Since the launch of my new web site, I’ve been encouraging everyone to subscribe to my blog. Recently, a friend sent me a message saying that “nothing was happening” when she clicked on the “subscribe” link. This made me realize a few things. First, not everyone really knows what it means to subscribe to a blog, and second, not everyone knows how.
First let’s talk about what subscribing means. The best way I can explain it is to ask you to think of traditional subscriptions – to magazines, newspapers, etc. When you subscribe to one of those publications, they just show up in your mailbox or on your doorstep each day, week or month (depending on what type of periodical it is). You don’t have to walk to the corner and stick a quarter in the newspaper machine, or wait in line in the grocery store to buy a magazine. An online subscription works pretty much the same way. For the rest of this post, let’s assume you want a subscription to my blog posts – you want the latest post delivered to you right when it’s published.
Just as different periodicals get delivered to you in different ways, there are a couple of different methods of delivery for online subscriptions. You can normally choose to have the latest post sent to you in an email, or you can get a notification of a new post in something called an RSS feed. There are pros and cons to each method. With certain email delivery systems, you get the entire post sent right to your inbox. If you like getting email and prefer to read things in this manner, then this might be how you prefer to have your subscription delivered. Many people prefer the RSS method, however, because it cuts down on messages in the email inbox, and it gives them a quick summary of the blogpost, so they can decide whether it’s a post they actually want to read or not. In order to get your posts via RSS, you’ll need an RSS feed reader.
This might start to sound technical, but trust me – it’s super simple. In fact, RSS stands for “Really Simple Syndication.” It’s an easy system designed to allow online authors (like me) to “syndicate” their blogs and get them disseminated out to readers. Once you’ve downloaded an RSS Feed reader onto your computer, tablet or mobile device, anytime you see that symbol, all you need to do is click on it, and you’ll be guided through a very simple process for subscribing to that site’s content.
Depending on the type of computer or device you own and which operating system you are running, there are dozens of feed readers available. It probably doesn’t matter which one you choose to use, and you shouldn’t have to pay for one, since there are many very good free ones available. Just type the phrase “best RSS feed reader for (type of computer or device you own)” into a search engine, and you’ll quickly find several suitable options.
When you first download your feed reader, it’s a good idea to have it remain on your computer’s desktop, or if you’re using a mobile device, to allow push notifications. This means you’ll be alerted somehow anytime there’s a new post in your feed.
On my computer, I have my RSS feed reader locked to my top menu bar. Whenever there’s a new post for me to read, the program makes a little sound and the RSS icon turns from black to orange.
When I click on the RSS icon, this drop-down box appears, showing me my unread posts. When I hover my curser over any of them, it shows me the title of any unread posts, allowing me to decide which ones I might want to read.
I use a Mac, and I like the RSS Bot program, available for free download in the Mac app store.
If you’d prefer to subscribe to my blog via mail, check back here in a week or two. I’m still testing various email syndication programs and apps to decide which one is best for my web site.