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Mobile App Review: Feed Readers, Part 1
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Mobile App Review: Feed Readers, Part 1- Executive Leadership Articles

Mobile App Review: Feed Readers, Part 1

Executive Leadership Articles

Mobile App Review: Feed Readers, Part 1

Keeping an eye on all your content streams can be a chore, but for those of us who must have a finger on multiple pulses of information and opinion, ignoring them for more than a few days is not an option. Live-updating social media streams can be aggregated, organized, and simply allowed to scroll by as we work, like the endless ticker-tape scrolls at the bottom of television screens. However, websites don’t do us the favor of coming to us. We have to go to them, usually, and that can be impractical on a regular basis.

Thank goodness for syndication feeds. Many websites and blogs, when content is updated, generate a separate file of markup language, containing the titles, sources, dates, and (sometimes) images and complete content of the update. With syndication, you don’t have to use your bookmarks to check fifty websites every day, one at a time, to see if there’s new content. You can simply save a list of these feeds in a third-party app (a “feed reader”), so that whenever you open the app, it checks them all on your behalf to see if there’s anything new since you last checked, bringing the content together in one place, so you can read the latest from that tech CEO’s blog, the political columnist you admire, and the week’s NFL power rankings all in once place. Once you’ve looked at something, the app marks it as read, and then it scrolls you to the next thing.

You can usually add something important to your favorites, so you can access it quickly some other time, or share a link through email or social media. Other features allow you to discover new content based on what you’re already reading, or on keywords you enter for browsing. When you have a lot of feeds to keep an eye on, some sort of organization by topic can be useful, so you can focus your energies according to your needs. Simply put all your tech blogs in one folder, and when you’re ready to catch up on tech news, you click the category and see only the latest updates from those sites you put there.

A good mobile feed reader, at the very least, should have search-and-browse features, organization, sharing, and favoriting. Other things to look for are offline reading (downloading content via wifi so you can read it when you’re not connected), a desktop reader (preferably within in a web browser), integration with other apps (such as Evernote or One Note), syncing across devices, importing feeds from other readers, live updating, and easy navigation, so you can flick quickly from one thing to the next.

There are a lot of mobile apps that aggregate feeds, so it’s easy to find one that does the job and simply settle, but searching for the feed reader that works best for you is worth the investment in time (and sometimes money). We’ll take a look at a few readers here, and return to the topic periodically to evaluate others.

Platforms: Android, iOS, web browser
Price: Free ($65 per year for pro account)
Feedly has super-easy navigation, both in its mobile app and browser interface. It lacks offline reading (it’s on the list for future pro account features). A pro account allows integration with Evernote and Hootsuite, among others, and automatic saving of favorite articles to Dropbox. Its browser interface is the best since Google Reader went under: arrow keys on your keyboard let you jump quickly through content, or you can ride the space bar and scroll as you browse. In development for pro accounts are sharing with Trello and Slack as well.

Platforms: Android, iOS, web browser
Price: Free (for browser plugin only; $20 per year for pro account)
The free version of Feeder is only a Safari or Chrome plugin, making it supremely unuseful for mobile considerations. You’ll be able to download the mobile app for free, but it won’t do anything if you don’t have a pro account. You can pay $2 per month instead of the whole $20 per year, if you’d like to give it a spin first. The website interface is about as good as Feedly’s, but somewhat less elegant for power browsing. The mobile app is the same: clicking on the name of a website in the left column doesn’t take you immediately to new content--it takes you instead to a new column of titles of recent content, which you then have to click in order to view the articles. It’s an enormous speed bump. However, the mobile app allows “simple” vs. “original” reading, which can really cut down on reading time. Most website feeds give you the entire content in mostly text-only format, which is the “simple” option here. It’s sort of like looking at a website on your phone in “mobile” view: quick, easy, and not a data suck. However, since many websites depend on in-site ad views and clicks, their feeds are little more than a title and a few sentences, requiring you to click to the website to read the whole thing. The “original” view in Feeder brings the whole website to your reader, which keeps you in one place to read or skip as you please. This is a great feature, but Feeder doesn’t save your viewing preference on a feed-by-feed basis, which means that you have to click the “simple” and “original” option back and forth as you go from one feed to another.

Platform: iOS
Price: Free (premium account for $29.99, $8.99 for three months, or $2.99 per month; comes with 7-day free premium trial)
Newsify can take a little bit of getting used to, but there’s a lot to make the learning curve worthwhile. It will aggregate feeds from multiple accounts, import feeds right from Feedly, and download full text for offline reading. Some of the gesturing for navigation feels a little less than intuitive, but get the hang of it, and power browsing gets to be pretty fun. Swipe left to get the full web view within the app; pull up to scroll to the next article, swipe right to get back to the index. The lack of a web browser interface would be a problem if it didn’t sync with Feedly, but since it does, you can use Newsify when you’re mobile and Feedly when you’re at your desk. For best results, set your download preferences so that content is ready for you before you sit down to read; load times on articles can be frustrating if you’re downloading as you read.


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Mobile App Review: Feed Readers, Part 1- Executive Leadership Articles

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