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Webcomics & RSS: Like ice cream and hot fudge

…or cake and frosting, or pizza and pepperoni. These things just go together. You get what I’m saying, right? Two good things combine to make one super great thing. I’m feeling passionate about RSS these days. It’s not as popular as it was back in the middle-ish 2000s, but it should be. RSS is to webcomics what cats are to the internet. They just go together. There’s probably an RSS feed of cats out there, somewhere. Anyway.

But what is RSS?

RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication – it’s basically a way for a website to create a feed of posts (or podcasts, or webcomics, or whatever) in a standardized format. Usually these will end in .rss or .xml. For example, the RSS feed for this site is located at radiochio.com/rss and probably looks crazy to you unless you understand XML or look at it with an RSS reader or aggregator.

So let’s say you plug that URL into an RSS reader. What happens is basically this: your reader knocks on Radiochio.com’s door and is like, “hey my guy, what’s new?” and Radiochio.com is like, “sup my friend, check out these 3 new things I wrote,” and your reader is like “hey thanks, I’ll just put these in a nice neat envelope and tell my pals.”

In this example reader’s pals are, uh, you. The reader takes the stuff in the feed, neatens it up, and posts a little notification that there’s something new to read. Easy!

In this example using the feed from my comic Follower, you can see the list of recent posts in the middle with a single post view on the right. The reader I’m using is NetNewsWire, a free RSS reader for iOS and Mac.

Different readers, of course, have all kinds of different options. You can get notifications in different ways. It’s almost like reading an email delivered right from a website to you, so you know right away every time there’s something new to check out.

So what does this have to do with webcomics?

Plenty! Does it ever bug you that social media sites don’t show posts from your favorite creators in order, or sometimes not at all? RSS solves this problem by removing that social media middleman. You can get your content straight from your favorite creator, delivered right to your desktop, or phone, or whatever. You don’t have to worry about missing an update because RSS isn’t going to lie to you or hide the post or show it to you days later.

Most webcomics sites have RSS built in, especially if they’re using WordPress/Comicpress/Webcomic. You can check to see if adding “/rss” at the end of the URL brings up an RSS feed, or look around the website for an RSS icon. It’s the little thing that looks like this:

Sometimes this icon will be a different color, or might be stylized to match the site, but it’ll generally always look something like this.

Copy the RSS feed URL into your RSS reader, and boom. Now you’ve got instant comic updates that no one can goof around with. Everything in chronological order, all the time. Magic!

Adding an RSS feed to your reader will probably look something like this. It’s not very complicated.

What kind of reader should I use?

This comes down to personal preference. There are a ton of readers out there, not all of them are good, but many of them are free! Some are fancier than others. Experiment and see what fits your needs.

I am a Mac user and am currently enjoying NetNewsWire because it works on my phone and my computer, and it’s free. The design is basic but nice, and it does what I need. I’ve tried some other readers and they just didn’t click for me the way this one does. I also appreciate the authors’ philosophy on supporting the app, you can check that out here. 🙂 I don’t have any recommendations for Windows or other platforms because I don’t really use them, but there are undoubtedly good options if you do even a basic search.

I hope this little post gave you some information on using RSS, and maybe even encouraged you to download a reader and add your favorite webcomics to it! RSS may have fallen out of favor in the age of social media sites, but I think it’s time for a big comeback. Get in control of what you’re reading!