Put RSS News Feeds to Work for You

By: Amy Linley

One of the most misunderstood files, but yet one of the most powerful on the Web, is the RSS feed sometimes known as the RSS news feed, XML feed or web feed. One form of this special XML file is the podcast, but yet many casual and even hi-tech surfers still do not understand that they are using this exciting technology invisibly every day to read news and follow blog sites.

RSS, standing for Really Simple Syndication, is not new technology. The technology and implementation was created in 1999 by Netscape. RSS is an important technology and one that you are most likely using to get news, information updates, and to follow blogs that you like from a portal page invisibly. RSS files are created in XML or Extensible Markup Language. XML is another programming language used widely on the Web, like HTML, but one that cannot be read in its raw form by a browser. Because it operates invisibly, RSS has not been recognized by mainstream web surfers as the powerhouse that it is, but, that doesn't mean that developers aren't using RSS to serve you the content and information that you want most!

Why is This Misunderstood File So Powerful?
RSS, XML feeds or RSS news feeds, as they are commonly known, create the dynamic backbone behind many of the sites that many casual web surfers use every day without even knowing that they are using this exciting technology. If you visit a personalized home page, add content to it, or even subscribe to blog with one click buttons, most likely, you are using the power of RSS news feeds already. Blogs routinely and automatically create these RSS news feeds (sometimes in a format known as Atom) and these special files allow others to auto subscribe to your content and view snippets of your information in real-time from a variety of portal news aggregator websites like My Yahoo, iGoogle, My Live, My AOL, and others.

Podcasts are Another Flavor of the RSS News Feed
Podcasts or RSS news feeds which contain audio file enclosures are just another flavor of this powerful XML file format. It is interesting to note that as of late 2007, 13% of polled Web users had heard of and were routinely downloading and playing podcasts, but fewer than 7% of the polled Web users stated that they were using RSS news feeds on a regular basis. Actually, the figure of users utilizing RSS feeds is probably much greater than 7%, but people are simply not aware that this hidden application is most likely supplying the content and information that they like to review on a daily basis.

How Can You Use RSS News Feeds Yourself?
Although it is harder for non-web designers to create and use RSS due to the technology and skill needed for implementation, most blog platforms create these special files for you automatically without your having to lift a finger. Installing auto subscribe buttons known as chicklets on your blog sidebar allows others to subscribe to your blog using your RSS news feed with one click. If you use Feedburner, they make it easy for you to allow for one click blog reader subscription by having you simply enter in your blog address and then providing a snippet of code to install on your web page. You may even be able to have Feedburner auto install a widget in your Blogspot template, without any code knowledge on your part, to help you get into the RSS syndication game fast.

When a blog reader clicks the special subscription chicklets that you have created with Feedburner's help, readers can get your blog posts in real time; every time you update your blog, directly in their chosen RSS feed reader like My Yahoo, My Live, etc. There, their page content is automatically updated with your brand new blog content. Your blog subscriber can now choose to read your blog post there, on their news portal, or they can click in to read the full post from the additionally dynamically supplied link to your blog site. That's the real power of RSS!

How Can You Get Into Podcasting Fast?
If you are using our teleconferencing tools, you can easily create an RSS news feed or podcast of your teleconference. When you have recording enabled for your teleconferences, you are automatically creating a MP3 file of your call that is stored on the AccuConference website. You can easily download this sound file, in MP3 format, to your own computer and send it to your webmaster for podcasting implementation.

Your webmaster can either just create a list of links on a page of the MP3 files and when clicked will open the browser's integrated music player. Or, your webmaster can get fancy and can create a RSS news feed to allow podcatchers (software end-users utilize to manage their podcast subscriptions and be notified of your new audio files) to auto-sense when a new audio file has been added and to automatically download the content as well as synch it to their computer or media player. There are many services on the Web that help webmasters create these special RSS podcast subscription feeds. An easy one to use is FeedHoster. Some web hosts are now even creating online applications to assist with the creation of podcast syndication feeds. Even Feedburner has gotten into the game and provides easy podcast syndication tools.

It's Time to Engage Your Viewers!
As you update your website or blog with new and interactive technology consider implementing RSS to allow your viewers more choice in how they receive your content. RSS is just one of the powerful new ways that we are getting our personalized content on the Web today and one that you can easily implement without a lot of hassle on your blog, website, and social media site. It's time to put the power of RSS to work for you!

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