What is RSS?
RSS has been plagued by geeky terminology in the past. We’re going to explain it here in business terms — and why it’s still important.
Usually when someone gives a definition of RSS it reads something like this: The acronym “RSS” stands for Rich Site Summary or Really Simple Syndication.
Uh, that really helps explain RSS, doesn’t it? 🙂
We prefer to explain it this way: RSS feeds give readers a method to keep up with their favorite blogs, news sites and other websites. Anyone can choose the sites they wish to subscribe to, and then get updates in one centralized location.
In essence, RSS allows the content to come to you. That means you do not actually have to go to each blog or website individually when you want to view new updates they’ve published.
What do I use RSS for?
That depends on whether you are consuming content created by other sites, or you are the website or blog owner.
As a consumer of content:
Much like magazine or newspaper subscriptions, RSS brings the content to you as the person reading it. You’re not limited to reading in a feed reader. For instance, using a tool like IFTTT or FeedBurner, you can trigger an email to be sent to you whenever your favorite site updates.
For business owners, there are plenty of blogs and news sites, such as Small Business Trends, that contain useful information and tips that you can subscribe to. We give instructions for how to subscribe a little later (below).
As a website owner or blogger:
For bloggers and website owners, RSS is a good Web marketing tool.
It is a means to create a loyal repeat following. It helps you grow your site by keeping you top of mind with your readers. Here at Small Business Trends we have many thousands of subscribers who get a daily email of fresh content we’ve published, via our RSS feed. That’s in addition to subscribers to our weekly newsletters.
As a blog owner or website owner, it’s up to you to create and publicize your RSS feed. Most blogging software makes this easy on the blog owner, because the software automatically creates RSS feeds. WordPress, for example, is one content management system that automatically creates an RSS feed for the site.
Here’s an interesting factoid about WordPress and RSS feeds. You can generate a feed for any page in your WordPress site simply by adding “/feed” at the end of any URL in a WordPress site.
You can also update your social networks (e.g., Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook) automatically from an RSS feed using a tool like TwitterFeed. This saves you time.
|As a Content Consumer||RSS simplifies content consumption. It acts like a subscription service, delivering updates from your favorite websites, blogs, and news sources to a centralized location, eliminating the need to visit each site individually. You can even set up tools like IFTTT or FeedBurner to receive email notifications when your preferred sites update.|
|For Business Owners||Business owners can use RSS to stay informed and gather valuable insights. Subscribing to relevant blogs and news sites, such as Small Business Trends, allows them to access useful information and tips conveniently. Instructions for subscribing are often provided on these sites.|
|As a Website Owner or Blogger||RSS serves as a powerful web marketing tool for bloggers and website owners. It helps in building a loyal and engaged following. Many subscribers receive daily email digests of fresh content via RSS feeds. Popular content management systems like WordPress automatically generate RSS feeds for websites. You can also automate social media updates using tools like TwitterFeed, saving time and expanding your reach.|
As a consumer of content, how do I subscribe?
RSS feeds can be read using an RSS reader or reader app. Reader examples include Feedly, The Old Reader, and NewsBlur. There are also desktop and mobile apps that deliver RSS feeds such as NetNewsWire and Flipboard. Get Prismatic is another interesting reader app.
One of the most popular readers, Google Reader, is in the process of being shut down.
Once you’ve chosen a reader app or service to use, you can then choose blogs and other sites to subscribe to. Each reader has a slightly different process for subscribing.
You’ll need to find a Web URL for the RSS feed. The easiest way to tell if a website has an RSS feed is to find the orange icon — pictured above — somewhere on a website page (often in the header, sidebar or footer). On some sites, such as large news sites, you might need to find a page with “Subscribe” options, as the site may offer different RSS feeds for different types of content.
Then right click on the RSS icon and choose “copy link address” or similar command.
Many sites offer RSS feeds through FeedBurner, a service of Google that makes RSS feeds prettier and more user-friendly. FeedBurner-converted feeds often contain a link that will allow you to select your reader and subscribe with one click.
You can also subscribe to receive daily emails. FeedBurner offers a service that converts a site’s RSS feed into an email (other services also do this, including FeedBlitz and AWeber). Many people choose to consume RSS feeds this way, as a daily email update that comes right to their inbox — instead of consuming feeds through a feedreader program.
Is RSS dead? No!
Google has not invested in improving FeedBurner, its RSS “convert-to-pretty” service, in a long time. Then Google made the decision to shut down its popular Google Reader service.
Those two factors have led some to predict the death of RSS itself. For instance, at One North, one person writes, “I’ve always had a hard time convincing people outside our industry to use RSS. The best explanation I could offer was to compare it to Twitter.”
It may be true that end users are not subscribing to RSS feeds in feedreaders as much these days.
But it’s also true that RSS is everywhere whether people realize it or not.
One way to think of RSS is like plumbing. It works behind the scenes. It’s the pipes that make content portable on the Web. RSS is still a key way that content published on one site can be seen (either in full or perhaps with just a headline and short snippet) in other places. For instance, RSS is how a lot of content gets fed to social media sites like Twitter and LinkedIn in the first place.
Popular publications like Small Business Trends get considerable traffic from people who read in feedreaders or emails. A recent 30-day period saw 292,000 views of RSS content, and 449,000 clicks back to the site. Not too shabby for something some claim is dying … .
Keep in mind, that’s based on FeedBurner statistics. FeedBurner mainly tracks Google Reader stats — and email subscribers through FeedBurner — these days. Over 90% of our subscribers according to FeedBurner are on Google Reader. But many newer services don’t appear to be tracked. If that’s true, then the impact of RSS is understated.
Some worry about scraper sites picking up your content and using it via RSS feeds. John Battelle, Chairman of Federated Media (an advertising partner of ours) attempted to shut off full feeds for his content several months ago. He then relented based on his audience feedback — the article and its comments are good reading. Just let me point out, there are other ways to scrape content besides RSS, and getting rid of your feed probably will not stop them.
Despite rumors of its death, RSS is alive and well on the Web today — working behind the scenes. One day it may be replaced. But until there’s a widespread and easy-to-use replacement format, RSS is still important.
The Evolution of RSS and Its Enduring Relevance
RSS (Really Simple Syndication) has been a foundational technology on the web for many years. Despite its geeky terminology and the occasional declaration of its demise, RSS continues to serve essential functions in content distribution and consumption. Let’s explore the evolution of RSS and why it remains relevant:
- Understanding RSS in Simple Terms: RSS can be baffling for those unfamiliar with it. Rather than diving into technical jargon like “Rich Site Summary,” let’s break it down in plain language. RSS is a technology that allows you to subscribe to your favorite websites, blogs, and news sources. It brings their updates to you in one place, much like a digital magazine or newspaper subscription.
- Consuming Content with Ease: As a content consumer, RSS simplifies your online reading experience. It eliminates the need to visit each website individually to check for updates. Instead, you receive notifications or digests containing new content, making it convenient to stay informed.
- Benefits for Business Owners: For business owners, bloggers, and content creators, RSS plays a vital role in web marketing. It fosters reader loyalty by keeping your content readily accessible. Subscribers receive updates without effort, increasing your site’s visibility and engagement.
- Automatic Social Sharing: RSS isn’t limited to readers; it also powers automatic social sharing. Tools like TwitterFeed allow you to share your content on social media platforms, saving you time and expanding your reach.
- Discovering RSS Feeds: Subscribing to RSS feeds is straightforward. Look for the familiar orange RSS icon on websites. Clicking it reveals the feed URL, which you can copy and paste into your RSS reader. Many sites also offer simplified subscription options through services like FeedBurner.
- RSS in a Changing Landscape: Google’s decision to shut down Google Reader and neglect FeedBurner has led some to question RSS’s future. While fewer end users may use dedicated feed readers, RSS remains an essential web plumbing tool. It enables content portability across the web and powers content distribution to social media platforms.
- Content Syndication: Think of RSS as the plumbing behind content syndication. It ensures that content published on one site can be shared in multiple places. Major publications, including Small Business Trends, receive substantial traffic through RSS. For instance, during a recent 30-day period, our RSS content garnered 292,000 views and 449,000 clicks back to our site.
- Challenges and Scraper Sites: RSS isn’t without challenges, such as scraper sites republishing content. Some content creators have attempted to limit RSS by reducing full feeds or eliminating them entirely. However, RSS isn’t the sole method for scraping content, and its importance persists.
- The Ongoing Role of RSS: While RSS may evolve or eventually be replaced, it continues to serve an important role. As long as there’s no widespread and user-friendly alternative, RSS remains a key technology in the content distribution ecosystem.
|Understanding RSS in Simple Terms||RSS, or Really Simple Syndication, is a technology that simplifies content consumption. It allows users to subscribe to websites, blogs, and news sources, delivering their updates to a single location, similar to a digital magazine or newspaper subscription.|
|Consuming Content with Ease||As a content consumer, RSS enhances the online reading experience. It eliminates the need to visit individual websites to check for updates. Instead, users receive notifications or digests containing new content, providing convenience in staying informed.|
|Benefits for Business Owners||RSS is a vital tool for business owners, bloggers, and content creators. It contributes to reader loyalty by ensuring content accessibility. Subscribers effortlessly receive updates, increasing a site's visibility and engagement.|
|Automatic Social Sharing||RSS powers automatic social sharing, extending its utility beyond readers. Tools like TwitterFeed enable content creators to share their content on social media platforms, saving time and expanding their audience reach.|
|Discovering RSS Feeds||Subscribing to RSS feeds is a straightforward process. Users can identify RSS feeds by locating the orange RSS icon on websites. Clicking the icon reveals the feed URL, which can be copied and pasted into an RSS reader. Simplified subscription options are also available through services like FeedBurner.|
|RSS in a Changing Landscape||Despite Google's decision to shut down Google Reader and neglect FeedBurner, RSS remains a vital web plumbing tool. It facilitates content portability across the web and enables content distribution to social media platforms.|
|Content Syndication||RSS serves as the plumbing behind content syndication, ensuring that content published on one site can be shared in multiple locations. Major publications receive substantial traffic through RSS, demonstrating its significance in content distribution.|
|Challenges and Scraper Sites||RSS is not without challenges, including scraper sites that republish content. Some content creators have attempted to limit RSS by reducing full feeds or eliminating them. However, RSS is not the sole method for content scraping, and its importance persists.|
|The Ongoing Role of RSS||While RSS may evolve or eventually be replaced, it continues to play a crucial role in content distribution. As long as there is no widespread and user-friendly alternative, RSS remains a key technology in the content distribution ecosystem.|
RSS Photo via Shutterstock