The newsletter as RSS

My post about blogging prompted some comments on RSS. I loved RSS, it seemed like magic, you could just pull stuff in from different places, subscribe easily, aggregate feeds. Your blog reader was a little daily newspaper of quality content. It was the essence of what the web was made for.

I blame Twitter for killing this magic, increasingly people didn’t promote, or even know their RSS feeds, and social media became a much more effective way to distribute content. RSS often operated in the background still but you rarely saw the little RSS icon on people’s sites any more. Various RSS readers failed or were killed off, and the convenience of inbuilt reshare buttons took over. Back in 2018 people were saying it was time to head back to RSS, and it didn’t happen then, so I expect it won’t now either in a hurry.

But with social media fragmenting and people either turning away from it completely or using it less, the absence of RSS awareness leaves us with a problem – how do we get all this lovely blog content out there? I know some hardcore people will still adhere to their blog readers, and I salute you. It’s possible that RSS will have a relabelling and a resurgence as I’m arguing blogging is experiencing. But until then, all that precious blog content is going unread.

One approach is simply to blitz it. I’ve taken to sharing blog posts on Twitter, Mastodon, LinkedIn and Facebook. I know, it must be very annoying for people who follow me in all those places. But it does get some reach. I regret to inform you that LinkedIn is proving to be quite good for engagement. And the app is not a total mess like the site.

Another approach which I’ve come round to is the Newsletter. I installed the Newsletter plug-in, and one option it provides is to create a newsletter from recent posts. You can automate this if you upgrade to a subscription account. I’m going to do it manually for now and see how it goes. I don’t intend to add extra content, just a monthly email of recent posts. That way you can just sit back and know that this quality (ahem) content will pop in your mailbox once a month. So pop over and subscribe if you feel that, on reflection, you really could do with some more email.

Progress is a funny old thing isn’t it? While I like my newsletter plug-in, it’s odd to move from the creative possibilities of RSS to, erm, email. And, yes I am very late to Newsletters What next you ask? Podcasts? Well, it’s funny you should say that…


  • Dominic Newbould

    You are indeed ubiquitous, Martin.
    I don’t mind at all seeing you pop up in various places – keep calm and carry on….

    • mweller

      Yeah but you’re old skool D’Arcy, how many people who start blogging now set up an RSS reader? Don’t get me wrong, I freaking love RSS, I’m just touting my wares where I can

  • Eric Likness

    Blitz it? Yes. Blitz all the things. I am subscribed via RSS. But if I see the blitz on Mastodon, I’m clicking it there instead. Whom/What ever gets my notice and attention first wins. I have no qualms about that.

  • Alan

    Hmmm. I see a confusion between publishing and promoting your writings (the blitzings) with effeciently consuming them (what RSS still does well).

    I don’t see how Twitter made people do anything, it was a collective choice by people to shift their habits. We all shifted some, but that whole noting of a stream of everyithng really was an efficient replacement of a reader. You have to comb through all the poop to find something, it’s really not an efficient strategy. Yes, I still find plenty of useful nuggets and links and stuff I would not find otherwise, but relying on Twitter et al as a single source seems like folly.

    No I don’t expect too many people to agree or even pick it up again. At a popular level, it has moved on. But it still works.

    I guess, what is this desire for “reach”? What are we reaching for? What does that get you in terms of becoming more informed, knowledgable, to find ideas you would not see elsewhere?

    Grumpy old dogs here!

    I still read your feed. Don’t need to get blitzed with it.

    • mweller

      Hi Alan – you’re going to have put up with the blitz I’m afraid. I’m not really after reach really, but if I write something I figure some peopel might like to read it, and the loss of RSS as the reliable, generic tool for everyone means I can’t rely on that. Twitter replaced RSS in a way I think not because you had one shot at finding it, but rather you could rely on your network to bubble anything up that was interesting, it woudl get retweeeted, liked etc a number of times so your attention would be drawn to it. It was quite efficient if you had a good network.

  • David Longman

    Some years ago I ran into an almightry row on twitter because I had used an RSS feed that was pubicly available on a well-known blog … the writer (a well aggro merchant) offered some nasty opinions about my ‘theft’ of his property! He did not see that unless stated otherwise an RSS feed is an open channel, and because that channel fed into an element on my website, he threatened goodness knows what …

    So I never have been sure about the ethics of RSS …

  • Alan Levine

    I’m old enough to remember when twitter had RSS feeds…

    Yes, the bubble up effect did work in its day, Martin, and I still see it. But I make use of multiple sources of what I call “interesting stuff”. Relying just on one leaves you Musked.

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