It is a pity that the only newspaper I trust (and read) in India, The Hindu, is notoriously difficult to consume in any but the most ancient format. Being made available in digital media is not an empty trend and need not divert from good journalism. It also need not — and should not — be second to it. And as our style of news consumption evolves, it will (as sad as this truth may be) take more than good journalism to stay relavant.
In this age the news and the medium we consume it in go hand-in-hand, and this fine newspaper seems to be letting things slip. Take The New York Times for example, coming from another old news house — over a quarter of a century older than The Hindu — which has arguably the best digital presence today. And it’s journalistic standards have not dropped in making a move from broadsheet to phones, tablets and PCs. It is, after all, the 21st century, and The Hindu must buck up.
There was once a time when Google Reader was the top dog in RSS aggregators. And then Google shut it down, much to the dismay of its million-strong user-base, like it almost habitually shuts down services (Knol, iGoogle, Google Talk, Buzz, Answers etc.) In fact, there exists something called a “Google graveyard”. In any case, while some got replacement services, Reader never did.
That was when a lot of us moved to Feedly, but soon Feedly (which was fully free up to that point) created a pro subscription with all the good stuff. It did not make sense to me to pay monthly fees for the convenience of reading a bunch of articles when the articles themselves were free. And thus began the search for the (near-)perfect RSS reader app on my iPhone and today, it appears, we have an winner.
It is hard on many that Google is burying Reader forever; it is even more so for those of us who absorb hundreds of pages of textual content from a hundred different sources everyday. But, with Google burying so many products I have grown indifferent to these deaths. In fact soon after I learnt Google Reader was being thrown out the window, I switched completely to a new service, Feedly — in my opinion, and in many others’, this is the best Google reader alternative.
Right now — and for quite some time, by the look of things — Feedly promises to be the best alternative to Google Reader and quite a product of its own once you get to know it. If you used Google Reader too (or are looking for a product like it) here is why Feedly is the best out there, how you can move all your stuff over to Feedly and how you can effortlessly make it a part of your day. And in sync, as the guys at Feedly would put it.
Hold on, what on earth is Feedly?
First things first: Feedly is a content aggregation service that lets you keep updated with content from your favourite sources all around the web. As you stroll around the internet, you are bound to find several websites (such as this one, for instance!) interesting and you might want to keep in touch with that without manually visiting each and every website.
With Feedly you can add and organise your sources, find interesting stuff, read, share and perhaps even save some green by letting go of your newspaper subscription. In any case, this work was being done predominantly by services like Google Reader until Google decided to kill it on June the 1st this year (2013.)
So if you were on Reader or were looking to use Reader or heard about news aggregation yesterday (what rock were you living under?) you might find that Feedly is the best service available for this job. And it looks and has begun to feel way better than Reader, if you ask me.
So why should I move to Feedly?
Here are my top five reasons for using Feedly:
1. Feedly is beautiful looking
Trust me, you will find that this matters a lot. It may even be the best looking: you might think this is subjective, but not with Feedly.
2. Feedly is present across all major platforms
Including Android, iOS and desktops via the Chrome browser, Feedly is everywhere. I, for one, use Chromium and/or Android on all my devices so this fits seamlessly into my usage. If you do not use one of these, I seriously advise you to switch over. Now.
3. Feedly helps me keep my news organised
Since BBC does not tie well with College Humor and Le Monde does not get along with Quantum Diaries, Feedly makes it a breeze to keep them separate, categorised and organised.
4. Feedly delivers your content looking the way you want it
I like my news delivered with focus on the headline. I like my art blogs with focus on possible attached images. I like select blogs shown to me like they were magazines. I like to read certain topics/content taking hints from attached images. Feedly caters to all this, category-wise.
5. Feedly launches full websites inside an in-app browser
I absolutely hate it when I have to click on a link to read a full article that forces open my browser (on my phone) and then delivers the webpage. Feedly puts an end to that charade by opening all webpages right inside the app. Nifty.
Alright then, how do I move to Feedly from Google Reader?
So I convinced you, did I?
If you are moving from Reader, you might get the impression that Feedly was built especially for you. In earnest, though, Feedly has been around since 2008 — about three years after Reader was born — and they have been kind enough to let Reader junkies throw all their stuff over to Feedly in one go:
Click here to go to Feedly. There, click the Connect to Google Reader buton. Sign into your Reader, authorise Feedly if asked and voila!
I have no Google Reader. How do I start off with Feedly?
How do I add my favourite websites and sources to Feedly?
If you are new to this whole thing, simply click here to go to Feedly, click on the Login button. Feedly automatically logs you into your Google account (or asks you to sign in with one if you have not already) and then asks your authorisation. Click authorise and sit back as you are taken into your awesome looking — albeit very empty — Feedly.
Once that is done, (or once you have moved your Google Reader to Feedly,) you can start adding new sources. Adding these is as easy as searching for their names by clicking on the little magnifying glass icon on the top right or, if you have no idea what to subscribe to, you can search by topics such as news, biotechnology and such; or even by language, such as French or Llogoori or mathematics; even random searches such as “stone face” or “websites that don’t exist” give you interesting sources. (We’ll talk about actually adding a source in the next section, below.)
Organising and designing your Feedly (and how I do it)
Once you have picked your sources (you can pick more in the future, of course,) it is time to exploit the power of Feedly by organising it and designing views to you liking.
Soon after you click on a source name, Feedly opens that source for you to see.
Alternatively, if you are certain it is the source you want, simply click the + icon next to the source name and skip reading the next paragraph.
When Feedly opens your source to preview, if you like it, click on the green Add button next to the source name at the top of the page.
On your left now, you should be able to see an Add new source section showing you a list of your categories (or just the basic ones if you have not created any) along with an option to create a new category. Next, give it a different title if you like, mark it as a must-read if you like, tick the categories you want to add it to and/or create a new category. FInally, click Add and jump around in joy.
How I categorise
I have the following sections in my Feedly at present: a ‘quick’ section, a ‘physics’ section, one called ‘news,’ another called ‘francais,’ a ‘photography,’ a ‘technology,’ and lastly a ‘blog’ section. I once also had ‘entertainment’ and ‘filmmaking’ categories whose sources I have now deleted because I no longer follow, or I distributed between other categories.
Most of the section titles are self-explanatory, but you might find my ‘quick’ section interesting: in here is one news source, one science source and one technology source. This is for me to glance through when I have just a few minutes free or have very little time someday to update myself with the latest news. This is also a homescreen widget on my phone.
Feedly lets you view your categories in four possible ways (or designs, as I call them.) You can opt for a headline or title-only view, which is a carryover from Google Reader days; you have a magazine view, which shows you an image, the title and a quick summary; there is a card view, (this is what Feedly is quite popular for,) similar to magazine view but visually different; and, lastly, there is an optional full content view, which shows you the entire article when made available by the source.
Here is a quick preview at all of them. Click on an image to enlarge:
How I design
The way I see it, each view has more of a purpose than mere visual attraction. For my ‘quick’ category, dull as it sounds, I use the title-only view. It lets me glance at lots of titles in one, quick go. Since my sources here are mostly news, I can rest assured that the titles are descriptive and I have no need to read a summary etc. to decide if it interests me.
For my ‘photography’ category I use the full article view since most sources showcase one photograph with very few lines of text, and this view lets me devour whole posts in one go.
I use cards for my ‘news’ category because it gives me photographs, titles and summaries and I often scroll through this section only at leisure. Lastly, I use the magazine view for my ‘francais’ section for the same reason as the ‘news’ section, in addition to which is the fact that the magazine section is more compact and easier to glance over.
Feedly on the go: managing your Feedly on a daily basis
Set your Feedly up to auto-sync as often as you want. This is the best advice I can offer you if you, like me, are looking to quickly open the app on your phone, glance through it, read and share; because when you want to do things quick, it helps to save time on waiting for it to sync.
If you are on Android (and if you are not, make the move,) Feedly’s widget is great looking. I am a stickler for good design aesthetic and Feedly’s widget does not kill the look of my phone’s home screens. What I do miss in the widget is the ability to scroll posts at will. Right now I seem to be able to do it only one way: downwards, towards new posts, never come back.
I have, as you may have guessed, set one widget up for my ‘quick’ category, occupying two-thirds of the screen, and I have two small ones next to each other just below that for my ‘science’ and ‘francais’ categories. If you are wondering whether I can read with so many widgets that might make the text small, my answer is this: 5.3″ GALAXY Note + 7″ GALAXY Tablet = I don’t know what inadequacy of screen space means.
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I often read the articles that interest me and mark all as read at the end of the day, so Feedly starts afresh the next day. So that’s how I use Feedly, partly streamlined for quick glance, read and sharing; and partly set up for leisurely reading.
I am a big fan of Google, and I make no attempt to hide that. I deleted my Facebook account for Google+, use nearly every Google product on the market, walk around playing Ingress and am full of Android. I only ever keep from using Blogger (I prefer WordPress in conjunction with Google’s tools) and swear by Google’s Skynet-esque lab techs.
Yet, I can tell you this much: moving from Google Reader to Feedly, I never felt like I lost anything or like I was missing Reader; on the contrary, I believe I have gained quite a lot. So where do we take things from here, Feedly? [vhb]