How to Subscribe to Blogs: RSS Explained

I’ve had a few emails asking, “What the heck are RSS feeds and why should I care?” Excellent questions. This article explains (in real language) what RSS is, how RSS helps you, and how to subscribe to websites and blogs using free RSS Readers and feeds.

What is RSS?

RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. RSS is a method of sharing content such as news from a website or articles from a blog. RSS gives you the power to automatically get your favorite website or blog articles right when it’s published, without having to go to the site. If you read lots of blogs, RSS can save you lots of time.

What are RSS feeds?

rss_subscribe_icons.gif Most websites and blogs have links and pictures labeled “RSS”, “XML”, “Subscribe” or “Atom”. All of these pictures and terms are ways of saying you can get the site’s content if you subscribe to the RSS Feed.

The technical term for subscribing is called “syndication”. Websites and blogs with RSS feeds tend to use a little orange button (or an icon with a dot and two curved bars) to show you their feed is freely available.

Who publishes RSS feeds?

Any website or blog can publish an RSS feed. Blogs were some of the first sites to offer feeds. Today, most major newspapers, news sites, and stores like Amazon and iTunes all offer RSS feeds to keep you updated with their news. You can even get your favorite podcast delivered to you through an RSS feed.

How do RSS feeds help me?

Here’s why RSS feeds can rock your online world:

  • Never forget or lose a web address, again. Ever find a cool blog or site and “forget” the web address? Is it Squawkfox or Squakfox? With RSS, you can subscribe to a blog and never have to remember the website address.
  • Don’t need to check for new articles. RSS feeds automatically send you updated articles without having to visit the blog or website. This saves you time and effort.
  • Read lots of blogs, quickly. Subscribing to RSS feeds makes it possible to scan though dozens of headlines quickly, choosing what you want to read. Now you don’t have to visit the site, look for an update, and decide if the story is interesting to you, or not.
  • Save the stories you like. Find a blog or website article you really like? Use RSS feeds to save or “bookmark” that story. You’ll never lose your favorite, most inspiring, articles again.
  • Subscribers often get special stuff. Many blogs offer free downloads, eBooks, and special stuff only to subscribers.
  • why_subscribe_free_stuff.gif
  • No more ads. Don’t like the ads on a site? Use your reader to get just the content, without ads.
  • Less email. More control. RSS readers give you the control to subscribe or unsubscribe to blog feeds at your convenience. You don’t have to give your email address to anyone. You are free from filling your email box with all the content from your favorite blogs.

How do I read RSS feeds?

The best way to “subscribe” to an RSS feed is through something called an RSS Feed Reader. An RSS reader is a website where you sign up for an account, create a login and password, and then access your favorite blogs. RSS readers are free. The most popular RSS reader is Google Reader. Google Reader is easy to learn, free, and used by countless blog and website enthusiasts.

Google Reader Example Screenshot:


How to Subscribe to Blogs:

Subscribing to a blog’s RSS feed in a reader is super simple. Here’s how:

  1. Sign up for an RSS reader. You’ll need a feed reader. I suggest Google Reader.
  2. Find the RSS icon. In your web browser (for example: Internet Explorer or Firefox) go the blog or website you want to subscribe to and find the RSS feed icon. Here’s where to look:
    • Blog Front Page. Most blogs or websites make it really easy to find their feed-icon16x16.png RSS button.
    • Web Browser Toolbar. Good web browsers, like Firefox make it easy for you to subscribe to blogs. Look to the right of the site URL address and to see an RSS icon if a feed is available. This is how Squawkfox’s URL looks in Firefox:
  3. Click the RSS icon. Locate the blog RSS icon and click it. It doesn’t matter if the icon is on the front page or in the URL address. Follow the directions after clicking this icon.

Can’t find the RSS icon?

Use your Google Reader to add a blog’s RSS feed. Copy and paste the blog’s URL Web address into the Add subscription field, and click Add.


OR Get Email Updates

rss_button_email.gif If you don’t want to set up an RSS feed reader account, no worries. You can still get blog updates sent to you email address. Most blogs offer an option to sign up for email updates. Look for an email icon (and click it) or find a place on the blog to enter your email address. Follow the directions on the blog, they all differ slightly.

Now What?

Get going with blogs and readers!

1. Get Google Reader.

2. Click to sign up for feed-icon16x16.png Squawkfox via RSS

3. Repeat for all your favorite blogs.

4. Link or share this article. Feel free to link to, email, or share this article with your blog readers. Here’s the article link, below.

5. Got Questions? Feel free to ask any questions in the comments below! Yes, I give free technical RSS advice to both readers and bloggers! πŸ™‚

Was this helpful? Don’t be shy, ask your RSS questions in the comments below.

Your two cents:

  1. Ryan October 15th, 2008

    Awesome explanation. Thanks so much Fox!

  2. ABCs of Investing October 16th, 2008

    I was going to do one of these ‘explanation’ but I don’t think I’ll bother for now.

  3. Ruby October 16th, 2008


    I’m sort of a part time NetNewsWire user and part of the time I just load a blog from a set of bookmarks devoted to my favorite blogs… the old fashioned way. I thought I’d give it a shot today with subscribing to your blog, and here’s what happened:

    I used the little RSS symbol in Firefox and it took me to a page asking me where I wanted the subscription to go. Awesome! Choices! So, I selected NetNewswire, since I already have subscribed to a number of feeds there.

    When I popped open to the reader version of your blog, the entry contained the summary of the post, but in order to have to read the post, I had to actually click the link in the post and then load a new browser window with the complete post. RSS feeds that don’t contain the full text of the article seem like kind of a waste of time to me. If I have to click a “read the rest of the article link” here it takes away from a seamless reading experience.

    So… I just tend to surf blogs the old fashioned way. After all… I also enjoy good layout, and most of my favorite bloggers also have sites that are appealing and well-laid out.

    So… is there a way to demand that the feeder load the referring article?

    Thanks for your time.


  4. Kerry October 16th, 2008

    @Ruby At Squawkfox I send the full feed to subscribers, so you should get the whole article (with pictures) from me in your news reader. πŸ˜€

    I took a look at NetNewsWire to try and solve the problem, but since this is Mac OS X software I am unable to run it. I am certain there is a setting in this application to allow full feeds to display. It’s my guess you have a setting which switches headline views, or summary views, to view the full article.

    I should note here that not all bloggers send full articles to subscribers, and opt to just send a summary. This is kind of rare though.

  5. K October 16th, 2008

    I am having trouble receiving your feeds lately in my feed reader. I have not received anything since Oct 5th and I see you have posted many since then. I dont know if the problem is on your end or Blogline’s (my feed reader). I have tried unsubscribing and re-subscribing and it still does not come through. I tried switching over to a new feeder but hated it. Thanks for any help you can offer.

  6. Kerry October 16th, 2008

    @K I’m so sorry about Bloglines and this issue. I noticed this error as well 3 days ago and I have contacted Bloglines Support to get them to fix and restart the Squawkfox feed. I haven’t heard back as of yet, but apparently Bloglines does drop feeds, to numerous blogs, every now and then. I’ll post a comment here when I hear back from Bloglines.

  7. K October 19th, 2008

    I spent 3 days trying to fix the 20+ feeds I wasn’t receiving. I got about 40% to come back up as of yesterday but yours wasn’t one of them. Just now though I got your feed back in my reader so perhaps Bloglines had been working on it this weekend as well. I tried 4 other feed readers and didn’t like any of them as well so hopefully this will be the end of that nonsense. I really have bigger fish to fry but I guess I truly am a slave to my feeds. Thanks again.

  8. Kerry October 20th, 2008

    @K Bloglines has finally fessed up to their feed issues. Countless blog feeds (not just this bloggy blog) have been affected by the Bloglines glitch. When I test the Squawkfox feed in Bloglines I now see updates. I am including some articles you may find helpful. πŸ™‚ Thanks again for letting me know about the Bloglines issue. So happy to have you back in sync with this feed.

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