I mentioned the acronym ‘RSS’ to a client the other day and she stopped me mid-sentence and asked: what is RSS, what does it stand for and is it useful?
Like many people, my client was aware that RSS exists, but doesn’t quite know what to make of it.
As a diehard RSS fan, I happily digressed from the topic and gave her a lengthy spiel about it…because I love RSS and I think it deserves to be used much more extensively.
RSS, or Really Simple Syndication, is just that: a simple technology that allows content producers to syndicate their news items, articles and stories to their audience via a coded news feed; and content consumers (ie. me and you) to aggregate and read content from multiple news feeds in the one place, using one of the many feed readers available on the web.
Why is this so good for content consumers like you and me? Instead of having to visit a bunch of different websites each day to read your favourite blogs or news, you can read them all in the one place. Rather than having to ‘pull’ the content manually from a bookmarked website, the content is ‘pushed’ automatically to your feed reader, in much the same way as you receive email to your inbox. All you need to do is open up your feed reader and — voila — any new content from your favourite sites will be right there waiting for you to read.
Unfortunately, RSS has been given a bum rap and is grossly under-utilised. Maybe it’s the unfriendly acronym or the nasty, underlying XML code – at first glance, it seems technical, geeky and inaccessible to the average layperson. But it’s actually pretty simple. And it’s really, really useful.
Here’s how to take advantage of RSS:
Get yourself a feed reader. I recommend Feedly. It’s a great tool, it’s free and you can use it in a browser or on any mobile device.
Find some feeds to add to your reader. Most readers (including Feedly) have an in-built search function that allows to search for feeds, but you can also find feeds all over the web where you see the symbol below – click on the icon and you’ll either be prompted to add the feed to your reader or be taken to the raw feed page in your browser (in the latter case, just copy the URL and add it manually to your feed reader).
Enjoy all your favourite content in the one place. No more visiting dozens of websites every day! When you’re done subscribing to feeds, your feed reader should look something like this: