RSS – What is it? Should I use it in my business?

Chances are, you’ve seen the effects of RSS on the web for several years – you just didn’t know it. You may even have seen this symbol on the right and wondered what it meant.

This site is RSS enabled –  view my RSS feed

So what is RSS?

Wikipedia – the online encyclopedia says this: RSS (abbreviation for Really Simple Syndication) is a family of Web feed formats used to publish frequently updated works—such as blog entries, news headlines, audio, and video—in a standardized format.[2]

In non-geeky terms, RSS can be described as a FORMAT of PACKAGING web-based content that makes it EASY for distrubution across the web.

It’s way of tagging and labelling things so that they can be easily and AUTOMATICALLY found, delivered and manipulated.

Still confused? A metaphor may help

Think of a website as a massive warehouse with hundreds of parts bins.  In each bin there is an item. It may be a news article. It may be a video. It may be an audio file recording of your favourite radio broadcast.  The problem is, the bins aren’t labelled well and arrayed in a fashion that let’s you know what’s new.

Now, in the OLD days of the web, if you wanted to know what new parts had arrived, you had to physically visit the warehouse and look in the parts bins.  You couldn’t even delegate the task to a friend because they didn’t really know what you were looking for.

With RSS technology, the parts bins are labelled and time stamped.  You can now go to the warehouse and quickly find what you are looking for.  Better still, imagine a friend says, “Hey! Anytime you like, I’ll visit the warehouse and bring you back anything that is new.”  These friends are RSS readers and they will go out and visit hundreds of warehouses (websites) at your command and bring you back the new content.  They’ll even repackage it and list it as an item in your warehouse (website) if you like.

So now you don’t have to visit your favourite 30 websites every day in order to see if anything new has arrived –  if they post their new content in an RSS enabled format, your reader (friend) will go get them and neatly delivery you the content – for free!

So should I use it in my business?

That really depends on the market you are in.

As a RSS creator –

  • Do you have news and content that you update your website with regularly? Should you?
  • Would you’re customers and clients benefit from getting your news sent directly to their readers or email addresses (another possible mode of delivery)?

As a RSS consumer –

  • Is emerging industry and market news is important to you? – Yes, learn it and use it
  • Are you spending too much time visiting sites for news and contect that could be delivered to you automatically? Yes

Remember – techology for technology’s sake in business is a waste of time and money – but if it saves you money, stress or time – I suggest you do it… if only for a while to see if it’s a sustainable practice.

I’m available for further consultation and implementation on these and other web 2.0 questions.  email me at davidtensen@gmail.com

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