Tracking topics on the Web can be a painful process, due to the amount of noise and difficulty of filtering it. So to help you out, we’ve selected and categorized the leading topic-tracking tools. This is based on the discussion that arose from our earlier post about topic feeds, which are RSS feeds for keywords or phrases.
During the process of analyzing these topic tracking tools, we discovered – to our surprise – that not many of these services output results as RSS. Some of the leading apps in this field require users to visit their service. With that in mind, here is our full list and analysis.
Top Topic Trackers (Updated List)
Feed and/or Email Services
These are services that output RSS and/or other formats, such as email notification. We think this type of topic feed tool is the most flexible, particularly when it outputs RSS. With RSS feed output, you can do further filtering or grouping of the feeds inside an RSS reader like Google Reader or Netvibes.
The most common such tool is probably Google Alerts. However we were impressed with Topikality and PubSub, which both output RSS. Swamii and Woofeed don’t output RSS (we wish they would), but at least they offer email notifications.
- Google Alerts
- Yahoo Pipes
- Swamii (just email, no RSS)
- Woofeed (just email or mobile, no RSS)
These services don’t output RSS or emails for topic searches. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, it just means you have to visit the destination site to see results every day. I’ve been impressed recently with the user interface and features of LazyFeed, Regator and My6Sense – they’re all worth checking out.
- Ensembli (offers email digests)
These services show what is popular or new amongst their respective communities. There are many other such services, so the following is just a sample:
- Twitter search (e.g. for hashtags)
- Delicious feeds
Similar to social filter services, only these have a specific community driving the output of stories. Again, the below is a small sample:
- Hacker News
Topic-focused blogs (such as ReadWriteWeb!) are great for tracking topics on the Web. In recent times, light blogging services have offered an easy way for individuals or small groups of people to curate information on a given topic.
Aggregators / Portals
These services aggregate, or group, news and other stories around a specific topic.
- Google Fast-Flip feeds
We couldn’t easily classify these ones, but maybe you can in the comments!
- Google Trends
We hope this post is a starter for you to explore topic feeds. Let us know what apps we missed in the comments, as well as your thoughts on our categorization.