The internet is full of great content, with millions of new pieces being published online and shared every day.

As a writer, I am always on the hunt for ideas, interesting content, and information about a variety of topics. Luckily, there’s a lot of services to help me out – RSS readers, social networks, read-it-later services, or email newsletters.

Social media has become an additional way to get news, but there are still a lot of people who prefer to get news straight from the sources they love and trust.

Our team has read (and you probably have too) a lot of articles illustrating the pros and cons of using RSS or social media to get updates, but in our opinion, it’s not one or the other.

When we ask ourselves the question: What’s the best way to get news – RSS or social media?

The answer is both.

What We Love About RSS

RSS has been a useful way to subscribe for news updates since the early 2000s, and despite consistent reports of industry experts about it hovering at death’s door – it’s not dead yet.

Even though Google killed off its beloved Reader, there are still an impressive amount of alternatives (including FlowReader) that believe in and support the continued relevance of RSS.

When we first discussed adding RSS to FlowReader, we saw it as a good fit with our vision of a streamlined content discovery service and a great step towards making online reading an easier experience.

Here are some of the top reasons why we love using RSS:

  • You can curate your own reading list.
  • You have control over your content sources and it’s private.
  • You never miss the updates you want to read.
  • You can organize and categorize your news.
  • You don’t have to search for your news – it comes to you.

It turned out to be a great step for us!

Currently, we process 2.5 million update requests for 1 million RSS subscriptions a day.

At the same time, we still recognize the opportunities for discovering news through our social media communities.

Social Media Is a Complement, Not Competition

Have you noticed a shift in the kind of content showing up on your social networks? I have.

You’re just as likely to stumble across an article about curriculum changes in Colorado, or how 52-minute work periods are the productivity sweet spot, as you are to see a Starbucks selfie.

In 2012, a survey from the Pew Research Center confirmed that Facebook and Twitter were pathways to news, but found their role as drivers was still relatively small. At the time, only 9% of digital news consumers overall were getting recommendations through these social networks.

However, a recent study from the Pew Research Center in collaboration with the Knight Foundation found that news now holds a definite place in social media. However, there are some sites that are more likely to have users who consume news than others.

Half of Facebook and Twitter users get news on those sites as do 62% of reddit users, whereas Instagram and Pinterest users are less likely to find news on their respective sites.

From our perspective as a team, social media is a great complement to RSS because:

  • Social media exposes you to new content and sources.
  • It’s an easy way to stay informed about trending topics and stories.
  • Social media enriches the experience of news.
  • Getting news on a network offers the opportunity for engagement.

Social media may be offering a new way to find news, but it’s definitely not a replacement for traditional sources. When it comes to receiving daily news, both RSS and social media aren’t competition (although they’re some obvious overlap) – they’re complements.

Same Goal – Different Approaches

The basic idea of using social media or RSS to get news is essentially equal – it’s the delivery that differs significantly. With social media, you’re exposed to interesting links, tips, hints, or inspiring content based on an algorithm that decides when and what you’ll see.

On the flip side, RSS allows you to control the what and the when, but it also means that it cuts out some of the diversity that you’re likely to gain through using a social network. When you only subscribe to the news about your specific areas of interest, you’re less likely to stumble across new themes and sources.

In the past, it might have been more common for us to think about media consumption dividing along political or generational lines, but these days, the new story itself often determines where you’d go to learn more. For example, Twitter and Facebook is great for finding commentary and content about mainstream stories while RSS allows you to follow niche topics closely.

In our eyes, a social reader is less about following and interacting with other users within our platform (like the old social reader of Google Reader). When we say social at FlowReader – we’re thinking about combining two powerful ways for discovering news today.

Do you use RSS or social networks more to get your news? Are there any other alternatives you like to use? 

Leave us a comment below or share your thoughts with us on Facebook. You can also tweet to us directly, @flow_reader.