WARNING! RSS May Impact Your Online Behavior (In a Good Way)

Even though the adoption of RSS is improving, many people still give us a look of uncertainty and confusion when the conversation about using RSS (Really Simple Syndication) arises. Here are a handful of things you need to know about RSS and why it may actually improve your experience (and marketing savvy) online.

  • RSS is really about information
    Don’t let another acronym get in the way. There is no special coding or programming language you need to know to “get” RSS as a consumer of information. Just remember that RSS is an easy way for any website publisher to send/distribute information to the masses.
  • But RSS is also about delivery
    When a movie production company releases a movie, there are several delivery channels designed to get that movie to an audience: the big screen, video rental outlets, catalogs, wholesalers etc etc. RSS is the Netflix of delivery channels. You get your movie (in this case, information) right to your mailbox (in this case, your computer) when you want it (when you access it) and don’t pay for shipping (RSS is free, see below).
  • That means you need a DVD player (i.e., An RSS Reader)
    You wouldn’t subscribe to Netflix if you didn’t own a DVD player and RSS makes no sense if you don’t have a way to (literally) get it. You do need an RSS Reader (aggregator) to grab RSS feeds (from publishers). Some of the more popular RSS Readers, include Google Reader, Bloglines and Netvibes.
  • RSS Readers are really easy to use
    I promise that it takes less than 5 minutes to actually register for an account with one of the websites mentioned above. In most cases, you simply need an email address and a password to sign up and it probably takes less than 30 minutes to figure out how to add a website’s RSS feed to your account (so you can read it regularly).
  • RSS is convenient
    Instead of going to 20 different websites and blogs to get the information you are interested in, you can use your RSS reader to aggregate each site’s RSS feeds and be able to read it when you want to (or have the time to). Best of all, you can quickly scan and select what information is the most important to you (instead of clicking page to page). Think of it as being able to open your newspaper to the exact article and section you wanted to read, without thumbing through all of the pages.
  • RSS is everywhere
    Not only can you subscribe to your favorite blogs and news headlines, but the widespread adoption of RSS by companies now allows people to get information like:
  • Real Estate Listings
  • Security and Virus Alerts
  • Travel Deals
  • Shopping Specials
  • RSS Readers are being integrated everywhere
    A year ago, Read/Write Web published an article forecasting larger adoption rates for RSS, primarily because major Internet players like Microsoft, Yahoo and Google were all integrating RSS feed capability into their traditional services/technologies. The interesting thing is that even as the functionality becomes more commonplace, it’s less about even knowing you are using RSS. According to a Marketing Sherpa report in early 2006, roughly 50% of the people using RSS were even aware of what they were using.
  • RSS is free
    Not only is it convenient, but the only cost is the little time to setup your account and add the information you want to see in your reader.
  • Want to more information specific to RSS?
    Here are a few links of interest that provide additional background, technical details and further information.
  • Feed 101 from FeedBurner
  • What Is RSS? RSS Explained
  • Introduction to RSS

In the next few weeks, we’ll take a look at some of the more popular RSS Readers (Google Reader, Bloglines and Netvibes), including what the pros and cons are, basic setup and configuration and some advanced features. But don’t let that stop you from checking them out, getting used to how RSS works and how you can make it a valuable tool for being successful in your online marketing strategy.

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