New Ways to Discover Content

People have been discussing the demise of RSS for a while.¬†Even in the library world, Lauren Pressley had a great post not too long ago about how she is ditching RSS for Facebook and Twitter. This doesn’t point to the uselessness of RSS though, it points to the development of interesting, beautiful, and intuitive new ways to discover content.

RSS is far from dead. I still use my Google Reader, not to mention Twitter for content discovery. But I’ve also been playing with a several other services and apps to stay current, get new ideas, and serendipitously find things I didn’t even know I was looking for.


Alltop is a site that aggregates some of the top resources from around the web on certain subjects. They bill it as a “online magazine rack of the web” collecting headlines from various blogs and online sources. You can look at all the popular posts in topics like design, science, food, and they even have a page for libraries.


Whereas Alltop is a magazine rack, Paper.li is a customizable newspaper for the web. You can use your Facebook stream or Twitter lists that you’ve created to make a daily web newspaper. Playing around with it, I created a paper called The Info Pro Intelligencer using my librarians Twitter list. Paper.li then, after creating a list, selects content from the list and then displays stories, videos, and pictures following a newspaper format on a daily basis. You can even set it up to tweet when the most current issue is available.


flipboard app for ipad

Flipboard is an app for the iPad that again describes itself as a “social magazine.” You can use lists or individual feeds from Twitter or you can use your Facebook profile to create different e-magazines that parallel your interests. You can also share any of the stories right from the app. It’s a really beautiful design, and a very different way of discovering content than staring at a list of tweets.


Another iPad app, Pulse breaks out of the newspaper/magazine mold and creates an entirely new way of viewing news that interests you. It is a really intuitive way of viewing content (Steve Jobs even featured it in his keynote about the iPad). You can subscribe to certain blogs or feeds and it automatically populates itself whenever you open it. And unlike an RSS reader, things don’t keep piling up. You just get the most recent 25 or so posts.

The model of trying to read everything is impossible. There is simply too much content out there. You can’t be scared, as Bobbi Newman states, to declare bankruptcy on your reader and mark all as read. Better yet, instead of letting things pile up and feeling like you have to read them all, try using services that allow you to pop-in and pop-out of the stream of content. You won’t miss anything.

Andy Burkhardt


  1. Great post Andy. I am an avid user of RSS, and the whole dead argument is totally bunk in my opinion. I’ve been fooling around with a lot of different tools for finding new and interesting stuff on the internet, some of which you covered here. I’d also suggest Postrank, Instapaper, Podcasts and any of the leading Tech blogs. Quick explanations:Postrank – uses RSS to rank posts based on engagement (hits, comments, Likes, RTs, etc) I built an LIS Postranked list here – http://www.postrank.com/user/Micah/topic/top.library.blogs
    You can see the most read posts and how they climb or fall compared to others.

    Instapaper – for iOS devices. Easy to save articles to read later, but I have found some really great reads in the “Editors Choice” section. This article is a top I found there: “Books After Amazon – http://www.bostonreview.net/BR35.6/roychoudhuri.php

    Podcasts – I can’t remember who (Maybe Bobbi Newman?) posted a list of their top podcasts a few months ago, and it reminded me how much great variety of info I could glean and keep up with in little 15-30 min sessions while on the way to work. I listen regularly (voraciously) to Slate’s Culture Gabfest, The Sound of Young America, NYT Tech Talk, NPR Technology, Radiolab and APM: Marketplace Tech Report. Highly recommend all of them. Tech Blogs – This is really because I have a personal interest in what is new and exciting in Tech. I read GigaOm, TechCrunch, ReadWriteWeb, Wired, and LifeHacker daily (via RSS on Google Reader, Flipboard or Reeder for iPad.) I think this is getting at a larger trend that we will be discussing more and more in coming months – content/data curation moving from the deep web to popular streams.

  2. Micah, I think you’re spot on about the increasing importance of curation. I really like your Postrank list that you’ve created. I’m probably going to go back to that and use it to find interesting content. Creating curated amalgams of content was something that we did with our RSS readers. But with readers it seems that they fill up and you feel like you need to read everything. With curated lists or sources of information, you can find what is popular or trending or getting people talking.

    I created that “librarians” Twitter list, but it has 400+ people on it. But if I (or someone smarter than me) were to create a list of people who consistently share good content (Buffy Hamilton springs to mind) then I would love to follow it and use it for something like Flipboard. Content curation seems like it is due for a renaissance, and librarians are well positioned to be at the forefront.

  3. You know, a lot of this stuff I learned from Marshall Kirkpatrick at ReadWriteWeb and his mantra is open the floodgates and find ways to filter/search the content. So maybe having a Twitter list with 400 or 4000 librarians isn’t such a bad idea, if we can find a way to accurately weed through it and find what is useful. I think thats what the next stream of web apps will hope to accomplish. I say we have a call for the ultimate librarian Twitter list and we all contribute/follow it and see what happens.

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