[Intermediate users] If you’ve seen sites like Techmeme and Megite and find them handy, you might be wishing you had something similar for a specific niche. Techmeme’s owners do have similar sites for specific niches (including politics, baseball, celeb gossip), but maybe you want something for a different niche. Since as a freelancer, I cover a number of niches on a regular basis, I’ve got my own personal dashboard tools for monitoring niches. But I’ve been on a quest to find/ build a generic tool similar to Techmeme/ Megite. Fortunately, you can produce something similar: a river of news. It doesn’t offer the topical clustering that makes Techmeme and Megite so useful, but it’s a start.
What’s a River of News, and Why Use It?
A river of news is just a stream of headlines from various websites, possibly with text excerpts. See Techmeme River for an example (a snapshot is below).
Techmeme River does not provide any item excerpts, but that doesn’t mean your river of news cannot. (However, in this post, I’m discussing a headlines-only version.) You can format the text presentation any way you like, as well as insert the information you need to appear.
Ok, Show Me How
Here is the simplest process for building a river of news:
- Take a bunch of related feeds that you want to monitor, then mash them up. (I like to use Yahoo Pipes for feed mashups because of the relative ease and the great functionality.)
- Sort the mashed up item stream. You’ll very likely want them presented reverse chronologically (most recent first).
- Truncate your list to X items – say 25, 50, or whatever.
- Publish the list to your blog – either in your navigation column, or on a page of its own, or a subdomain. (You can use the new Yahoo Pipes badging or custom code.)
Instead of writing a lengthy explanation of the coding process, I’ll refer you to Splashpress’ own Thord Hendgren and his recent article, Mashing Up Feeds Using Yahoo Pipes. I’ve written similar posts (linked above), but Thord has done a nice job of showing lots of screen snaps. What’s more, he’s provided and explained HTML/ PHP code that you can use in WordPress to parse your mashed feed stream and badge it on your blog.
How Can I Use a River of News For Niche X?
Assuming you apply the instructions that Thord gives, here’s what you might do:
- Pick out the RSS feeds you want to monitor, including building custom feeds using Google News, Yahoo News, etc.
- Apply the process I’ve given.
- Use Thord’s badging process and code.
- Tweak your WP theme’s CSS stylesheet to present your river of news text in whatever way you like.
The result will look something like this snapshot, below, from Wisdump’s right hand navigation column (depending on your stylesheet settings). You can also modify Thord’s code to add an excerpt, though I’ll cover that later.
Thord’s code is intended for use in a navigation bar on a WordPress blog. In the next installment of this series, I will discuss presenting a river of news on a separate blog page or on the home page. In a subsequent installment, I might get into a more customized presentation.