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Everybody's Talking About RSS

By Merle
Posted Saturday, July 17, 2004

What is RSS and how to use it to your advantage

No matter if you call it "Really Simple Syndication" or "Rich Site Summary," RSS is definitely all the rage right now online. With email filtering, IP blocking and the newest "Can Spam Act," everyone's scampering for a better way to get their messages across to their subscribers.

With RSS, the customers don't have to come to your website or open their inboxes to get your latest news and updates. Once they subscribe to your "feed," the news comes to them automatically. But wait; I'm getting ahead of myself here. Let's get back to the basics.

RSS is an XML based format that originated with Netscape. To use RSS, you must first create what's called a "feed." This is basically a file which you upload to your server. RSS feeds end with .rss rdf or .xml extensions and can be created by hand. An RSS file needs to include the headlines, links, and summaries of the content you want to distribute.

Once a feed has been created, other computers can subscribe to your "channel" and read your updates using what's called an "Aggregator" or "news reader."

Most feeds consist of a link with a short summary to click on to read the entire article. To let people know your site offers an RSS feed, you place an orange XML icon on your site linked to the url of your feed. You'll also want to list your feed with various RSS search engines that exist just for the purpose of collecting a database of feeds.

So what kinds of things can you turn into feeds? I thought you'd never ask. Any area of your site that changes on a regular basis is a good candidate. Things like newsletters, news announcements, site updates, anything that you update regularly.

If you have no idea how to create a feed, this site will do it for you:(http://MyRSS.com) .

Just type in the HTML page you wish to make a feed from and it converts it to RSS for you automatically.

Another great tool that will create a RSS feed for you is (http://feedster.com/builder.php?next=cfintro) . This works especially well if you need a feed of your third party hosted Blog, for example Blogger.

There's also a script that will convert any HTML doc into RSS -- Go to (http://kalsey.com/tools/blogfeed/) . If you'd like to validate your feed, you can do so at(http://feedvalidator.org) .

A News Reader is simply a software program that brings what's new straight to you in an organized, easy to read format.

Let's take a look at some of your options when it comes to readers and what's available to you.

1) RSSReader: (http://RssReader.com)

Free; it collects news in the background and warns you with a popup in your system tray when there's new information available.

2) Ampheta Desk:(http://AmphetaDesk.com)

Free, cross platform aggregator.

3) WildGrape: (http://WildGrape.net)

For Windows; reads headlines from thousands of sources. Free.

4) Sharp Reader: (http://SharpReader.net)

Free reader for the .Net Framework created by Luke Hutteman

5) Newz Crawler: (http://NewzCrawler.com)

Web News Reader and browser. There's a two week free trial. You can purchase it for only 4.95.

6) Feed Demon: (http://FeedDemon.com)

Download a free trial or purchase for only 9. Written by Nick Bradbury, creator of Top Style and Hoesite. Feed Demon is loaded with great features.

7) Feed Reader: (http://FeedReader.com)

Freeware; Windows app that supports all RSS feeds and formats.

8) Blog Lines: (http://Bloglines.com)

A web based Blog and newsfeed reader. No software to install to read your feeds; just visit the site and log into your account.

9) Awasu: (http://Awasu.com)

Free Windows news reader that integrates with Internet Explorer.

10) Feed Readers: (http://FeedReaders.com)

Lockergnome's offering in the news reader field. Seven day free trial. Two versions available: pro or standard with pricing ranging from .00 to 5.00.

If these options aren't enough, you'll want to check out the full list of readers over at (http://www.lights.com/weblogs/rss.html) If you'd like to have feeds sent directly to your inbox instead of downloading a reader, check out (http://rss.blogstreet.com/asp-rssbin/auth_rss)

Once you download a reader you need feeds to subscribe to. Check out (http://Syndic8.com) for thousands of choices.

So now that you understand the technology, what are the advantages and disadvantages of RSS? Here's a big one: your subscribers don't have to give up their email addresses, which is great for those with privacy concerns. RSS puts control of subscriptions directly in the hands of your users. When they wish to unsub- scribe they just delete the feed from their reader. It also reduces the risk of Spam accusations. If you're an ezine publisher and you don't have to worry about getting your messages past all of the filters in place by users and ISP's.

The disadvantages are that you cannot include personalization, and you have no way of knowing how many people are subscribing to your feed. Also, at this time, RSS may seem a bit complicated to the novice user and it has not become widely adopted by Web users.

If you haven't looked into RSS, now's the time to consider this technology as another avenue for reaching out to your website visitors, and keeping them informed.

About the Author
Merle is an internet marketer, promotion consultant and ezine publisher. Visit her sites at(http://www.mcpromotions.com/),(http://www.merlesworld.com/) and(http://www.ezineadauction.com/).