Web Tip: A Quick RSS Primer

January 24, 2008

We recognize that there are, among the web-surfing population, both experts and novices. And it is in the spirit of helping the novices as well as the experts that we tackle this month's Web Tip.

Everyone has a website they wish they could check up on more frequently. Unfortunately, in our busy lives, we often end up missing updates and interesting headlines on our favorite sites that we would prefer not to miss. In the corporate world, a wealth of industry expertise could be gleaned from reading blogs and other sources of cutting-edge information... only if there were enough time!

That's where RSS comes in.

RSS, short for "Really Simple Syndication," is a way to track frequently updated web content from multiple websites in a single place.

Using an RSS aggregator, or "feed reader", and "subscribing" to a syndicated RSS feed, the content you've requested will all be listed in your aggregator of choice. Your aggregator provides a one stop shop for interesting content of relevance to you. Most news sites, major blogs (and the not so major ones), photography sites, even The Weather Channel, feature an RSS or syndication option, generally indicated by the orange square RSS logo (seen here).

RSS feeds can add convenience to your life. Instead of searching for news about the approaching presidential election, have the articles collected automatically by your aggregator. Don't worry about trying to remember to check every friend and family member's blog for new entries. You'll know whether new content has posted the minute you open your aggregator. Even if you find yourself curious about a celebrity's latest hijinks, no worries... guilty pleasure gossip sites offer RSS too!

From a web site marketing perspective, having an RSS feed on your web site can help drive traffic back to your site, as well as provide a sleek way to distribute content to large numbers who may have an interest in your content. Of course, your site must have good, updated content for this to be of any value... and that's a different topic entirely!

Google and Yahoo both offer aggregators, Google Reader and MyYahoo, respectively. NetVibes is another great option. The Firefox Internet browser comes with Live Bookmarks built in, and Outlook 2007 has its own built-in reader. All of these options are free.

Find an aggregator you like and give RSS feeds a try. Why not start by subscribing to Digett's blog feed here?