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A Wealth of Ideas from NewsReaders
by Sarah E. White
Writers who want to make steady money should
always be looking for new sources of salable ideas in their writing niches.
Luckily, technology is always providing ways to make our lives easier by giving
us more information with little effort on our part. It doesnt take a lot of
tech savvy to make the latest information-gathering toolRSS news feedswork for
Youve probably seen the bright orange
rectangles on sites all over the web saying XML or RSS and wondered what they
were for. These tags indicate that the sites updates can be delivered to your
desktop by a newsreader. These feeds are an endless source of information and
potential story ideas for writers, whether you write about charities or
entertainment, religion or decorating.
In the first week after I set up a newsreader on
my computer, I received information that led me to story ideas on super
commuters, bone density and stress reduction, among others. These queries were
sent to business, health and parenting magazines and I hope they will lead to
several sales. Almost every day I see something that strikes me as a worthy
But what is RSS? RSS is a shorthand way to talk
about several similar kinds of syndication services. Any web site that has
distinguishable parts that are updated can use this service to deliver changes
to their readers. Its often used by news organizations and bloggers to get
information to their loyal readers quickly. Youll know a site offers this
service when it has the XML logo, which refers to the programming language used
to make these feeds available.
The benefit to you is that you dont have to
check web sites that use RSS for updates if you have the sites on your feed
list. The new news or information will pop up on your newsreader throughout the
day. A newsreader is a program that watches the sites you ask it to watch and
displays the updates in a window on your computers desktop. There are numerous
newsreaders (also known as aggregators) out there, including versions for Mac
(NewsFire, NetNewsWire) Windows (SharpReader, FeedDemon) and Linux (Straw,
AmphetaDesk). There are also readers you can set up to read on the web or to
deliver you a daily e-mail including all the news you want. Do a web search for
"rss readers" to find out more about them.
To get started using RSS, you need to download
one of these readers to your desktop. The programs dont take up a lot of space
and if you have a fast Internet connection you wont notice the program running
as you work on other things. You will need to search for sites with RSS feeds to
best target the niche you are interested in. You can search the web simply for
RSS feeds if youd like to get a general view of the kinds of feeds out there,
or for something more specific like "RSS feeds health" or "RSS feeds business"
to get information specific to your niche. Browse rssreader.com or feedroom.com to
find an array of feeds divided by category.
To start collecting news from a site, right
click on the orange rectangle (or a link if you are on a page with multiple
feeds) and choose "copy shortcut." Go to your newsreader and add the link to
your list of feeds using the "add feed" or "add channel" option. If your mouse
only has one button, clicking on the link will open a web page that looks like a
big mess. Dont try to read it. This is actually the feed, the content that your
newsreader will collect and display in a readable way on your computer. Just
copy the web address from this page and add it to your reader.
Newsreaders are a great way to pick up news from
many different sources, but RSS feeds are also used by many bloggers to get
information to their readers even faster than if they had to visit the site
several times a day. Blogs can be another source for story ideas because people
who write blogs often have very specialized topics and write about things the
general media isnt covering, which you can spin off in different
There is no limit to the number of feeds you can
collect from. Yahoo even allows you to build your own news feed just by giving
it a keyword (astronomy, manufacturing). Its easy to see how this would allow
you to follow the news in your area of expertise, letting you craft queries that
include up-to-the-minute information. You might find, for instance, a story
about a study that says parents need to be made more aware of the potential
danger of scalding accidents (this actually came across my news reader
recently). Using the study as a news peg, you might write an article for a
parenting magazine about how to prevent scalds or how to teach your children
kitchen safety. Given stories like this about your areas of interest each day,
your mind will start to spin off and combine ideas for all sorts of potential
You can also use your newsreader to keep up with
general news and other web sites you frequently visit. It may take some time to
get all your favorites loaded into your reader, but once you have a complete
list your time spent on the Internet will become more productive because you
wont have to surf to all those sites but you will still get all the information
you want. So youll have even more time for writing up those great story ideas
and making more money from your writing.
Keep an eye out for RSS feeds on your favorite
sites. They can offer you a lot of information fast, and might just give you
some great story ideas.
© Copyright 2005, Sarah E. White
Sarah E. White is a freelance writer and editor who lives in Arkansas. She is the author of Doing the Write Thing: The Easy
Way to Self-Edit (easywaytowrite.com/selfediting.html) and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.