“Dear internet, if you’re reading this blog post then you already know. Google Reader is about to be boarded up. The doors. The windows. Everything. We’re going to Feedly. Room 112. I love you, Matt.”
They are taking away my favorite application of all time, Google Reader. And while it’s all very sad, the show must go on. I’ll be taking my subscriptions elsewhere, along with tens of thousands of other Reader users.
Since every moving day offers a chance to clean out accumulated junk, I’ll be doing some Spring cleaning of my feeds. In case you’re doing the same, I’m sharing some of my favorite subscriptions that I read on a daily basis. You can pick and choose individual subscriptions or download a bundle at a time. Consider this post a loving tribute to my soon-to-be dearly departed.
To import all feeds (right click, save as…) http://www.google.com/reader/public/subscriptions/user%2F18180136181577784927%2Flabel%2Fmarketing
To import http://www.google.com/reader/public/subscriptions/user%2F18180136181577784927%2Flabel%2Fwedding%20industry To import http://www.google.com/reader/public/subscriptions/user%2F18180136181577784927%2Flabel%2Finternets To import http://www.google.com/reader/public/subscriptions/user%2F18180136181577784927%2Flabel%2Ffun To import http://www.google.com/reader/public/subscriptions/user%2F18180136181577784927%2Flabel%2Fproductivity To import http://www.google.com/reader/public/subscriptions/user%2F18180136181577784927%2Flabel%2Fphotos
In Memoriam, see also http://matt-hamilton.blogspot.com/search/label/RSS
It seems like all my posts lately have been about Google Reader in one way or another. So let’s keep it going!
Just a small observation today: when reading posts in Reader, all posts are presented in the place and in the same way. That’s a good thing for info-holics but it can also be dangerous.
For the most part, the text formatting, professional graphic design, additional content and the overall ‘feel’ of the source site is stripped away in Reader leaving you with just the article itself. That’s great for avoiding distractions, especially when you don’t have to contend with mortgage ads or the dreaded auto-play videos that some sites insist on using. But some of those things (professional layout, the content that surrounds the article, etc) are indicators of authority that you just don’t get in Reader.
If you’re like me, you organize Reader feeds using folders. That puts all of your sources for news, which have varying levels of trustworthiness, in the same place with very little to distinguish between them. In Reader, all sources are presented equally.
That’s good news for small publishers or business that offer RSS feeds – your content will appear right alongside the big time news outfits. It’s dangerous to consumers who are digging through a large volume of news in Reader. Without a good mental filter, it’s easy to take in all of that information as if it’s been reviewed by an editor and appropriately vetted when in reality it can come from any rube with a laptop.
I put myself in that category and have caught myself reacting to information before considering the source carefully enough. It’s especially tempting to take news and run when it’s niche or industry content that major outlets might not have or if it’s breaking, juicy news. (See Brett Farve’s latest retirement proclamation, based on second hand emails and spread via Twitter.)
I’m an unabashed Google Reader fan. Reader is considered to be a best in class web-based feed reader. But it can be so much more than that. Here are a few ways that I use Reader other than tracking my favorite feeds.
Using the “Note in Reader” bookmarklet, I’m able to save any web page and organize it in Reader. Tags keep things tidy and I’m also able to add my own personal notes to remind myself why I saved it in the first place.
Because I’ve gathered all of my favorite authors and other sources of content in Reader, the search feature can be really useful. I have a lot of feeds and don’t get around to reading all of the posts. In fact I usually skim the headlines for interesting items and use the “mark all as read” button generously to keep things clean.
Using search, I can focus a query on my favorite sources of info rather than the whole web. For instance, I read a lot of tech blogs that post dozens of times a day. If I’m looking for a review on a new product or a commentary on a new website, I’ll use Reader’s search to get the info from sources I trust, and quickly.
Brand Monitoring and Sharing
After using a variety of tools to create persistent search feeds, I use Reader to collect and share interesting items. Irrelevant results are a part of persistent searches. Rather than trying to fine tune my queries too far, I add my own human filter to the rough results to make sure I’m keeping only the quality items.
Using Reader, I scan the headlines of the items that come through and open the ones that look interesting. If the item passes the my quality check I add a label, which puts it in the ‘keep’ pile. The rest go unlabeled and stay out of the way.
The result is an ultra-clean set of persistent search results. And because I’ve labeled them, I can share them with co-workers on a web page (manage subscriptions -> Folders and tags -> view public page), in a ten-foot display format (subscription menu -> View in Reader Play), or as a new RSS feed. For stubborn email users, I can use Feedburner to deliver those items by email too.
The team behind Google Reader has made great strides in this area lately. Because Google knows so much about you (which scares some people but doesn’t bother me much) it can make pretty good suggestions about what you’d like to see. Reader’s Explore bar gives you suggested posts and suggested sources of popular stuff related to your interests.
If you find that you’re sorting through too much clutter, you can try PostRank for Reader, which further filters suggestions by giving them a popularity score based on other users’ behavior. If you have a lot of feeds or if your feeds post frequently, it can be especially useful.
You can also try typing a topic into the ‘Add Subscription” box and find new feeds that way.
More Reader Ideas
Besides reading blogs, I also use Reader to:
-Watch for new Craigslist and eBay listings for things I’m interested in
-Find interesting things to share on Twitter
-Get notified when there are questions on Yahoo Answers that I could comment on
-Refresh my desktop wallpaper with the best photos on the web
-Monitor the occasional Woot Off (although Reader is usually too slow to catch the elusive BOC.)
Add to all this the fact that the regular feed browsing features are amazing too and it’s no wonder I’m in Reader most of my work day.
For a small business owner, PR campaigns are tough. It’s hard to reach out to reporters on your own and going through an agency is expensive. Help A Reporter Out is an easy way to get a boat load of opportunities to get published, and it’s free.
By signing up for the service, you are offering to become a source. Reporters that need a subject matter expert will forward their requests to Peter Shankman, who organizes them and forwards them on to sources. You can sign up to receive the requests here.
The only problem with HARO is the volume. A typical email could contain about 30 inquiries and they’re sent 3 times a day. You may only be interested in 1 in 100 topics so it presents a real information overload problem.
Luckily, Gmail’s filtering rules are perfect for sorting through mountains of information. Here’s how I’ve set up a filter to send me relevant requests:
1. Sign up at helpareporter.com with a gmail address
2. Create a new filter in gmail that looks for “shankman” as the sender
3. Create keywords to identify the inquiries that are likely to be relevant
4. Skip the inbox, apply a label (‘HARO’ will work) or forward it on to a different email address.
(If your RSS reader supports authenticated feeds, you can even turn that gmail label into an RSS feed and read it there. Google Reader does not have that option.)
Once you have the right email message, it’s easy to ctrl+f to find the appropriate query. Gmail even highlights the term that triggered the filter. As always, be take care when reaching out to these reporters and make sure you can really contribute good info. This could be your opportunity to build a relationship with a valuable contact in your industry.
While there are several sources for content when setting up persistent search queries, nothing is as comprehensive as google. They don’t offer RSS feeds out of the box but getting a feed from those results is still possible.
Feed43 is a nice application that turns static pages into feeds. The tools they offer to define what content that you want set it apart from other services like feedity and page2rss.
To subscribe to search results, start by creating your query at Google. Go to advanced search options and restrict the search to pages updated in the last 24 hours to get the most dynamic RSS results. You can also set the number of results to return to 80 (if you set it to 100, Feed43’s service tends to choke.)
Once you’ve got a query that you like, copy the URL of the results page. It should look something like this:
Now jump back over to feed43 and start a new feed. Paste the google URL into the address field and press ‘load.’
For Step 2, you’ll define what feed43 should consider an item.
My settings are:
Global Search Pattern:
Item Search Pattern:
That seems to do the trick for me. Press ‘extract.’
In Step 3, you can name your feed and decide how it should be displayed.
Item Title Template:
Item Link Template: blank
Item Content Template:
Try the preview button. If everything looks good, you’re done. You can now subscribe to your feed in your favorite RSS reader.
Because Google’s reach is so broad, the results of this feed tend to be very noisy. Save this option for very specific queries and use filtering tools to fine tune your feed.
By the way, you can also use this trick to subscribe to results from a Custom Search Engine. CSEs don’t offer advanced search options by default but you can simply manipulate the results URL to get the same effect. After you’ve set up your Custom Search Engine, add &num=80&as_qdr=d to the results URL to restrict them to the past 24 hours and to list up to 80 results.
Setting up a listening post is one of the best uses of RSS that I can think of. Here is a slide deck reviewing some of the tools available for creating persistent search queries.
Some helpful links for taking persistent search to the next level:
Google Custom Search
RSS from Google Custom Search
Create a feed that searches the top ten social networks
Create a feed that searches blogs, boards and twitter
Tool for creating RSS from static pages
Working at a company that serves consumers, I’m all too familiar with how competitive a space it is. Individuals are presented with an incredible amount of choice when shopping online and have real power to promote or sink a company’s good name.
We marketers have a wealth of information available to us too, including what our competitors are up to. Using persistent search tools and RSS you can listen to what any web-focused company is doing, almost in real time. That can provide valuable info and insights. (I use these monitoring tools every day.) But they also present a danger of shifting a company’s focus.
Our stated objective is to serve our customers in the best way possible, which will lead to organic growth. However, each time we see a company in our market place launch a new product or offer an interesting tool on their website, it sets off a minor panic. Why don’t WE offer that product? What is the fastest way that we can develop that feature for OUR website? Soon we’re letting our competitors dictate which products and designs we offer and how. The obvious problem with that scenario is that we will always be following the leader, not catching or surprassing them.
No one in our marketing department would come out and advocate moving to a flawed strategy like this but the mentality tends to creep into our decision making nonetheless. Watching competitors is great if we can remain focused on our customers. If not, it’s time to turn off the firehose of information that is distracting us.
When considering options for continuing development, the resources available are plentiful. I’ve taken classes, attended conferences, read books and considered grad school. But the best value that I’ve seen for staying sharp is RSS.
Using Google Reader, I can stay on top of the latest trends in the markets that I’m working in, monitor the reputation of my company, get inspired by some of the most outstanding voices in Marketing and find out about the latest tools and resources.
RSS isn’t hard to use at all and yet I find myself being one of the only ones at my company using it. That’s a shame. A lot of time and money is spent on learning through conventional channels despite the ease and cost savings available on the web.
This isn’t one of those niche technologies that will benefit a small group of technophiles for a short time. RSS is really valuable and not using it is a major detriment to any company with a marketing function. Google has made it about as easy to use as I can imagine it to be. What more will it take for RSS to go mainstream?
It may be that it is simply priced too low. If it’s free, the feeling goes, it must not be that valuable or powerful. If that line of thinking is right, this is an exception to the rule.