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December 11, 2010 / Matt Gerardi

2010 Sees Innovation in Online Reading Methods, Decline of RSS

ReadWriteWeb has put together an interesting article detailing some the changes in the way users find and read digital news that popped up throughout 2010. (ReadWriteWeb)

One of the biggest growth areas is of course use of social networking sites. According to ReadWriteWeb, Twitter has become “the place to go to see breaking news and the very latest updates about a popular story.”

Facebook has begun playing an interesting role in news dispersal when, as of September, it began including top “liked” stories from media outlets in its search function. For instance, if you were to type “WikiLeaks” into Facebook’s search bar as of the time of this writing, one of the top results would be a link to a story from Wired entitled “Why WikiLeaks is Good For America.”

It is certainly in news outlets best interest to pursue promotion through these services as digital social networking becomes further ingrained in people’s lives. Users are creating what is essentially free marketing for these stories.

Beyond social networks 2010 saw great change in the way people access news in the growing mobile market.

One very popular (and just plain super-cool) mobile app that saw  big growth in 2010 is Instapaper. This is a service that easily connects any reading you do on a computer to your smartphone or iPad.

Here’s how it works: register for an Instapaper account by simply supplying your e-mail address, then install an Instapaper extension for you web browser of choice. Whenever you’re reading something you find interesting but just don’t have the time to finish it or want to save it for reading on your phone say when you’re waiting on line at Starbucks, just click on that extension. You’ll save the story for later and Instapaper automatically registers the website you were on and reformats it for whatever platform you are using when you access the story.

It makes media consumption very easy and provides an incredibly useful link between multiple platforms.

The growth of  services like Instapaper has created a decline in the use of RSS readers. Formerly the king of simple news aggregation, RSS readers, such as Google Reader, allow users to monitor RSS feeds — simple, real-time lists of published content — of content providers they are interested in.

The criticism brought against them by ReadWriteWeb is that they are just too clunky and bloated when compared to what’s offered by services like Instapaper. They are better of used as a method of scanning headlines then finding content to actually read.

If you ask me, the increase in mobile optimized websites is also a cause for decrease in RSS reader use. Why should I bother with a clunky RSS reader when I can just hop onto my phone’s web browser and see the same content and a highly optimized environment?

In the end digital media consumption is still a relatively new field. Changes are going to be rapid and constant. Mobile only complicates the matter and is a factor in shaping the means of our consumption. The ideal product bridges the multiple digital platforms and provides the user with a simple, customizable consumption experience.

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