RSS feeds (Really Simple Syndication) are a very powerful tool available to numerous businesses but often overlooked. How does your business handle RSS?
Whilst many business understand that social media provides a way to contact the masses, not all businesses recognise the power of tools which led to the birth of social media.
RSS feeds are numerous and very much widespread but making use of them is generally reserved for the tech savy. Is there anything in it for you and for your business?
This article provides a look into RSS and what it can do for you and your business.
- Getting the news
- Using the technology
- Making the most of what you have
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Getting the news
As Stephen Hawking once said “we are all now connected by the Internet, like neurons in a giant brain”.
The explosion of social media means we are presented with more information than we can hope to absorb.
Yet we still go back for more.
Social media has attempt to redress this flood of information with filters and artificial intelligence.
Yet this filtering, especially for business, can remove the right information at the right time.
As the famous American businessman Arnold H. Galsow said “Success is simple. Do what’s right, the right way at the right time.”
As websites become prettier and more visually appealing and information dense, key points can be lost.
Whittling a website down to the key information is where RSS feeds really kick in and help.
A syndicate is defined as “a group of individuals or organizations combined to promote a common interest.”
In this way, grouping up common interests to make them simpler to deal with is where RSS feeds come from.
This is technical jargon at its best.
So we start with an RSS reader. A computer program that allows you to hoover in the contents of multiple RSS feeds.
Feedly, The Old Reader, Inoreader, Feeder, Flipboard, Feedreader Online, are all examples.
Google used to have a tool Google Reader but that took you away from searching in Google, so they stopped that.
RSS has its own logo.
In the Reader, you give it RSS feeds which are just URLs.
Your Reader, goes to that feed and retrieves the latest news and info.
Your reader than let’s you filter, group, search and play with many options, including sharing links and articles easily with friends and colleagues.
Why would I use this?
What Google does to make searching the whole web, RSS does to help you consume your interest websites faster.
On Twitter, your feed gives you the people and areas you follow. LinkedIn shows you information from people you’ve connected with.
What if you could get the primary info from a multitude of websites in a “quick consume” way?
Competitor research, supplier pricing and offers, breaking news and research areas can all be syndicated into a single tool.
The benefit is that all the materials from these websites are delivered to you in real time and not having to wait for them to be reported.
It also saves you having to review a ton of websites to see if they’ve updated.
Getting some jargon out of the way
So you have an idea that websites produce RSS feeds.
Your RSS reader consumes those feeds and makes them easy to view and search.
You may like a news ticker which like on many news programs provides a constantly scrolling list of news updates along the bottom of the screen?
Snackr used to be VERY popular but has passed into legend.
Using the technology
Reading the news
It is possible as a human being to read the contents of an RSS feed, as much as your RSS reader can.
Readers make things more pretty and easier to search.
Feeds use a common Internet language called XML or eXtensible Markup Language as a basis.
Have a read yourself. Here are CNNs top news stories.
So RSS bases itself on XML as a common starting point.
There are however different evolving versions of RSS.
Which version of the Atom
RSS originally was called RDF Site Summary (Resource Description Framework).
You could read this file and have the complete structure of the website and all it’s pages in a single file. Very handy, right!
As news websites grew in popularity with the use of the Internet, the RSS file got bigger and the focus changed.
RSS began to focus on the latest changes rather than a complete listing of all pages.
RSS 1.* is the first version of RSS. It first appeared as in idea in around 1995 developing as work from Apple.
March 1999 and the Netscape team released RSS 0.91 which really caught on.
September 2002 and RSS 2.* was the second version. It is backwards compatible with RSS 1.* versions.
A competitor to RSS with a few more options and an attempt to deal with some of the shortcomings of RSS emerged.
June 2003 Atom appeared on the scene but ended up competing rather than replacing the two other RSS streams.
Moving groups of RSS feeds
When you collect a few feeds together it can be handy to treat them as a group.
You can import and export them as a group of feeds, rather than individually. This is called an OPML file.
OPML stands for Outline Processor Markup Language and is just a text file any good RSS reader can import and export.
Making the most of what you have
Feeding the masses
Some people write that RSS is dead. Why?
Well Google, Facebook and Twitter pulled their support for RSS. Why?
If you’re using RSS then you’re not generating advertising revenue!
These heavyweights want you on their site consuming the ads and generating data rather than quickly getting the info.
Google Reader started in 2005 and was one of the leading RSS readers. That was until Google stopped the project in 2013.
Despite the massive heavyweights trying to draw you into just their site, every major news station globally, along with publications, want you to read their news, so produce feeds.
CNN even categorise the feeds to help you focus your filtering even more.
In the hands of the marketing team
So what if you had a broadcast system in your business, what could you do with it?
Yep, you don’t have to fight to get top of the search engine, the most recent is always top.
In terms of pushing newsletters / information to customers / suppliers / etc. you send out in real time when you’re ready. Instead of a whole newsletter, send news as it’s relevant.
For those who use RSS readers themselves, instead of asking people to sign up to newsletters, ask them to “add your feed”. Now you can push to them permanently when you’re ready.
Need to update your staff on news and changes without them being logged into your systems, then build your own feed and ask staff to connect to it. Now they can get company news as and when you are ready to push to them. “X is staff member of the week…. great job”
If you need to push your current prices to consumers or partners, use an RSS feed and deliver in real time.
News and media outlets use RSS feeds to keep aware of other agencies and consume “articles of interest” to help bolster their own publications.
Where do I start?
Without doing much, here is the feed for this website.
So if you have something to share with a group of people consider RSS as a touch point as there are millions of users globally who will consume your RSS feeds.