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Does Robert Scoble REALLY Need 600 News Feeds?

September 22nd, 2008 by Bob Bly

In his October 2008 Fast Company column, Robert “Odd Bob” Scoble says he will never buy another physical newspaper again in his life but instead subscribes to more than 600 news feeds in Google Reader.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t have time to look at 600 of ANYTHING — let alone RSS or Google feeds.

I was thinking of telling Robert to do what I do: look through a daily newspaper for 10-15 minutes each month to find items of interest, and supplement with Google searches for facts and news you need right now.

Advantages of a real newspaper over Google Reader:

1. You get to read nice large type in print instead of tiny type on a screen.
2. It’s portable. You can carry the news with you without a power supply or gadget.
3. You can rip out articles of interest for passing along or filing.
4. It’s fun, entertaining, and relaxing. Do it while you eat breakfast or lunch.
5. It gives you clear coverage at just the right level of information density of what happened within the last 24 hours (for news in real time, I go to
6. The newspaper is delivered free to my front door every morning.

One newspaper — or 600 news feeds? Which would you prefer?


This entry was posted on Monday, September 22nd, 2008 at 10:21 am and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

43 responses about “Does Robert Scoble REALLY Need 600 News Feeds?”

  1. gamermk said:

    Newspapers aren’t free everywhere nor are they interesting, well written or provide clear coverage. I gotta say I’m with Scoble on this one. A whole lot of feeds > newspaper.

  2. Bob Bly said:

    Gamermk, then you join Scoble as a member of the minority when it comes to going printless. According to a survey by Scarborough Research, 4 out of 5 newspaper website readers ALSO read the printed edition of that same newspaper.

  3. Kristi Holl said:

    I can’t even imagine how long it would take to skim 600 feeds, let alone read anything that looked interesting. Definitely a case of less is better. And I’m with you on the advantages of print ANYTHING.
    Kristi Holl
    Writer’s First Aid blog

  4. Bob Yokl said:

    I know Bob loves to pick at Robert Scoble but I would have to agree with the Scoble on this one. I have found RSS feeds to be the greatest way to have my information come to me as I want it. As a matter of fact, I keep up to date on your blog feed Bob Bly by using Google Reader so I don’t have to blindly come to your blog page unless you post an article. My big question to the group is have you tried Google Reader?

    It really works really well for all my online areas of interest, e.g., I am a healthcare financial and quality improvement consultant so I have feeds taylored to the goings on in the healthcare financial, supply chain, etc.

    As for going totally electronic, I have been able to go totally electronic with one exception otherwise with the use of Google Reader and my Amazon Kindle I can read everything I want to read 98% electronically. I read the Phila Inquirer Online and the Wall Street Journal Online on My Kindle. The only exception is BusinessWeek which I do have a bunch of feeds on Google Reader for as well but I must read that magazine in paper.

  5. Ryan said:

    Mac Mail makes it easy to subscribe to RSS feeds so I am constantly subscribing to new ones. I am also unsubscribing constantly. Currently I’m subscribed to 14 and I’ve given up trying to read all the messages. Only the interesting ones get my attention. 600 newsfeeds would take me all day to just browse through them, I might as well quit my job.

  6. Kurt said:


    My newspaper is never free. How do you pull that off.

    I read both news feeds and one traditional news paper. Everyday I am getting more and more disinhearted with the biased news we are fed. Just give me the facts and let me decide from there.

    I would like to know if anyone knows of a good neutral news source?

  7. Bob Bly said:

    Kurt, the newspaper isn’t free. The DELIVERY is free. It costs less to get the newspaper delivered daily than to buy it at the newstand.

    There are no unbiased news sources I am aware of, online or offline. Even Google has its prejudices. Newspapers are biased in HOW they cover stories, but the major dailies seem fairly neutral in WHAT they choose to cover, with plenty of exceptions, of course. By that, I mean reading the NY TIMES will give you most of the important news of the day.

  8. Jim Logan said:

    The claim of 600 feeds is a gimmick. Six hundred news feeds is beyond silly.

    If you want to RSS your news, get an AP top stories feed for US, World, Business, Technology, and Sports.

  9. Dianna Huff said:

    As an experiment, I cut my print publication subscriptions — the news all exists online, so why pay to read it? I am going through total withdrawl and don’t feel anywhere near as informed as I did when I read all those print pubs.

    I’m resubscribing!

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  11. Bob Bly said:

    Dianna: I do the same thing, online and offline: cut almost everything, then resubscribe only to the ones I really miss. It’s a proven time saver…..

  12. Fiona Fell - The Profit Maximsing Web Geek said:

    I subscribe to ~6 RSS feeds for catching up on business activities.

    I find reading the paper relaxing but have yet to commit to delivery or a regular buying pattern.

    But haviong the time to read 600+ news feeds daily or on any other time frame, certainly in not within my mere mortal reach!

    Fiona Fell
    The Profit Maximising Web Geek

  13. Brian said:

    I agree with several others: using the feeds isn’t what is crazy here. The 600 is. As for the 6 “advantages,” I didn’t find anything that couldn’t also be achieved when using feeds.

    1. In most cases the print on your screen is as large or small as you want it to be.

    2. True, but you are still carrying around a newspaper and my guess is that you have your cell phone with you anyway, so you net 1 extra thing being carried around. Also, gadgets don’t get ink on your white shirt.

    3. Agreed, you can rip something out of a paper to pass along to one person. Online you can blast a link or copy of the article to as many people as you want. And, even after you’ve shared it you can still save it on your own computer. If you make a habit of doing this often you should also be able to retrieve what you’ve saved more efficiently.

    4. What is this? Filler? Fun, entertaining and relaxing are subjective. And, I scan my feeds when I eat breakfast every morning.

    5. Seriously? You’re contending that of the millions of feeds out there you can’t come up with a collection that provides this same benefit?

    6. I’ve never had to dig my feeds out of the bushes on a rainy morning.

    My main reasons for preferring feeds:

    – It is much easier to come up with a collection that provides a mix of biases and perspectives.

    – Much easier to focus on the areas that I want. I can dispense with unwanted sections (paper equivalent: “entertainment,” comics, inserts, inserts, inserts) by not having them delivered in the first place.

    – If at some point something changes in my desired portfolio of information, I can change it in moments.

  14. Bob Bly said:

    Brian: On #2, you guess wrong: I don’t have a cell phone. Or a PDA. Hate gadgets of any kind.

  15. Internet Marketing Archives» Blog Archive » 'Does Robert Scoble Really Need 600 News Feeds?' by Bob Bly said:

    […] Does Robert Scoble Really Need 600 News Feeds?… […]

  16. Philip McLean said:

    If you actually had 600 feeds, how long would it take you to realize that 570 of them basically duplicated the other 30?

  17. Tia Dobi said:

    OK it’s official. Now I know I have the mind of Bob Bly. (Now if I could just write like him *sigh*)

    Not only do I prefer snuggling up with (or having coffee over) newspapers, I also don’t have a cell phone.

    600 sounds dizzing. (Does the article author say how he does it…time attention energy and his method of take-away, storage, usage?)

    For e-delivery…I simply set e-filters to divert my “unsubscribes” to the trash folder…so I don’t have to do/think too much in case I want to access or re-filter back to “IN.”

    Having the same email address for a dozen years helps, too.

    Tia Dobi
    P.T Barnum in a skirt producing intelligent creative to sell your stuff

    P.S. Yes, perhaps much of that content is duplicated, it would seem to me…when I want to bake a chocolate cake, I only need 1 great recipe. (Could the subscriber be choosing inferior feeds? Or have difficulty making decisions? :-D)

  18. Tia Dobi said:

    P.P.S. All [good] copywriters know needs are personal.

    So the answer to the ? then, is “Yes indeed. Robert Scoble Really needs 600 feeds. Until he doesn’t.”

  19. Pete Soos said:

    The ? isn’t whether we agree or not, it’s what we prefer. I prefer to go to CNN or Google and find the news that’s happening now. Not when it was printed. News feeds are good also. With that said…the newspaper acts like spending your time going through 600 random emails a day, not 600 focused news feeds. To many distractions for to long without any focus. I doubt that he reads all 600 anymore than I “read” all my emails. I got rid of my $200 a year newsprint habit 6 years ago and feel better for it. I spend the money on books instead.
    If your daily habit involves a paper and you’re comfy, more power to you. Choice is what makes America great. Just what works for me. Thanks Bob 🙂

  20. Nigel P. Chillings said:

    A better question is, does Robert Scoble need 600 f*cking stickers on his tripod?

    Have you seen that thing?

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    I can’t imagine how long it would take to peruse 600 feeds, much alone read anything meaningful. It’s definitely a case of less is more. And I agree with you on the benefits of printing ANYTHING.

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