You’ve heard it before, but it’s still true
RSS: Personal News Aggregators Promise To Alter Web Use is a very brief article that offers basics on how automatic syndication of content over the internet is changing the internet and business landscapes. Two trends that really began to gain steam in the 90sâ€”decentralization and mass customizationâ€”show no signs of stopping. The idea of a centralized portal that decides what content you’ll see isn’t exactly dead, yet. But its time is over, which even the king of all portals recognizes.
Using a technology called RSS (Really Simple Syndication), people subscribe for free to RSS feeds. Feeds are gathered together (aggregated) from multiple sites and displayed on your computer using special feed-reading software (the news aggregators mentioned above) or even other websites, like Bloglines.
Instead of you having to visit sites, they come to you through a feed reader. You can read articles without spending time bouncing all around the web.
That’s niceâ€”what the heck does it do?
What kind of information do people access via RSS? Everything from News to blog posts to audio shows called podcasts (as in Apple’s iPod music playerâ€”more on this next week). You can subscribe to feeds for many different kinds of content:
- news headlines of all different kinds
- your favorite blogs
- applications yet to be invented
Yeah, but this is just for computer nerds
The number of people using RSS is growing very quickly and it will soon become mainstream. No special knowledge is required to use RSS feeds or RSS feed reading software, and it will only get easier to use. As it gets easier to use, more and more people will adopt it. Advertisers are now looking at RSS as a means to serve targeted advertising. RSS can be used to distribute and serve content of any type:
- news headlines
- blog postings
- specials of the day from your restaurant
- stock market data
- real estate properties listings
- announcements on the company intranet
In fact, since I first wrote this post in 2005, RSS has indeed become quite mainstream, with sites like Alltop becoming popular. Every major (and most minor) news organizations use RSS feeds to keep people up to date on news as it breaks.
How do I learn more and get started?
If you’re new to this whole RSS thing and want to see what it’s all about, I recommend you get yourself a free Google account and try Google Reader for a couple weeks. Another fun possibility is Netvibes. Google Reader and Netvibes are very different from each other. Google Reader is a continuous “river of news” that looks somewhat like an email inbox. Netvibes puts content in little boxes you can customize and move around on the page (pretty fun).
Is RSS good for marketing your business?
From a business perspective, RSS feeds are like having a permanent link with your customers so that you’re always at the top of their awareness. It’s kind of like what commercials promised so long ago, but could never really deliver, simply because commercials push and interrupt and annoy the very people they hope to persuade.
Any blog software you use generates RSS feeds. You don’t have to do anything special to make this happen. Feed readers can detect the feeds automatically. To add a feed, for example, you only need to paste in a website’s address into the box and click “add” (or similar).
What’s really brilliant about this is your customer and prospects choose to subscribe to a feed (with none of the downsides of giving up an email address). So as long as it’s providing something they want, you’ve got that connection with them. You’ve got their attention. You can, over time, build a relationship with them and make deposits into their “trust accounts” so that they turn to you when they need what you’ve got. They will feel like they know you.
Coming Soon: Part Three: Podcasting