Newsreaders vs Newsletters

I remember almost 20 years ago, (and I just realised it’s actually more than 20 years ago, mid to late 1990s OMG I’m ancient) and I was already getting overwhelmed with all the information available. How to keep up with all the news and blog articles and great content without either having a HUGE list of links that I’d have to manually check every day, or else get used receiving more than a hundred email newsletters a week?

I found newsreaders, and in this article I’ll show you the difference between newsletters and newsreaders and how to set them up.

— Me, approximately 1997 – 2002

After a few months of getting frustrated at the cluttered inbox and the huge list of links and never seeming to have time to find all the most useful information, I discovered newsreaders. I can’t remember what name my first newsreader was, in the early 2000s, but I know that I eventually found Feedly and have had that ever since then. (This isn’t an endorsement of Feedly per se because there are, as you’ll see, many options and you may find one of the others more suitable.)

What Is A Newsreader?

Newsletters depend on so-called ‘syndication links’ which are a way for sites that present new items to provide a list of the newest content for their readership. These links are a pointer to the latest content. This is their so-called “newsfeed” and the files are in formats called ‘RSS’ or ‘Atom’ or ‘JSON’ links.

You don’t really need to know those formats because the program that generates the newsletters does. And it will check those newsfeeds and bundle them up into an email and send that email to all the people who’ve subscribed on a schedule.

This means that if you want to get new articles from six different websites, you’ll generally get six emails. If the newsletter you signed up for sends daily, then you will get 42 emails a week in your inbox. (Don’t worry – my newsletter TEdAMAIL Weekly Express only sends you an email once a week and only containing the newest articles from my blogs, so you’ll only get one email a week from me.)

But then suppose you find another site to subscribe to, and another, and another? You’d obviously end up with more and more newsletters in your inbox, and it’s been proven that “inbox stress” is a real thing, and so you might skip subscribing to some really good sites and instead rely on your memory to go check them semi-regularly, and that way, quite often a few get forgotten.

Trust me on that, it’s really easy to forget some good news sites and forget to check them. I lost and re-found some very good sites that only posted once or twice a week, and that’s where a newsreader comes in. Once you have a newsreader program, you can find those syndication links, add them to your newsreader, and it’ll silently keep your unread items for you to read.

All you’ll need is to check the newsreader when you feel like checking, and once you realise that you now don’t need the email subscriptions any more you can opt out of them and be free of the clutter but still have all that news available to read on your schedule.

One other bonus is that most newsreaders will check all your sites every hour or so. You’ll get articles almost instantly without the delay created by newsletter schedules.

Some Newsreaders:

Feedly is web based and has a totally free version which is more than adequate. Being web-based you can access it on any web browser on any device. You can also pay for some of the more advanced features but I’ve never found a need for those in over ten years.

The Old Reader.
This newsreader is available on all platforms including several web versions so you can also access it quite easily, and it too is free.

Quite good, web based, offers a free version which is limited to 150 newsfeeds (which may seem like a lot but once you get going your personal newspaper could easily get to this size) – but monthly fees are reasonable.

Feedbin has a range of apps and so forth but seems to be strictly a paid service. You get one free month and then must go on a monthly subscription to keep the account.

I admit I know little about Flipboard but it seems to be a free online newsreader with some pretty usable and useful features.

Okay – I’m going to go out on a limb here and say to you “Use the Feedly, Luke!” It’s been around for a long time, has always been reliable for me, and I’ve never even needed all of the free feature set let alone paid features.

But How Does One Use A Newsreader?

As mentioned, every newsreader uses those syndication links, and the better newsreaders only require you to type the name of the site you’re interested in and check for RSS links. Or you may have the whole RSS link for the site and paste or type that in. (Generally the links for a particular news stream go something like “http://site.of.interest/feed but your newsreader checks for these anyway.)

For many good newsreaders you just need to enter the site address up to the / (like this “http://site.of.interest/”) and the newsreader checks for any and all newsfeeds on that site and presents you with a list to pick which ones you want.

The reason for multiple feeds is (let’s say, for example) that you like a site that has several departments, like “breaking news” and “editorials” and “comments from readers” and “the pet daily.” You can’t find any newsfeed links.

In this case you’d enter “” or whatever it’s called and the newsreader will generally find all available feeds automatically and present you with a list:

Breaking News [follow]
Editorials [follow]
Comments from Readers [follow]
The Pet Daily [follow]

Please select

And let you choose the one (or as many) feed(s) you like.

Many sites though will actually provide a newsfeed link in each department. In that case, you need only highlight it and “Copy Link Location” then paste that into your newsreader, which will then allow you to follow that site’s news. These are great, and you’ll soon find yourself automatically scanning for things like RSS, Newsfeed, or Atom on pages of interest.

So the following steps will get you set up on Feedly: First, go to and create your account. (The confirmation email may take a while but you can continue to set up while you wait for it.) The next thing to happen will be that Feedly asks you what type of newsfeed you’d like, and as you’re interested in following websites and blogs, select that option.

Following that you’ll be given the option to enter a feed you’d like to follow. (Don’t worry, I’ll provide a few for you to practice with in a moment.) Feedly expects you to create folders for things so when you enter the first link it’ll ask you for a folder and give the option “New.” So create a new folder, give it a name, and then you’ll have a folder for Feedly to put items.

If for some reason you get skipped past that first entry, don’t worry. Look for a “+” sign along the left edge of the screen and click it and you’ll be right back in that screen. You’ll use that screen for any future newsfeeds you want to add. (And I think you will – you’ll be checking the weekend newspaper online and see that they have a feed, and then visit your favourite comic site and – oh, they have a newsfeed! – and so forth. )

Before we dive into feed links etc, there are a few more features that most newsreaders have.

Save (or Export) OPML / Load (or Import) OPML. This is a great feature of newsreaders. Say you’ve found thirty newsfeeds and added them to your newsreader. And now you want to make sure you won’t lose all that work. Your newsreader gives you the option to save the list to a format that all newsreaders, some newsletter, and some other programs, can understand.

Simply save the OPML file on your computer or device to save a copy of it. Now if your newsreader stops working or you want to try out another one, you can Load (or Import) that OPML file and it’ll give you all your feed links.

Better yet, a site can pack all their feed links into an OPML file and allow you to upload that file into your newsreader, and all the links will be available. (All your existing feeds will still be there, plus any of the new ones that you decided to keep. And you can now save your OPML file and it’ll include all the new feeds too.)

So I have a Newsreader, What Now?

Here’s a link you can use to make this blog your first news site:

Or here’s the OPML file for all my blogs that you can practice your OPML import with:

(If you noticed that O Hai Corona will get presented to the newsreader twice, don’t worry, the newsreader will realise that there are two O Hai Corona entries and won’t add it a second time so you won’t get duplicated items.)

You can just highlight this and copy it, then paste it into the newsreader, or right-click it and “copy link location” and paste it. The right-click method is generally most reliable.

You can also just click it to open it and see how a newsfeed is made up, which will help you identify whether you’ve correctly guessed the newsfeed for a site of interest that doesn’t appear to display a prominent newsfeed link.

And that’s it. You can now fill that newsreader with links, and close your email subscriptions to each site as you add them, which will make a lovely dent in your Inbox clutter.

And THAT’S why I recommend newsreaders. One reason bloggers would prefer you to use newsletters is because that way they have a quite accurate count of how many people are following their blog, and they can use this to put a price on things like links they earn money from, or sponsored content.

This is a perfectly valid reason for offering you my newsletters, but while I’d certainly like to earn an income that would pay for server fees and the parts I need for projects related to the blogging activities, I’d rather leave control of the inbox annoyance in YOUR hands.

The best things you can do for me is to actually visit the page of each news item, tell your friends about them, and perhaps find ways to get involved such as sending me ideas for things you’d like me to research and write about, tips for scoops, or even donating. (More on that here if you like.)

So Here Now Are Those Links:

(Note: You can add only one or more of the following links, or scroll down a little way more and I’ll show you a way to add them all with a few clicks.)

I’ve already presented the newsfeed link for this blog, O Hai Corona
I also write about my recycling techniques and simple machines for recycling as PrawnTech3D
TEdALOG Lite II is the site where I post more general material related to corporate and government malfeasance and things
The Zen CookBook is more of the same but more focused on food and environmental issues
TEdADYNE Systems deals more with the ethics and technology of AI and cyborg tech
And the OPML link again:

There’s also the News Stand if you really only want to subscribe by email newsletter.

As always – get involved. Get angry at the damage being done to the planet, write letters and emails to civic leaders, government leaders, corporate leaders. Start petitions, sign petitions. Join activism groups. Save our planet for our future generations.