lawyers, than the mainstream media can provide.

Nuttall, a reporter himself, believes with traditional journalism in decline, good RSS readers and aggregators with bots may be able to take the place of good editors by automatically providing a rich and more personalized news experience.

Nuttall goes on to provide plusses and minuses for each of 7 RSS readers/aggregators.

I’ve tried Flipboard and Zite. Both provide a very nice user experience. The feedback I’ve received from lawyers on each has been very positive.

At the suggestion of my friend, Attorney Tom Mighell, I’m currently using Mr. Reader on my iPad to read my feeds. It works well for me because I’ve come to know well the sources and subjects I want to follow over the years. Mr. Reader also allows me to tag and star items as well as share items on Twitter and Facebook.

If you’ve never used an RSS Reader before or drifted away from using RSS because you thought it a headache, I’d suggest using Zite or Flipboard. I’ve written about Zite and Flipboard before if you want to see my thoughts on each.

No matter what RSS reader or aggregator you use, they all interface and synchronize with Google Reader. Google Reader becomes, in effect, your database of RSS feeds.

I strongly suggest getting an iPad. The apps save you time and provide a much more attractive reading environment than a laptop or desktop machine. You’ll likely get addicted to reading RSS feeds once you have a an iPad.

Bottom line, if you’re going to use social media effectively, you need to begin by listening. Listening requires the use of a RSS Reader. Fortunately, the use of a RSS Reader has gotten easier with tablets and apps.

Listen via RSS law blogImagine you’re an estate planning lawyer in Des Moines looking to grow your practice.

The marketing folks at Principal Park, home of the Triple A Des Moines Cubs, call to tell you that you’ll have free use of a luxury box for five of next year’s ball games. Better yet, they tell you they’ll arrange for the food and drink and invite a who’s who in networking for a Des Moines estate lawyer.

Twenty attendees for each game will include:

  • Wealthy people in the Des Moines area who are looking for an estate planning lawyer.
  • Some of your best estate planning clients.
  • Leading financial planners from Des Moines.
  • The reporter from the Des Moines Register who does stories on financial planning and business matters.
  • Editors and reporters from the Des Moines Business Record.
  • Financial reporters from the Chicago Tribune, New York Times, and Wall Street Journal.
  • Des Moines business leaders such as the president of the local Chamber of Commerce.

  • Influential Des Moines bloggers who have a wide and diverse audience.
  • Influential estate planning lawyers who are blogging from other areas of the country.
  • Leading lawyers from Des Moines who don’t do estate planning work – and don’t have partners who do so either.
  • Influential business and financial bloggers from around Iowa.

Would you go? Darn right you’d go.

Would you wear ear plugs so you couldn’t hear anyone? Heck no.

But that’s exactly what most lawyers do when they blog. Rather than listening to their target audience, lawyers shout information, updates, and news without listening to a word being said by the folks they ought to be networking with. All in an effort to showcase their intellect and build their personal brand.

Engaging people so as to network and build relationships requires listening. In your Principal Park luxury box, discussion is more likely to be about financial planning and related matters than the weather.

All you need to do is stand next to people, listen to what’s being discussed, and add value to the conversation. That’s easy, just offer insight and commentary on things you’re passionate about – financial planning and preserving family wealth. Introduce yourself to people as you do so.

By discussing matters of common interest, you’ll meet people and build relationships. In a room of twenty people with like interests, you’re bound to walk away with upcoming one on one meetings, coffees, or lunches with two or three folks.

Listening on the Internet means using a RSS newsreader. Sure, you can listen to questions and concerns of clients and prospective clients directly. But how are you going to hear what influencers are saying without getting RSS feeds from news websites (newspapers, journals, and trade publications), blogs, and keyword/ key phrase searches from Google Blog Search and Google News?

What feeds would I subscribe to as a Des Moines estate planning lawyer?

  • Select RSS feeds from the Des Moines Register – especially the feed to the Register’s Finance Blog.
  • Select RSS feeds from the Des Moines Business Record – especially the Finance and Insurance story feeds.
  • RSS feeds from leading estate planning blogs from around the country, whether published by lawyers or financial advisors. I’d do searches for these blogs via Google Reader so I could tell how many RSS subscribers those blogs had. That tells me something about their influence.
  • Des Moines blogs reporting on local issues which have a good number of subscribers. They abound in cities today and serve as beat reporters on local news, and, in many cases, have more loyal readership than the major newspaper.
  • RSS feeds of searches of relevant keyword and keyword phrases in Google Blog Search and Google News. (Financial/estate planning terms of art, types of trusts, code sections, etc.) I’d also subscribe to my name and the url of my blog so I could hear when people had cited me or something I wrote on my blog.
  • RSS feeds from leading Iowa law and business blogs.

I’m sure I’m missing a few, but you get the idea. Listen to what’s being discussed by leaders and influencers. Offer your insight and commentary by referencing in your blog what you’re reading elsewhere.

Blogging will then take on the feel of conversation for you. That’s what true blogging is – a conversation.

A conversation which leads to relationships. Relationships which lead to referrals and a word of mouth reputation.

But just as conversations in the Principal Park luxury box require listening, conversations online (blogging) require listening first.

If you’re anything like many of us here at LexBlog, your Google Reader is jam-packed with hundreds of subscriptions and hundreds or thousands of unread items. For a new adopter especially, the constant stream of content can be overwhelming⎯maybe even enough to give up on using RSS.

But using a reader is an essential and efficient tool for any blogging lawyer to generate post ideas, engage in conversation with other bloggers and continue their professional development. 

Here are five tips to using your reader efficiently and improving your blogging through better reading:

1. Stay organized

Google Reader LabelsThe key from the start of using Google Reader is to keep your feeds organized. The easiest way to do this is to immediately put a feed in a folder with a descriptive name when you subscribe to it. That way when you want to read about a particular topic, you will have no problem doing exactly that.

One more tip: As you read items, you can tag them by hitting your “t” key while you’re in your reader, then type in a short word to further categorize your post. For example, I use “blogit” to remind me to come back and possibly write a post in response to someone and “favs” to keep the most noteworthy and influential posts in one place. Later, type “gt” and select the tag you want to view.

2. Use Keyboard Shortcuts

There’s no better way to cruise through mountains of content than with your reader’s keyboard shortcuts. Google has a complete list, but the most important one’s to remember are:

  • “j” moves to the next item while “k” moves to the previous item in the list
  • “enter” toggles items open and closed, so you can go from seeing just the headline to the full post content
  • “v” will take you to the content’s webpage in a new tab or window
  • Use “s” to star an item 
  • Press “e” to email an item to a friend from your Google-associated email account from right within the reader window
  • Tapping “r” refreshes that dreaded unread count
  • “shift a” marks all items in a folder as read
  • My favorite is “f”, which brings the content to a simplified fullscreen mode:

Google Reader Fullscreen

These shortcuts work especially well when you switch your view to the list view instead of the expanded view so that you see lists of headlines instead of lists of full post content that will require lots of scrolling.

3. Enable Google Reader Sharing

Google Reader ShareBy default, your reader will not be set up for easy sharing. To do so, go to the Settings dropdown, select Reader Settings, then choose the Send to tab and activate the services you share content on, most especially Twitter. 

If you’re constantly logged in to Twitter by having your browser remember your username and password, then you may click Send to at the bottom of any post and select Twitter or some other service from the list. The post you are sharing will have its link shortened automatically and the post title and shortened URL will be dropped into your Twitter update box where you can add some more insight and then share it with your followers.

There is a perfect synergy between consuming valuable content in your Google Reader and then tweeting it out to your followers. They will appreciate you sharing something they may not have found, and consistently sharing quality content will not only up your follower count but also give you more opportunities to engage with other professionals.

4. Clean out the waste

While you read inside Google Reader, the service tracks your habits and provides reports on your usage in its Trends section, which is located toward the top left of your reader’s navigation menu. 

Trends is more useful than you might expect. By reporting on what items you have read, clicked on, starred, shared and more, it actually provides you with the analytics necessary to remove the waste from your reader. If you’re only reading 2 percent of the items from a feed anyway and never clicking on them, that’s a solid indication that the feed is not providing you with engaging content and is not worth the subscription.

It’s also kind of neat to see when your heaviest reading times are, like the following screenshot shows from my Google Reader. Apparently I need to work on reading more on Tuesdays.

Google Reader Trends

5. Take it on the go 

Google Reader is the king of RSS readers because it syncs across platforms. So you may never use it in your browser, but you will use it to sync the feeds between your tablet, smartphone and desktop reader. That way you can read wherever you are on your mobile devices, while Google Reader still tracks your habits in Trends.

Some good apps that sync with Google Reader are the Reeder app for your iPhone or iPad or the official Google Reader app for your Android device. NetNewsWire works well as a desktop RSS reader for Macs and FeedDemon is great for PCs. 

When Bloglines, a popular web based RSS reader that launched in 2003, announced it was shutting down on October 1, discussion ensued that RSS was no longer a consumer experience, just a means to an end. The point being that RSS readers were not as popular with news and info being shared on Twitter, Facebook, and on apps like Flipboard that turned RSS feeds into a shiny newspaper like display.

Turns out the use of a RSS reader to the get the news and information you want from whom want it and on what subjects you want to follow remains as popular as ever.

Here’s a graph of Google Reader (web based RSS reader) users over time (where “user” is defined as someone who has used Reader at least once a week) from Mihai Parparita of the Google Reader team.

Growth in use of Google RSS reader

And the amount of items Google Reader users consume is also increasing. Here’s another graph from Parparita, this time of the number of items read per day.

number of items read in a RSS reader

I use Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin, all of which offer the sharing of info, Twitter much more than the others, but I could not live without my RSS feeds. Following them on a RSS reader is part of my daily routine. I stay up to speed as part of my professional development and share what I think of interest on Twitter as part of maintaining my reputation as a reliable and trusted authority.

I follow 500 to 600 feeds, a combination of sources (blogs, news sites) and subjects (keywords and key phrases subscribed to at Google News and Google Blog Search). My feeds are organized into folders, with the folders of the items I follow the closest at the top. I can easily browse my headlines, opening those items that look of interest.

It’s no different than if someone asked if you read the New York Times and Wall Street Journal. You don’t read each article cover to cover each day, you browse and read items of interest.

Historically I’ve used NetNewswire, a desktop application on my laptop, as my RSS reader. Google Reader didn’t exist when I started using a reader in 2003. I’ve now switched over to my iPad for reading my feeds. There I use an app called, Reeder, which syncs with my feeds I store at Google Reader.

If you’re looking to a try a RSS Reader for reading news, I suggest Google Reader. All you need is a Google account (you already have one if you use Gmail) — and here’s a video to help you get started.

Don’t look at Google Reader as being for geeks only. My client services team at LexBlog tells me the majority of our thousands of blog authors, mostly lawyers over age 45, love using a RSS reader. Why? Because they’re too busy to consume news by browsing. And because a RSS reader gets them timely news and info they would have otherwise missed.

If you’re a LexBlog author and are not using an RSS reader, but would like to learn how, give our client services team a call. We’ll even provide you with a file of the leading sources and subjects in your of practice and locale to drop into your Google Reader.

Everything I’ve learned about blogging and social media, I’ve learned by reading, talking with people, attending conferences, and, of course, trial and error.

The lions share of my learning has come from reading lots of blogs. Blogs I subscribe to in an RSS reader where I can browse headlines by folders I set up by particular subjects.

Social media, including blogs, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, social networking sites, and hell of a lot more, is hard for me to keep up with. And I’m leading a company that’s serving as a social media partner to law firms, not practicing law or running a law firm like you.

So it piqued my interest when Ritu Pant, a web strategist of a couple years, posted a list of 25 blogs to help you stay current with social media on the Freelance Folder blog.

I’m going to use the list to do a better job of staying up to speed with social media news, trends, and ideas. I’ll share what I think worthwhile for lawyers and legal professions on my blog and in my Twitter feed.

As a legal professional you may wish to subscribe to the blogs to learn more about how to use social media. You’ll always see things I miss.

For those unfamiliar with the power of a RSS reader, here’s a list of the 25 blogs in a social media folder in my RSS reader, NetNewsWire. Scanning headlines from these blogs organized by folder so I see the aggregated post titles is the only time effective means of consuming such blog content.

I can’t vouch for the list yet, but reviewing the blogs in the list, a number I already subscribed to, and titles of posts from the list, the 25 blogs look pretty good. As with all my subscriptions, I’ll fine tune the list cutting some blogs and adding a few more to my social media folder.

Speaking to legal professionals around the country I suggest if you’re going to do one thing to get started down the road to social media that you get started with RSS. RSS is the oxygen giving life to content on the net.

And it’s your RSS reader which allows you to receive content, whether by source (blogs and news sites) or by subject (subscribing to keywords at Google News or Google Blog Search).

The RSS reader of choice for LexBlog bloggers, and I suspect the majority of the net, is Google Reader. Here’s a short video done by Seattle’s Common Craft explaining how to use Google Reader.

Circulation declines are accelerating at America’s major newspapers, with all but two of the 25 largest U.S. showing declines for the last six months. This per the Wall Street Journal’s Russel Adams this morning.

Weekday circulation at 507 newspapers fell 4.6%…, compared with a 2.6% decline in the same period a year earlier, according to figures released on Monday by the Audit Bureau of Circulations. Sunday circulation fell 4.9% for the latest period, compared with a 3.5% decline in Sunday circulation reported a year earlier……Sunday circulation, often seen as the best indicator of a newspaper’s health, fell faster than it did during the week. The Houston Chronicle’s Sunday circulation declined 15.7%, followed by the Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J., and the Philadelphia Inquirer, where Sunday circulation declined 14.7% and 13.8%, respectively.

This represents a golden opportunity for lawyers and law firms publishing blogs. Newspapers are no longer going to have the resources to cover the stories they have. This includes not only regular legal news, but also the general legal information columns. In addition newspaper reporters have not a clue how to become relevant to bloggers, something that brings increased online newspaper readership when bloggers link to newspaper stories.

Help them out guys. You’re producing good legal content. Let your newspaper know you’d be happy to share a weekly or monthly column from your blog. A well done blog covering a niche for your metro or state gives you instant credibility with newspaper editors. That’s a huge edge over your competitors stuck in the printed newsletter world who are pitching through expensive PR people.

Talk to Rush Nigut. Blog posts from his blog, Rush on Business, are being syndicated to the Des Moines paper. It can be done.

You can also lead the newspaper to relevance among the local blogosphere. Newspapers look at blogs as just another publishing platform. Their editors and reporters do not understand that blogs are a conversation where you link to what you see sharing a bit of a news story or blog post and then providing your take. As a result newspapers run in a parallel universe to blogs. Newspapers don’t link to blogs, so we don’t often link to them.

Start reporting on and linking to newspaper stories in blog posts providing your take just as if you were interviewed. Let the reporter and editor know you shared their story with your blog readers. Let them know you would be happy to get them resources on that subject, even be available for a quote on a moment’s notice. You’ll become their friend.

Ask the reporters and editors you’ve got to know this way to lunch or coffee. Explain how blogs work. Review with them how bloggers will share their stories and draw traffic to their stories if the bloggers are cited in the newspaper.

Let them know the newspaper should have blogs that just don’t re-hash news. The newspaper’s blogs must highlight what local blogs are writing, with the newspaper reporter or columnist then providing their take. That way bloggers start to cite the newspaper columnists and reporters. And that’s attention newspapers are starved for, but don’t know how to get.

It’s a down cycle for newspapers. Take advantage of it.