RSS, or ‘Really Simple Syndication’, is a way of broadcasting/syndicating your website content to all interested parties. In other words, a way to notify people that there is new information on a website. It is a rapidly growing technology which hundreds of thousands of weblogs, news-related sites and other online publishers use every day to keep their readers connected.
By signing up for web content that has been syndicated by using RSS, people can browse through a list of new content. Typically, they can click on a URL (included with most entries) to go to a corresponding page on the website for details. For example, a news site might use RSS to syndicate headlines. Users who subscribe to the service on that news site receive an email message regularly with the latest headlines.
For the consumer, subscribing to feeds makes it possible to review a large amount of online content in a very short time. For the publisher, RSS permits instant distribution of content and ongoing communication with current and prospective customers. It also offers significant improvements to search engine rank and increased traffic from search engines.
Reading RSS Feeds
In order to read an RSS feed, you will need a news reader, also known as an aggregator. There are all kinds of news readers, some web-based and used through your browser, some downloaded and used on your desktop. Most of them are completely free but it is worth mentioning that modern browsers such as Mozilla Firefox have an RSS reader already built in. Microsoft Office Outlook 2007 and Windows Mail also include features for subscribing to RSS content, reviewing and managing RSS items, and managing subscriptions.
Once you’ve found a reader you like, you simply have to choose which sites you’d like to be kept up-to-date on. Sites that offer feeds will often display the RSS icon (see above) or a link that says ‘Subscribe to our feed’. If you click it, it will send you to their feed. You can subscribe by cutting and pasting the URL (web address) of the feed into your news reader. Each news reader will be able to tell you in more specific detail how to make the most of its features.
RSS will most likely see a surge in uptake in 2009, moving into majority usage thanks largely to built-in support in the new IE 8 browser.
Publishing RSS Feeds
If you have a website, blog, audio/video content or even photos, you can offer a feed of your content as an option. Popular blogging platforms and publishing tools like TypePad, WordPress or Blogger allow you to publish a feed automatically. There are also tools on the market that can help transform traditional web content into the right format for distribution.
There are three main advantages with RSS for both users and marketers:
- Users only get data they’ve subscribed to, thereby avoiding any spam issues
- Users can increasingly select segmentation of newsfeeds so they only receive specific topic information
- The user can receive RSS newsfeeds in a plethora of ways – with their Internet browser, an email client, desktop or web aggregator or on a mobile or handheld. This freedom to receive the feed in any number of ways means the user is in control, making recipients a more qualified audience than those receiving email marketing.
To learn more about how RSS can benefit your website, contact us.