rss - RSS in a Nutshell - What It Is and What It Does
by Chris Malta
Really Simple Syndication -
That's what the letters stand for, but RSS is actually just a web feed format, or a means of transporting data across the web. It's often specified in XML (extensible markup language), which is simply the way the data inside a feed is structured. Says Molander, "Think of RSS as an Internet plumbing system and XML as a standard way to transmit and receive data through those pipes."
You may already be using RSS feeds and not even realize it. If you get news updates through an information portal like Yahoo, Google, or BlogLines, those updates are powered by RSS behind the scenes. Like your plumbing system, it's in the background doing its job - you aren't supposed to see it.
A Multi-tasking Medium
Currently, RSS feeds are mostly used for syndicated data, like news or sports stats, made available by publishers. But online marketers are starting to catch on to the possibilities this technology poses:
- With RSS feeds, you can alert your customers whenever you're running a special or adding a new product to your line-up. They can opt-in to receive updates and discussions about the products, in real time, so they're not relying on receiving numerous emails.
- You can attach almost any kind of information to an RSS feed - podcasts, Internet radio transmissions, blogs, etc. Some blogging services have made it as effortless as clicking a button to generate a URL that notifies users whenever you publish something new.
- For your customers who prefer to consume their news the old-fashioned way, you can use "feed blitzes" to turn your feeds into emails. They receive the same instant information access; it's just delivered in a different form.
There are a number of companies that can help you publish feeds, and advertise through those channels.
Right now, it's possible to monitor how many people are signing up for feeds, but it's hard to obtain any relevant statistics about them.
Here are some great resources for learning about and utilizing feeds:
- SyndicationGumption.com helps you assess and understand RSS audiences.
- TechCrunch.com gives you the latest news on who’s adopting RSS feeds and how they’re using them to innovate.
- MarketingStudies.net provides marketers with tips for capitalizing on RSS, as well as the latest developments surrounding it.
You can offer your customers RSS feeds as an alternative to traditional emails. Molander explains, "It's a deliverability issue. We're in a time where distributing desired or valuable information on the web is actually somewhat difficult, specifically for advertisers." Unlike emails, which are often lost, or picked off by spam blockers, RSS brings news directly to your users. It's 100% opt-in, so you know your users are not only getting it, but that they really want it as well. Once they subscribe to your feed, literally nothing stands in the way of your delivering it to them.