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Why use an RSS reader if it’s not straightforward and easy to set up and use? That’s the underlying point of what MediaShift readers said in responding to this week’s question, “Which RSS news reader do you use and why?”

The idea of RSS news readers is to make it easy to see the latest content on various sites, blogs and podcasts without having to visit each site individually. So if it’s all about saving time and energy, you want a simple news reader that doesn’t make your life more unmanageable than it already is.

(For more on the basics of RSS, check out Your Guide to RSS; for my own take on the perfect RSS news reader, check out How to Make RSS = Really Satisfying Syndication)

I was impressed with the wide range of responses to this week’s question — though it’s not surprising when you consider the amazing array of RSS news reader software and web-based services.

I’ve tallied up all your favorites, and allowed people to vote for multiple news readers if they used them that way. The top vote-getter was Google Reader, followed by Sage for the Firefox browser. Why did Google Reader win out? Many folks mentioned the ease of use, the simple interface, and the fact that it’s web-based so it’s accessible from any Internet-connected computer.

Photographer Chris Pultz says that he recommends that new RSS users try Google Reader.

“I actually teach a class that includes RSS, and I push new RSS users (including my own family) towards Google Reader,” Pultz wrote. “Free, straightforward, great for a few feeds. Convenient for those who already have a Gmail or a Google News account.”

Though Google Reader is officially still a Google Labs product in testing, it has a nice feature set including letting you watch Flash video directly in the reader. For more on the features of Google Reader, check out the dedicated Google blog by the developers. Plus, there’s a great screencast tutorial by Jason Toal showing you the features of Google Reader if you’re interested in learning more about it.

Before we get to some of your interesting thoughts on various RSS readers, here’s the final tally for your favorite RSS readers (obviously this is a very unscientific poll):

Google Reader: 6
Sage (for Firefox browser): 4
NetNewsWire (for Mac): 3
Bloglines: 3
My Yahoo: 3
NewsGator: 2
FeedDemon (for Windows): 2
Gmail Snippets: 2 (plus 1 very reluctant voter who calls it “kind of useless”)
FeedBurner (via email): 2 (including 1 vote from a VP at FeedBurner)
Netvibes: 2
Internet Explorer 7 (beta): 1
Attensa (Outlook plug-in): 1
Vienna (for Mac): 1
Klipfolio: 1
Flock browser: 1
FeedPopper (for Mac): 1
Feedblitz (via email): 1
Zookoda: 1
Pluck: 1
Central Desktop (via Outlook): 1 (from the CEO of Central Desktop)

Blogger Jose Moreno likes FeedDemon for its ease of use and personalization features. He also noted how RSS use changed his reading — and writing — habits.

“Significantly, ever since I started using an RSS reader, I post a lot more on my blog, but each post is a lot shorter,” Moreno wrote. “Plus, now posts tend to be more directive torwards sources and less opinative. Conclusion: When you use an RSS reader, your information gathering tends to be less intensive and more extensive (and so are your posts). That should mean something about the way we connect to the world. Meaning: An RSS reader is not just a tool; it is a tool that changes the world, in a way.”

Perhaps RSS readers help us gather and swallow up more information, but it gives us less depth both for reading and writing.

Other folks like to use various RSS readers depending on the purpose of the information they’re gathering. Isaac Garcia, who is co-founder and CEO of Central Desktop, noted that he reads different information via different tools (of course including his own company’s service). Here’s his rundown:

Bloglines — Primary blog/news reader

Outlook — “work” related project and workspace feeds from Central Desktop.

I separate my “work” RSS feeds into Outlook because I “live” in Outlook where my email resides. To read RSS feeds in Outlook, I use the Attensa Outlook plug-in.

My Yahoo — For financial news, company information and RSS feeds that I can ‘scan’ but that don’t need to be refreshed as quickly and often as Bloglines or Outlook feeds.

Gmail Snippets — This is kind of useless in my opinion. But I subscribe to a few Snippets via RSS in the odd event that my eyes veer to the top of my screen and read more trivial RSS feeds.

Philippe Borremans, a PR manager in Belgium, also is a bit of a power user when it comes to RSS feeds. While he first says he uses two readers, he actually lists five of them.

“[I use] Klipfolio, which I use to create a full screen online monitoring dashboard,” Borremans wrote. “This little program is made of different Klips which can contain one or several feeds. It also has auto-discovery of feeds and one-click subscribe plus it allows you to put alerts based on keywords in any feed. This is one of the main reasons why I use it for monitoring purposes.”

He also uses the Flock browser, email feeds via FeedBurner and Feedblitz, and Zookoda, which is an email newsletter marketing system based on RSS feeds. Whew.

Sometimes, your RSS reader of choice depends on the operating system you use. Many people mentioned NetNewsWire for the Mac, while FeedDemon received kudos on the Windows platform. Online newspaper editor Howard Owens noted that his recent switch from Windows to Mac made him switch RSS readers as well.

“On Windows, I preferred FeedDemon,” Owens wrote. “I liked the way it allowed me to organize my feeds and the way it let me scan feeds for each individual blogs (good reading pane). I recently bought a MacBook and decided the Mac side would be for RSS, multimedia, web stuff, blogging and such (while the Windows side is for writing code/development). I’m using Vienna. It’s free. I can’t scan the complete feed of a blog, just headlines, but I’m adjusting.”

Don Loeb, VP of business development at FeedBurner, prefers to use web-based readers. Here’s his rundown:

- my yahoo (but it’s slow with a lot of feeds. i’m sure they will fix that)

- yahoo mail (since i use yahoo mail, this is going to be great when they add folders)

- google reader on the google personalized home page (the module)

- google reader on my mobile device (this rocks as it’s fast and personalized)

- netvibes

- i also get a few rss feeds delivered by email (using feedburner’s rss to email solution (my employer))…

Thanks to everyone who responded to this week’s question, one of the most popular ones at MediaShift. It’s great for the power users and RSS experts to weigh in with their favorites to help guide folks new to the technology.

I hope you’ve enjoyed our little RSS Week here. Feel free to share any other thoughts you may have about RSS technology, news readers, features you’d like to see, etc. in the comments below.

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