The internet has opened up a whole Aladdin’s cave of information which is constantly being updated and added to – it has also revolutionised the way in which we find and share it. However, keeping up to date with all that is going on can be time consuming and, in many case, nigh on impossible.
So what would be better? How about having all the latest news and information from the sources you want to hear from delivered directly to you? This would save a huge amount of time as you wouldn’t need to keep revisiting all the websites that interest you to see what new information they’ve added.
This is where RSS comes in. RSS offers a simple way of gathering and sharing information without all of that time consuming activity involved in actually going to look for it. All the latest news comes to you rather than you having to go looking for it.
So what is RSS, again?
RSS means different things to different people, and I don’t just mean what the acronym stands for – that’s Really Simple Syndication in case you were wondering.
You and I are looking for an easy (and preferably anonymous) way of keeping up to date with all the latest information from sites we’re interested in – a way to skim through it in our own time, reading items which are of interest and passing over the rest. With RSS, we can get it all in one place and be safe in the knowledge that all this comes without us having to part with our email address and that nagging concern that we might have just opened ourselves up to yet more offers of “enhancements” and “ebay security checks” .
For publishers of websites and blogs, they just want a way to distribute and share their latest news and information with individuals, sites and directories who have requested it. The fact that this happens automatically without running the gauntlet of touchy spam filters is great and the fact that people feel comfortable about subscribing because it is anonymous is even better.
Looks like a Win-Win situation to me.
How do I use RSS?
Ok, sounds good but what do I need if I want to use RSS?
Well, remembering that RSS is really just a way of distributing or collecting information, we need two things to use it: some information that we want to subscribe to (an RSS Feed) and then something to use to collect it and read it (an RSS reader).
Let’s look at RSS readers first – RSS readers can either sit on your PC or can be part of a website online. (Think of it a bit like your email programs: Outlook is a program on your PC, whereas Hotmail is a website online.) Recently, the most popular ones have been online so we’ll concentrate on those – Google Reader and Bloglines lead the way and now you also have the option of using readers which come as part of the Internet Explorer and Firefox browsers too.
To start, I’d probably recommend that you pop along to Google Reader – you’ll need a Google Account if you don’t already have one but it’s quick and easy to set up and then you’ll soon be ready to start selecting what information you want to receive. You do that by adding RSS Feeds.
How to find RSS feeds?
This is getting easier and easier for us, partly because the browsers that we use have started to highlight the fact that they are there. Basically, you want to be on the look out for some of the symbols below, all of which do the same thing – they let you know that there is an RSS feed waiting for you!
Just click on the image – if you see a page of text then copy the URL (the address of the page) and then go to your RSS Reader, click on “Add Subscription” or “Add Feed” and paste it in. That’s all you have to do. If you see a more friendly page of images and some text, then it’s even easier – just follow the instructions there!
Well, in terms of anything technical, that’s it. Once you’ve subscribed to the RSS feed, or rather the information from the site, you just sit back and let it do all the chasing and collecting for you, delivering the new stuff from that site to you – and the website will never know it’s you. Safe secure and instant. If you want it to stop, then that’s a simple click of the mouse, deleting the feed in your RSS reader.
Using RSS really is a massive time saver – you get the information delivered to you, saving all the hassle of having to revisit your sites in case there’s some thing new. All you have to do is decide what you want to read and delete the rest. And for publishers, you get to deliver your news securely to people who really want to receive it, but remember that the onus is on you to keep the quality high because, if not, they’re gone!
I hope that has helped but if you’ve still got questions then leave a comment or drop me a line and I’ll try to help.
Bloggers / website owners – if you’d like to use this on your site then please feel free. You can even modify it if you’d like. However, if you would link back to Better Business Blogging to return the favour then that would be great. Something like “Thanks to Better Business Blogging for this RSS overview” would be great.
1. RSS - An Introduction: So, what is RSS all about then?
2. RSS Benefits for businesses, bloggers and publishers
3. Benefits of RSS for users & subscribers
4. Ways to increase your RSS subscribers
5. Marketing with RSS
6. Using Feedburner to optimise your RSS