Last Friday, I was attending Portland’s weekly Beer and Blog event, and I stumbled across what later turned out to be an interesting trend. I had two separate, unrelated conversations about an hour apart with people working in the technology industry who once used RSS readers […]

rssLast Friday, I was attending Portland’s weekly Beer and Blog event, and I stumbled across what later turned out to be an interesting trend. I had two separate, unrelated conversations about an hour apart with people working in the technology industry who once used RSS readers but had mostly abandoned them in favor of using Twitter to find news and interesting blog posts. I talked to a couple of other friends and posted the question on Twitter, which confirmed that many people are using Twitter as an RSS reader replacement.

One of the people that I talked to at Beer and Blog was Jason Mauer, Senior Developer Evangelist for Microsoft and @jasonmauer on Twitter; he says:

“I follow Twitter for the conversation anyway, and have found it’s mostly duplicative to also follow the blog feeds of people I’m already following on Twitter. If they post something, I’ll usually hear about it in a tweet.

Where Twitter really pays off is through the power of social networking — interesting content surfaces naturally from people’s recommendations. I might not know that blogger at all who just wrote a really great post, but I’ll hear about it via retweeting. People I follow deliver content piping hot right to my desk. And unlike RSS, Twitter is two-way — the discussion is right there. I get more bang for the buck spending the precious resource that is attention on Twitter than on an RSS reader, which feels like a chore in comparison.”

Mike McClure, strategy and governance consultant and @mcclure on Twitter, says:

“I use twitter in lieu of an RSS reader for productivity and efficiency reasons. All but one of my news sites make announcements on Twitter anyway, so I don’t need to check yet another news source. If the news is big enough, it’ll be circulated enough that I’ll find out soon enough anyway. I’m an analyst not a reporter, so being first to see the news is less important to me than seeing a broad set of thoughts and opinions about the same news.

For real-time information there’s Twitter, for everything else there’s Google.”

McClure also mentioned that Twitter lists might make it even easier to use Twitter to keep up on news, since you can categorize groups of Twitter accounts to create news lists for even easier access to news feeds on Twitter.

These conversations got me thinking about how my use of RSS readers has changed. I am still an obsessive user of RSS, but the feeds that I check most often aren’t news related. I have feeds for Yahoo Pipes that track mentions of all my various projects, clients and other important information, and I regularly read feeds that have unique content that I wouldn’t otherwise find (web comics, niche blogs, online community content, etc.) However, I read my news feeds or mainstream blog feeds much less often than before. Most of the news that I would get from technology blogs has already been discussed and linked on Twitter by the time I get to it in my RSS reader, so I rarely need to read my news feeds.

The feedback on Twitter (as Twitter doesn’t store tweets indefinitely this link may not work in the future) shows that many people are replacing RSS readers with Twitter, but that doesn’t tell the entire story.

twitter feedback
As you can see, quite a few people have reduced their use of RSS readers, but like most trends, it isn’t universal. There are plenty of people — like me — who still use RSS readers for some feeds, but there are other people who have actually increased their RSS reading as a result of Twitter. The increased usage seems to fall into two categories: People who read Twitter in their RSS reader, and people who run across new things that they then add to their RSS reader.

Has Twitter changed the way you use an RSS reader?

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  1. I just don’t get that. I dip in and out of Twitter throughout the day but I know that my Google reader is always there, queuing things up for me to read. Much of which is read on the go and if I clicked on all those links on my iPhone, the reading experience wouldn’t be nearly as simple as using Google Reader for the iPhone. For those you can’t miss, you need to subscribe via RSS. The rest you can learn about via Twitter.

  2. Amber Weinberg Tuesday, October 27, 2009

    This is interesting because I’ve sort-of gone through the same thing. For awhile I dumped my RSS reader completely and followed my favorite bloggers on Twitter, I use my RSS now for mostly client searches, etc, vs actual blog posts, but unfortunately there’s still a bunch of bloggers who aren’t on Twitter.

  3. What to read on the GigaOM network Tuesday, October 27, 2009

    [...] retweet » Watch the Michael Jackson “This Is It” red carpet live (NewTeeVee) Is Twitter replacing the RSS reader? (WebWorkerDaily) 5 more ways to become a Mac minimalist (TheAppleBlog) Android gets social mixing [...]

  4. One of the problems I found with using Twitter and RSS feeds together is the amount of noise that comes through them both. So we are working on cutting down on that noise with Cadmus (http://thecadmus.com). By grouping similar posts from your Twitter and RSS feeds it makes the services more complementary.

  5. How we digest content individually is a part of this as well… there may not be a one-size-fits-all approach. For me personally, I have a hard time sometimes keeping a RSS reader from filling up with unread posts. This is partly due to being busy with other things at times, but also because I’m just not organized enough to keep up.

    Twitter is easier for me to follow since the firehose doesn’t pile up. Sure I may miss things, but I don’t have an ever growing list of unread information haunting me either. For me that’s a good thing; for someone else it might not.

  6. I think it’s interesting the Google has taken the way that Twitter surfaces interesting content in a social way by adding the “Like” feature. I don’t think Twitter will replace RSS, but for discovering new content it’s great.

  7. I guess I’m a little confused by the premise. RSS is an open standard while Twitter is a service provided by a little company that is as well known for “fail whale” as anything else.

    To say that Twitter would replace RSS is as likely as saying Gmail will replace all SMTP……

    The problem with real-time is that it is, well, real-time i.e. ephemeral. If you don’t see it, you won’t read it and likely won’t search for it either.


    1. to be accurate, the premise was actually: “Is Twitter Replacing the RSS Reader?” (not RSS) which, for some people, certainly seems to be the case.

      1. to be accurate, that’s exactly the comparison i made by comparing gmail (service) to smtp (standard).

        the fact that twitter can be read through 3rd party readers has nothing to do with the comparison because, as stated in the first post and above – it’s the difference between a service and a standard.

      2. @Rob — but that wasn’t the premise of the article, which is asking “Is Twitter Replacing the RSS Reader?” It doesn’t ask whether Twitter will replace the RSS standard. For many people, it sounds like Twitter could take the place of their RSS readers.

    2. For “Twitter”, read “nanoblogging” – Twitter is just the most popular brand at the moment..

  8. Casie Gillette Tuesday, October 27, 2009

    I use them differently. I check my RSS reader at least once a day and while there may be stories I’ve already read on twitter, there are always other stories that I haven’t seen and am interested in.

    There is so much constantly occurring on Twitter that I miss a lot if I’m not sitting and staring at Tweetdeck. My RSS reader lets me sit down when I want to and take the time the see all of the stories from the blogs I like.

  9. RSS Feeders are more like news paper subscription while tweets with links to blogs are more like a friend saying hey check out this article in the paper you probably don’t subscribe too.

  10. I wrote an article on RSS and Twitter yesterday (below). My take: RSS is very much alive (though I use Twitter a lot too). It’s apples and oranges mostly. RSS is the output engine for many things unavailable on Twitter. Twitter is often too cryptic and when I want to read give me RSSs’ full content feed over Twitter-plus-bit.ly any day. So much more efficient. RSS can be a time drain though, so efficiency is key, as is true with Twitter.


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