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Twitter or RSS: Which is Best for News?

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If you follow this blog on Twitter, you’ll know that I read quite a few websites. I read them to keep informed, expand my knowledge and for inspiration for posts here. I also tweet headlines that I think other people might find useful on a regular basis. Recently, when I’ve sent a headline and link to Twitter, I’ve been trying to include the Twitter account of the source in the Tweet, so people can follow them to get headlines directly if they wish.

Not every website or blog I read has a linked Twitter account, but for those who do, I wondered if it would be better to simply follow them on Twitter and retweet the articles I liked rather than keeping their feeds in Google Reader, where I usually read them first. After all, I use HootSuite now (sorry Splitweet), which makes it easy to corral my most regular news sources into one column where I could monitor them if I wanted to. I have yet to wax lyrical about the joys of using HootSuite, but if you have more than one Twitter account or run a group blog, check it out as soon as you can.

In contrast, my Google Reader is a mess of categories and feeds, haphazardly sorted into a vague folder structure. It works for me, but I dread to imagine what anyone else would think if I passed on my OPML file. Nevertheless, I find that I get more of my news from RSS rather than through Twitter, and hunting down linked accounts from webpages when I’m tweeting a link can sometimes be a bit of a chore. It got me thinking about whether I’d be better off simply following those websites that do have Twitter accounts and retweeting their headlines.

In the end, I decided not to. I do double up and follow some of the websites that are in my RSS feeds, but I am loath to remove them from my reader because I am worried about missing something. While this blog is a one-woman operation, and part-time to boot, a number of these websites are the internet operations of magazines, with multiple authors, updating several times a day. Even if I never slept and checked Twitter obsessively, I could never hope to catch ever headline. With Google Reader, on the other hand, even if I’ve been away for a couple of days, I can still retrieve headlines and pass them on via Twitter.

It comes down to a question of how concerned you are with reading everything, as opposed to skimming. Twitter is great for real-time updates, and when a big story breaks, it spreads across the platform with lightning speed. However, beyond a number of sources, especially those that update several times an hour, it is almost impossible to catch all topics of interest, even if you watch the people you are following like a hawk and allow for some headline duplication.

For this reason, I consider RSS feeds the best option for staying informed. I can skim headlines, read articles that catch my eye and pass them on to Twitter if I think they merit it. I feel better knowing that if I take a couple of days off, interesting articles that I haven’t read yet are still going to be there, not buried in an avalanche of tweets from the time when I’ve been away from my computer. Twitter may be the best tool for keeping up with the present, but it can’t let me know what I may have missed yesterday.

[Image by Search Engine People Blog]

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