How to Subscribe to an RSS Feed for Your Blog

By Amy Lupold Bair, Susannah Gardner

You probably read at least a few favorite blogs regularly. Do you visit them every day or maybe even several times a day? Are you ever frustrated because the site hasn’t been updated yet? Do you ever miss a post by a few minutes, and then read it hours or days later and miss out on the conversation? The solution to this problem is RSS.

Follow these basic steps to get set up with your favorite blog’s RSS feed:

  1. Choose a newsreader and sign up to begin using it.

  2. Subscribe to an RSS feed.

    Don’t worry: You can subscribe to an RSS feed even more easily (and cheaply) than you can subscribe to a newspaper or magazine, although the idea is similar. The newsreader software you chose and signed up to use provides specific instructions on subscribing.

  3. Check your newsreader.

    When you subscribe to an RSS feed, new blog posts appear in your newsreader every time the blogger posts a new entry to his or her blog. When the blogger publishes a new post, the RSS feed is updated a few minutes later, and the newsreader checks the feed and alerts you to the new posts.

  4. Click, read, and voilà!

    No more boring bookmarking and refreshing a blog over and over. You go to the blog only when it has new content, so you never miss anything.

You can subscribe to as many (or as few) feeds as you want, potentially keeping track of hundreds of sites, all in one place.

Readers sometimes prefer to receive an e-mail containing the RSS feed to which they’ve subscribed. Consider offering this option on your blog’s subscription preferences!

Browser newsreaders

Some browsers have built-in newsreaders that you can use to subscribe to feeds and then read them. On a PC, Internet Explorer 7 and higher allows you to read, subscribe to, and manage feed subscriptions right inside the browser. Mac and PC users of the Firefox web browser can install a plug-in called Sage to add news-reading capabilities to the browser.

On the Mac, you can use the built-in newsreader in the Safari browser to subscribe to and read feeds.

How to find a web-based newsreader

Web-based newsreaders are online services that allow you to aggregate your favorite feeds into a simple interface where you can read your subscriptions. These online services are usually free.

The big advantage to using a web-based newsreader is that you can log into the service from any computer, even if you’re traveling, at the library, or using your son’s laptop. In most cases, however, you need to have Internet access to read the blog posts because you have to be online. Bloglines and Feedly are two popular web-based newsreaders.

Bloglines

The web-based application Bloglines is super-simple to use, with quick tools for adding a subscription and sorting your subscriptions into categories.

One fun feature of Bloglines is that you can produce a blogroll — a list of links to blogs — to put in your blog’s sidebar, sharing the blogs to which you’re subscribed with your readers. Bloglines even carries over the categorization when it displays your blog subscriptions. You can mark some feeds as private if you prefer not to share them with the world.

Feedly

Feedly is a unique browser-based application designed to make your feed reading enjoyable by providing you with an easy-to-read, newspaper-like layout. The main feature is called “the cover,” where your feeds are displayed in a thumbnail format that looks great to the eye and makes sorting through many feeds enjoyable. Integration with social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr is seamless and makes sharing posts with others a snap.

Feedly is available as a browser-based application but also has free iPhone, iPad, and Android mobile applications.

How to sign up up for an RSS feed

After you select a newsreader, you can subscribe to a feed and start reading! This task has two steps: visiting a blog that you enjoy reading, and then subscribing to the feed.

Somewhere on the blog page, you might see a small orange icon, sometimes with the acronym RSS or XML in it. Or you might just see a small text link to the feed.

Look closely: RSS feeds can be hard to find on the page. Because you need to use the link only once, bloggers tend to downplay them in the design.

Alternet offers several different RSS feeds, so you can choose between getting front-page news stories, video stories, columns, and so on.

When you find the RSS link or icon, click it. If you’re using a web-based newsreader, you might be subscribed automatically, or you might see an icon for subscribing using one of the most common newsreaders.

If you don’t see a link or an icon to an RSS feed, copy the URL from the address bar of the browser. Return to your newsreader and follow your newsreader’s instructions for adding a new subscription.