Uptonian Thoughts

Reading My News

· ·

I’ve used Google Reader for a long time, but I’ve never been completely satisfied with using it to read and keep up with RSS feeds. Apps like Flipboard on the iPad provide a better reading experience for traditionally “newsy” outlets – I enjoy flipping through the feeds from The New Yorker, The Economist, and The Atlantic – but following feeds where every item is of personal interest to me doesn’t make much sense in that context, and it’s iOS-only. I had used NetNewsWire a few times in the past, but I never stuck with it for some reason. It’s a great app, but I would constantly get distracted by that big red badge with a huge number of unread items in it.

I realized that my problem wasn’t really the apps I was using. What really made reading my feeds imperfect – or even tedious – was the number of feeds I had and how I was reading them. I decided to revisit NetNewsWire and check out an app on iOS that I had heard great things about.


The first key to revamping my news reading was pruning my subscriptions. I had way too many high-traffic feeds, and I wasn’t even reading 1% of some of them. I would go through all my feeds and folders and mark everything as read every few days1 just to keep up and feel like I wasn’t overwhelmed.

I got rid of feeds from sites like Lamebook, which is hilarious, but I don’t need to read every single item, and Absolute Punk, which is a great source for music news, but I only want to read a very small portion of those stories. I get my fix from these sites by visiting them every few days, not by trying to forge through a murky river of hundreds of RSS items that I don’t want to read.

I now have 26 feeds in 8 categories,2 down from twice that before pruning. This is manageable. 50+ high-traffic feeds are not. I can read the items from these feeds quickly, and I can finally read “all items” without becoming overwhelmed.

NetNewsWire, revisited (again)

I mentioned that I had used NetNewsWire before, but it never stuck. A couple of weeks ago, I saw this NetNewsWire setup and knew I had to try it. ⌘-⇧-R and ⌘-/ are now my favorite keyboard shortcuts. Refresh, and then scroll through my unread river of items. I sort chronologically so I read posts “in order,” but I don’t think it actually matters much at all. Since I have a low number of feeds, it usually only takes a few minutes to travel through these unread items. Any links to things I want to check out in more depth later get a quick ^-P to send to Instapaper.

Reeder on mobile

I was recently on vacation without my MacBook, but I had my iPad and still wanted to keep up with my news and feeds. There are plenty of other times that I’m without my computer but have a chance to catch up on my reading. I figured (or hoped, really) that I could make the experience of reading news on my iPhone and iPad just as great as it is with NetNewsWire at my desk.

I had heard great things about Reeder on iOS, but I was skeptical that it could work for me. It turns out I can get nearly the same river of news setup as NetNewsWire in Reeder. Unread items can be sorted in chronological order, and moving to the next item is just a matter of swiping up.

The end result is that I have a streamlined way to catch up on news that’s important to me as quickly as possible, no matter where I am. I spend less time fiddling with news items I don’t really care about, less time out of my day being distracted by the latest hot article,3 and more time doing what I want and need to do.

  1. I did this ritual for far too long before I realized it needed to end. Old habits die hard.

  2. If only I could figure out how to stop checking Stellar so much.