By Stephen Bucaro
What is RSS?
RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. RSS is a document in a standardized
XML format that Webmasters and Bloggers use to inform Internet users that they have
added some new content to their Website or blog. Syndication means that other
websites can read your RSS file and use it to inform their visitors about content on
your Website. This is a great asset to both the websites using your RSS file and to
you, since syndication drives traffic to your Website or blog.
An RSS file, sometimes called a "feed" or "channel", is written in XML. XML
(Extensible Markup Language), is a code that uses tags similar to HTML, except whereas
HTML tags define how to display data, XML tags describe the data. Having a standard
format allows RSS reader applications to understand and publish the information in
your RSS file. For example, an RSS reader application knows the link to your new
content is found within the <link></link> tags.
Does RSS Replace eMail?
Internet users can subscribe to RSS feeds using RSS reader applications, Websites
called "Aggrigators", or even in their Web browser. If they lose interest in a particular
RSS feed, they can unsubscribe in the same application. This is far easier than subscribing,
and especially unsubscribing, to a newsletter. Internet users have more control over their
subscriptions. They request or "pull" the feed as they like. Whereas once they subscribe
to a newsletter, each issue of the newsletter is "pushed" to the subscriber.
Knowing that some newsletters make it difficult to unsubscribe, many newsletter
subscribers "unsubscribe" by marking the newsletter as "SPAM". Then each future issue
of the newsletter goes to the users email SPAM bucket to get automatically deleted.
The publisher never knows that their newsletter goes directly to the users SPAM bucket,
and since they charge for advertising based on subscriber numbers, they don't want to
know. For this reason many Internet experts say eMail is dead.
However, I disagree with these experts. If a newsletter contains information that is
truly of value to its subscribers, and if that newsletter publisher frequently scrubs
their subscriber list, then subscribers will look forward to each issue, and not mark
it as SPAM, and the newsletter's advertisers will get good value for their money. Good
newsletters will never be obsolete, and there's nothing to say you can't publish a
newsletter and an RSS feed with the same information.
Blogs and RSS
A blog (short for Web log) is basically a Website that is updated frequently.
A typical blog is updated daily, although some blogs post hundreds of updates daily and
others are updated only monthly. The number of blogs exploded when free and easy-to-use
blogging websites such as Google's Blogger
and WordPress came along. Now there are
over 126 million blogs on the Internet with topics from adoption to zombies
and everything in-between.
RSS was designed specifically to keep track of updates to these blogs. In fact the
applications on blogging websites automatically create RSS feeds and update those
feeds each time the blog writer enters a new post. That's not to say a regular old-fashioned
Website can't use an RSS feed to syndicate its updates, it's just not usually a
built-in function. In fact there are many RSS feeds that are not related to any blog
or Website, they're just RSS feeds where all the content is contained within the feed.
RSS as a Marketing Tool
The primary way RSS serves as a marketing tool is to syndicate information about
content on your Website or blog. This syndication drives traffic to your Website or
blog. Increased traffic produces increased revenue from the advertising on your
Website or blog. But RSS provides many more marketing opportunities.