Is Twitter Replacing the RSS Reader?

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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