No matter what industry you’re in, you can leverage Rich Site Summary (RSS) feeds to gain a competitive advantage. Whether it’s simply by seeking out all of the best news sources within your field (both the big ones and the obscure) or keeping tabs on your competition, good RSS readers have helped businesses small and large to condense the net — with it’s millions of new news and opinion articles that are published every single day — down into headlines that can be easily skimmed and articles that can be read, archived, or saved for later.

For years, I’ve been using one RSS reader in particular, Google Reader. It has helped me keep up with the various blogs, authors, and websites I read not only to stay in the loop on the latest happenings in the tech world, but also to get the news first, as it happens. When I need to pitch HLN, CNN or the TODAY Show on a new segment idea, my Google Reader account is literally full of hundreds of ideas just waiting for me to sift through. When I need to know what’s happening on the web and across the blogs I respect, I turn to Google reader for information and inspiration. But this expands far beyond tech—no matter what industry you’re in, once you’ve done the work finding the best blogs and websites out there, and have subscribed to their RSS feeds, you’re able to stay on the cutting edge of new trends and be the first to know when major news impacts your business.

Two ways around the Google Reader shut down

In the 8 years Google has been running their extremely popular reader service they have virtually taken over the entire RSS industry. But the service, while the industry standard, apparently doesn’t do anything to help Google’s business model and the search giant announced recently that they’ll be shutting down the service on July 1st. Now, this doesn’t mean that Google Reader-style RSS readers are necessarily dead in the water, as countless other services have been working over the past few months to create strong platforms for Google Reader users to switch to. But it does mean that you no longer have to rely on RSS itself to serve as the glue behind how you read the news. In fact, this may be the right time to pick an alternative. Here’s what I think your best two options are:

1. Switch to a news RSS Reader

The most obvious move for a lot of RSS fans is to simply switch from Google Reader to a new app. With Google Reader’s announcement that they’re closing shop, huge opportunities suddenly opened up for app developers to create compelling alternate RSS readers. At the forefront of the this is feedly, which boasts having captured more than 3 million Google Reader switchers. With apps for your smartphone, tablet and web browser, feedly is designed to serve as a drop-in replacement for Google’s Reader product, although they’ve managed to add a modern design that Google never had.

There are literally dozens of new apps that have popped up in recent weeks, and surely more will arrive before July 1, so by no means should you settle on the first one you try. After all, you might be locking yourself in to a platform for years to come, so you’ll want to make sure you pick the right one. I’d suggest at a minimum that you also check out NewsBlur, Pulse, and The Old Reader.

 2. Get rid of RSS altogether

The RSS standard was invented in 1999, and the technology is beginning to show its age. While news websites and blogs often have beautiful formatting, properly aligned images, and comment sections, RSS strips everything out but the bare information and often leaves only a single image from the original article intact. Some sites only publish snippets of their posts to their RSS feeds, requiring you to still click on a link to see the full content. While this is still great for quickly scanning headlines and catching up on all the latest, Google Reader was never the nicest way to get the news.

One app I love that skips over RSS entirely is Flipboard, which builds a customized news feed based on not only the blogs and sites you read, but also what people are sharing on your social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and even YouTube. One feature I really love is their new magazine feature. Basically anyone can curate their own magazine inside Flipboard by “flipping” hot new articles they see and like into one of their magazines. I’ve created a few, like my 0101Music1010 magazine. Each of these magazines focuses on a niche news area and features all the hottest news for a given space, like family or digital lifestyle. So with Flipboard, not only can you have all your news inside one app, you can even seek out industry thought leaders and subscribe to their magazines to get great, curated content delivered every day.

Whether you decide to stick with RSS or switch to an entirely new platform, the important thing is that you continue to commit to staying on top of the news. Whether it’s to gain a competitive advantage in your business by being ahead of the latest trends, or simply to keep an eye on your competition, news aggregating apps will keep you a step ahead of the competition.

Have any questions about the best ways to stay on top of your feeds or about any of the apps I’ve mentioned? Leave them in the comments below and I’ll be sure to get back to you!

 

Mario Armstrong, Digital Lifestyle Expert, is an Emmy Award winning, tech commentator for the TODAY show, CNN, HLN and Fuse. An entrepreneur by nature, Mario made his passion his career by quitting his day job and founding Mario Armstrong Media. Follow Mario at @MarioArmstrong. AT&T has sponsored this blog post.