Thursday, December 2, 2010

Nine reasons why I love Google Reader

I manage the company blog at my day job, and this week was my turn to contribute a post! I shared it there, but I feel like it's worth sharing with you, too. Maybe you'll find yourself convinced to give it a try!

I love blogs. Actually, “love” should probably be said with capital letters and in bold italics. I have some dear favorites I’ve been following for years, and I find new ones to investigate nearly every week.

When you consider that most bloggers aim to update their content at least once a week, that kind of love adds up to a lot of time spent surfing the Internet to stay on top of the latest news and ideas! It’s the kind of love that requires a serious, long-term relationship that I’m not always ready to commit to. So how do I juggle it?

Google Reader.

Life before Google Reader was chaotic and inefficient. It involved countless open tabs in my browser and lots of clicking between sites. Blog surfing with the help of an RSS-feed reader like Google Reader is an entirely different ballgame. If you haven’t tried it – or if you’re just beginning to explore its benefits – here are nine reasons why you should.

[Side note: All of these reasons apply specifically to Google Reader, because it’s the one I’m familiar with. I would bet that many of these apply to any feed reader. Find one you like and run with it!]

1. Google Reader makes following multiple blogs easier. You’ll notice that the first five items on this list all pertain to increased efficiency, and I believe that’s the biggest benefit you’ll gain with a feed reader. Remember that love of blogs I mentioned earlier? I currently have 113 feed subscriptions in my Reader. (I admit it’s probably too many.) But that’s part of the beauty of Google Reader: it puts all those blogs at my fingertips in one location. They’re there when I’m ready to read their latest content.

2. Efficiency. There’s that word again. How is #2 different than #1? Using a feed reader enables me to read all blog posts in one – and only one – browser window. If I want to see more details on a specific post, I can simply click on the title and it will open that post in a new tab or window. Then I can read it on the actual blog itself.

3. Reader allows me to organize blogs into categories. Rather than having to sort through a long list of blogs, Google Reader has a collapsible folder system for better organization. For example, some of my folders are Photography, Health and Fitness, Blogging, Local, Green Environment, Cooking and Food… and so on.

4. Quickly see what blogs have new posts. New posts are noted with a bold title, and the number of new posts is shown in parentheses by the blog name and cumulatively in the folder name. When I see SightSalad (3), I know there are three new posts I haven’t seen yet. As I read them, Reader removes the bold emphasis. (Also cool: Did you just get back from a week-long vacation and know there’s no way you’re going to catch up with everything? Simply use Reader to mark a batch of posts as “read” to start fresh.)

5. Move to the next post without wearing out your scrolling finger. This is especially useful for blogs that have long posts and don’t use jump breaks. To get to the next post, click “next item” at the bottom of the screen or simply use your spacebar to jump ahead.

6. Want to share a post with someone? Email it to them directly! At the bottom of each post is a series of options, my favorite of which is “email.” Click that link and it brings up a window for you to compose a new message. You can customize the subject line, add a note for the recipient, and send it – all without leaving Reader. What makes this even better is the format your friend receives: the post itself -- with a link to the blog, the content, images, video, anything above the jump – is contained in the body of the email.

7. Search your blog subscriptions within Reader. We’re pretty familiar with Google search – so apply that to your feed subscriptions. In a box at the top of the page, you can search all your subscriptions, or by folder, or just one specific blog. For example, when I typed “cyber Monday” into my search box and left it to search all subscriptions, it returned results from the New York Times, Andy Beal’s Marketing Pilgrim, Mashable, FitSugar, Lifehacker, etc.

8. See trends in your own blog-reading behavior. I’m a bit of a nerd when it comes to stats. This feature shows you trends in your own content consumption, such as how many posts you’ve read or shared in the past 30 days. It may not be especially useful, but it sure is insightful!

9. Find more blogs. You may argue that I really don’t need to find any more blogs (isn’t 113 enough?), but the Recommendations feature in Reader is a great way to do just that. It combs the blogosphere and provides suggestions based on your interests.

The greatness of Google Reader doesn’t stop there. Now I encourage you to go forth to your favorite blogs, find the link to their RSS feeds, and start reading! And if you have a different feed reader that you love, tell me in the comments!

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