I’ve been using the Readwise Reader app for a few months now, and it’s quickly becoming an indispensable tool for me.
You can learn about it on their site here, but for me it really just combines two things — the “read it later” functionality from tools like Pocket, and then the traditional RSS reading from tools like Feedly. However, the way they combine those two features is very helpful, and some of the new ideas they’re bringing to RSS are simply fantastic.
RSS like TikTok
So an RSS feed is essentially just a list of articles from sites that you’ve added to your list, like I have discussed here in the past. You can subscribe and unsubscribe from sites, and you get all of the content from those that you’re subscribed to. Most RSS readers do a fine job of letting you browse your list and mark things off as you go, but Readwise is using some inspiration from TikTok to help you get through them more quickly.
With RSS, most software has to juggle the ability to “show more content” with “let people get through it quickly” and this new solution does it well, particularly on your phone. It shows each new article as a full-page on your phone (image, headline, and a few sentence of text), but then you treat it like TikTok — tap on it to read more, or flick your finger to scroll to the next article. As you scroll though, they’re marked as read and you can get through your list rather quickly.
Unlike TikTok, there is no algorithm at play here, which is the core of why RSS is great. It shows you every article from every site that you subscribe to — nothing more, nothing less. I’ve used RSS for a few decades now for that reason, but this new interface makes it even better.
Always get full feeds
The other neat thing that Readwise is doing is that is essentially forces sites to supply “full feeds”. When you look at the settings for RSS on your site (which you likely have whether you know it or not), you can choose to publish a “full feed” or a “partial feed”. The full feed will publish the entirety of your posts, while the partial feed will publish a paragraph and then a “click to read the full post”. I always encourage people to publish full posts, but not everyone pays attention to that setting
Backing up a bit, the other part of Readwise Reader is their “read it later” functionality. This gives you a small button in your web browser, and every time you see something you want to read later, you tap the button and it saves it for you in Reader. It doesn’t just save a bookmark to it (though it does that as well), but they crawl the page, pull the text from the article, and then format it nicely for you to read later.
That’s essentially what their RSS reader does for partial feeds. If it pulls in a post that is only a partial feed, they then run out and crawl the full version of the post and bring that in instead, so when you’re reading your RSS feeds, you get the full content of every post. It’s a relatively simple concept, but I’ve never seen it done before and it’s brilliant!
RSS –> Read It Later
At the end of the day, the real power of Readwise Reader is the combination of RSS and the read-it-later functionality. If I’m reading something in my feed that is particularly noteworthy, I can tap an icon and it saves it in my long list of things to read later.
Even in that part of their app, they’ve done a little something that makes it more useful. With tools like Pocket, you have your list of things to read, and then you can “archive” them when you’re done. It works well, but Readwise adds another step — an inbox.
Ultimately, Readwise has three categories for read-it-later items: Inbox | Later | Archive
Whenever you add something to read later, whether from the browser tool or from their RSS reader, it drops it in the inbox. I work to keep that pretty clean, so I can read important items quickly or share them or whatever, and then move on. For most items, though, I take them from the inbox to the later and then dig into them when I have time to read and process. Archive is less important to me, but solid articles move there just for safe keeping. The extra step is nice, and allows me to keep a heavy list of things to read “later”, while letting me keep that inbox clean.
Readwise Reader is still in beta, and still has some bugs, but they’re doing the big things right and are doing an excellent job of bringing new features to an old technology. Check out their website to learn more, and if you’d like an invite to try it out, just reach out and I’ll get you connected.