How to Subscribe to Blogs, Serialized Online Publications, and Podcasts

January 24, 2011

in Newsroom,Subscription Options

I’m going to use this week’s Newsroom post as a forum for talking about the way we (okay, I) consume online media, whether this media be blogs, newspapers, or podcasts. If you are new to this whole internet media consumption thing and find yourself bookmarking every blog or newspaper you read online, you may want to reconsider your virtual time management. If the term RSS makes your head hurt, believe me, it’s actually easy peasy.  If you are a seasoned blog reader, you may not need the following information, so this is for the rest of you. Oh, and for the sake of disclosure, I’m almost thirty and didn’t know how to do most of this stuff until maybe six months ago.

I.  Why RSS Rocks

You see that little red button in my sidebar that looks like this:  This is the universal symbol for RSS, which stands for Really Simple Syndication. I’m sure you’ve seen these buttons before, but if you didn’t know what would happen if you clicked on it, I’ll explain now. Actually, click on it and see where it takes you. You should be taken to a page that says “How to Subscribe,” so go ahead and click on the first “RSS” you see.  Now, you will see a screen that asks if you would like to add (Over)Thinking Mom to a web-based podcatcher (In this case, (Over)Thinking Mom is called a podcast, but both the blog posts and podcast episodes are included in the RSS subscription).  If you already have a Gmail account, click on the Google link now. I’ll wait.

You should see an option to add my blog to Google (or to Yahoo and other stuff I haven’t heard of. I happen to have a personal Gmail email address, so prefer Google). Google Reader is simply a list of all the serialized material that you read through RSS. In Google Reader, the names of your subscribed blogs will be on the left and on the right you can scroll through the content of each individual blog. For example, (Over)Thinking Mom’s RSS provides the beginnings of posts, so as you scroll through a list of my most recent posts, you can click on any title that sounds interesting and you’ll be taken to the (Over)Thinking Mom website.

Why bother with a reader? Well, maybe you don’t read a ton of blogs, but do you read other serialized content, such as a newspaper like The New York Times or an online magazine like Slate? Going to your browser bookmarks and checking out those sites everyday can be time consuming, but an online reader will consolidate all this material. Clear out most of your browser bookmarks and put a link to Google Reader there instead.

I read a lot of mommy blogs as well as online newspapers. To get a glimpse into my odd reading habits, my RSS reader includes Balboa Park Beat, Parent Hacks,  and The Atlantic, a weird combo that is easy to check in less than one minute. Any time you visit a site with content that has an RSS symbol, you can add it to your reader. And if you visit a site with content to which you’d like to subscribe but can’t find the RSS symbol, you can put the web address into the reader and it will search for one. Pretty awesome, right?

II.  Subscribing Via Email

Although I prefer RSS as a one click easy subscription option, you can still subscribe to many blogs via email. You may have noticed when you clicked on my red RSS button that subscribing by email is an option. This means you’ll receive an email every time new content is created. This is fine if you check your email a lot, but can cause inbox clutter. Plus, you have to be sure to verify your subscription to get any of the content (and sometimes a feedburner issue can prevent this verification).

I myself am not a huge fan of receiving daily emails from blogs, which is why I prefer RSS.  That way, I choose when to check the content and am not bombarded with emails.  Also, if I like a website and I’m afraid of forgetting about it, I can subscribe to the RSS without committing to a deluge of inbox reminders. That said, I’ve recently set up a new option in the (Over)Thinking Mom email subscription service. However, this service only sends you one email a week that includes all that week’s posts.  Even after my RSS reader hype, if you know you’ll never use one, but don’t want to get email every day, this weekly email is a nice alternative.

III.  Subscribing to the Podcast

If you subscribe via RSS or via email, the podcast post will automatically be sent to you with an embedded player. Most of the time, hitting play is fine, but if you find the show is cutting in and out, blame your internet connection. If this happens, you can download the episode, even saving to your computer if you right click on the podcast download link at the bottom of the podcast posts. If you don’t want to save the show to your computer, but would like to listen in a different window so that you can still surf the web, press the “play now” button in the sidebar or click once on the download option.

However, my favorite listening option is through iTunes. Even if you don’t have an iPod, you can still download iTunes and listen on your computer. And if you don’t have an iPod, beg your loved ones for its awesomeness. I subscribe to many podcasts via iTunes and listen to them on my laptop while I clean or while I play with Amelia (NPR is soothing).  I also sync my iPod every few days so that I can listen to the latest podcasts in the car. In my fantasy world, I even create an (Over)Thinking Mom app for all of you with smart phones, but right now that is still fantasy.

I know many of you aren’t active podcast listeners. I’m looking at you, mom. When I visited my mom after I first started the podcast, I asked if she had listened to the most recent episode. She said she hadn’t found the time, but would listen right away. I watched her open my laptop, hit the play button in the sidebar and then just stare at the computer screen. Say what? This was definitely a generational divide. I would get so bored if I stared at nothing while listening to an episode. How many people turn on their favorite radio program and then sit and stare at the wall? I love the rapt attention, but podcasts are meant to be consumed as you do other things, so by all means clean the bathroom or pay bills or make dinner or drive your kid to daycare while you listen to my oh so glorious voice go on and on about something or other.

I hope this post has helped explain some terms. If you still have questions, please email me or write a comment below. Again, all this information may have been obvious to some, but if my mom and dad have learned anything, then the super long post was worth it.

Oh, and I have a facebook page where I post the best stuff. Just click like in the left sidebar to stay up to date.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Mom January 24, 2011 at 9:05 am

Ok, so I’m not staring at a blank computer anymore but I still have to be at the computer while listening to your podcast! Now I can do other things online like pay bills, read other emails, go on facebook… Yipee! I’m progressing! Hmm..maybe an ipod would be a good gift sometime :)


2 Kate January 24, 2011 at 5:39 pm

Well said, Meredith. Thanks!


3 Kate January 24, 2011 at 5:41 pm

I particularly like your weekly email subscription option. Very cool.


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