I had Newsblur sitting in my inbox since November, meaning to check it out as a new RSS feed reader. I wasn’t quite sure it was worth paying the premium price given the number of feeds I subscribe to but one fateful night when it was stated that Google Reader would be retired this Summer, I made the investment and the jump.
I was most interested in a cloud-based feed reader because I like to keep up with the sites I subscribe to anywhere, not just at home where I would have a desktop client installed or out of sync with multiple locations (home, phone, on-the-road). Newsblur fit the bill and seemed to offer a number of other features. One of my key considerations for a Reader replacement was having a good mobile app solution from the beginning. Reader’s mobile app didn’t seem to work out that well for me and I used the Android app Newsrob to sync with my Google Reader account for a better experience. Newsblur has an Android and iOS app that works quite well with some third-party options as well. The latest update to Newsblur’s Android app has it quite enjoyable.
Google Reader has been in maintenance mode for too long. The Google+ design update was the biggest change the service received. Google stopped innovating on it and for that they deserved to be surpassed, they just did so willingly by slating Reader for retirement July 31st. It was a breeze to migrate to Newsblur with a simple import from my Google account and an OPML import option is also available. With the deluge of Reader refugees, Newsblur has been a bit bumpy following the announcement but the site has been scaled up and the service seems to have stabilized. I’m excited to see what the developer will be able to do now that he has a bigger audience and more premium members to help fund expansions and development time.
The view for Newsblur is very flexible. You can use the gear icon in the bottom left to get to your preferences and change things around. For my preference, I moved the reading pane from the top to the bottom with the story list above it. The list of feeds on the side can be organized into folders and you can double-click its right border to switch it to auto-hide.
There are plenty of other features to also explore. I really like some and turned off only one, social comments. (I don’t really need to see somebody posting ‘LOL’ below each XKCD comic but to each their own.) I do like being able to have the feed show up as the original site. This helps for truncated feeds or others that have extras on the site like hidden comics or valuable comments.
You can follow other Newsblur users to make it easier to see their shared items. Each subscriber gets their own “blurblog”. It’s a place where feeds that are shared can reside and people can subscribe to that. It’s a lot easier than copy+pasting a URL to email to a friend. Of course, even that is simple in Newsblur. Just right-click a story and you have options to email the story or share it to Instapaper, Twitter, or Facebook.
Along with the gear in the lower-left for all of Newsblur settings, preferences, goodies, and other news, you can also right-click on a feed or a story for additional options such as sorting or organizing.
One of the biggest features of Newsblur in my opinion is its intelligence trainer. You can “train” feeds to filter what you like and dislike. For example, I can discard stories with titles of keywords I don’t care to read or ensure that I see things that are tagged with the attributes I do like. For example, there are two different webcomics that I subscribe to. One puts “Comic: ” in front of each entry for the actual comic and blog postings are without the prefix. The other webcomic does the complete opposite. Now, I only care to see the comics, so instead of keeping track of which site does what, Newblur takes care of it and helps me get through more feeds, more efficiently.
You can also see statistics related to each feed. You can see the story updates, the number of subscribers on Newsblur and even the intelligence trainer stats like how many others like or dislike tags.
Overall, I’m enjoying Newsblur and wish I had moved over sooner. Some of my frustrations with Google Reader would have been resolved and the sunsetting announcement would not have been so jarring. You can use Newsblur for free if you subscribe to 64 sites or less. I read about 100 feeds more than that and paid for the premium account. Once the servers get scaled to handle the larger load of users, I look forward to the robust service that saves me time and annoyances.
Check out Newsblur and its features if you’re still shopping around for a RSS reader for after Google Reader’s retirement.