RSS
RSS feed

Back to RSS basics

It has been a while since we covered what RSS is really about. Inspired by a recent article by Sharon Housley of FeedForAll titled RSS does not equal blogs, we look at what RSS is really all about.

What is RSS for?

Believe me when I say people who are not into computers do not know what RSS is, more importantly they do not care. Most people are only aware of what the technology can do for them, in this case deliver news and information to their desktops.

RSS is a format for packaging up information in a standard way that software can read and present to the user.

How to use RSS

RSS feeds can be used by publishers to deliver content to end users when the end user asks for it. It is the opposite to email where the end user get the email whether they have asked for it or not.

Consumers of RSS use this technology to get information and have it presented to them in an organized way. The user can have all of their news information in one application. It makes it easier for people to keep up to date on what is happening around the web.

RSS, RSS and RSS

I have been told on more than one occasion that I write RSS too many times, every time I write about RSS. This is not intentional but it is hard to write about news feeds without writing RSS.

RSS is not the same as email and it is not a replacement for email. I have said this many times. RSS is not exclusively for bloggers although RSS is more common in blogging circles because blogging software publishes RSS feeds by default.

Adding video to RSS

Video is becoming more popular especially bloggers adding video to their posts. Many bloggers and video web publishers are realising that video in their posts are not appearing correctly in their RSS feeds.

Embed and Object

At the moment you are probably using the embed and object tags. This is fine for standard web pages but not for RSS readers. Some readers will be able to display your video but most will not.

Enclosure

At Newsniche we like to do things the correct way, so here it is. To add video to your feed you need to put it into an enclosure. An enclosure is an element of an item, that means your feed can have the element tag within the item tag. You can only have one enclosure for each item, which means one video per post. These are the rules.

The enclosure is only one line and has the following format.

<enclosure url="http://www.yourwebsite.com/yourvideofile.mpg" length="62256320" type="video/mpeg" />

You need to supply the URL of you video file, the size of the file in bytes and the MIME type. The first two variables are self explanatory, the third parameter will depend on the format of your video file.

Enclosure MIME types

Here are a few of the most popular video MIME type that you may need for your video.

video/mpeg (mpeg mpg mpe)

video/quicktime (qt mov)

video/x-msvideo (avi)

video/mp4-es (mp4)

video/x-ms-wmv (wmv)

video/x-shockwave-flash (swf)

You will need to place the enclosure tag within the item tags, this will replace the object/embed code within the RSS feed. You will still need the object/embed code for your website.

How your enclosure is rendered

Even though you have now added the correct code this is no guarantee of how the end user will see the video. Depending on which RSS reader the user has will depend on how the video is displayed.

John Chow on full feeds

Having previously covered publishing full feeds I was interested to read what John Chow has had to say on the subject. One concern is that it is more difficult to monetize feed than it is to monetize a blog.

John offers some techniques for attracting users back to your blog. These include encouraging users to make comments and linking to older posts. He also suggests embedding videos in feeds because RSS readers cannot play embedded video although I am sure this is not true as Bloglines plays embedded videos.

Although RSS advertising is limited John does offer a couple of recommendations. I have covered RSS advertising here before so won't go into detail.

Looking ahead to 2007

It's fast approaching another year so I have decided to take stock and make some plans for Newsniche in 2007.

Now there are a few improvements I would like to see to this blog during 2007 which I think would benefit the visitors, that's you. It has been relatively easy to come up with the ideas but it's the implementation of those ideas that usually holds everything up.

RSS tools directory

The big idea for 2007 is the RSS tools directory, that's not an RSS feed directory but a directory of tools and services for RSS. The reason for this is that over the years I have blogged about lots of different tools and services, but there are scattered about and are not easy to find.

An RSS tools directory would allow you to find the exact tool or service you were looking for. It would be neatly categorized into different tools so you could compare similar services.

You may be thinking this all sounds good but exactly when is it going to happen. Well 2007, sometime. It is going to take a while to code the database and site, then I will start populating it with the tools and services I have reviewed previously. There will also be a facility for you to submit your own RSS tools.

Publishing full feeds or partial feeds

The debate about publishing full or partial content in your RSS feeds continues. Amit over at Digital Inspiration has decided to go full feed and claims as a result the number of subscribers has increased.

As a result of Amit's argument and the seemingly overwhelming support for full feeds the RSS Newsniche feed will now contain the entire content of each post. The main reason for this decision is to be more subscriber friendly.

I still have concerns regarding this change but I am hoping that the benefits will outweigh the costs. My main concerns mirror those of other bloggers, mainly subscribers not clicking through to the main site and the content being stolen.

Full feeds

It seems there is a bit of a campaign going to convince others to switch to full feeds as well. If you feel that strongly about full feeds you can sign the petition.

Fair use of RSS

In the light of Microsoft changing there licensing rules for RSS search results I thought it would be a good opportunity to revisit the age old issue of RSS fair usage.

Current state of affairs

If you take a brief look around the internet it won't be long before you find a site that is displaying the contents of another sites RSS feed. A common reason for this is where webmasters republish RSS on their sites to give Google the impression to site is constantly being updated.

Webmasters will often use popular mainstream newsfeeds from sites such as Yahoo then parse them into their own website using tools such as Magpie so that the Google bots have something to crawl.

Dig still deeper and you may find sites that scrape RSS feeds and republish them verbatim. Again this is for the usually financial gain of the webmaster. The webmaster of the scraper site has source of fresh content that auto updates, is readable by Google and is usually monetized using Adsense.

The dark side of RSS

This sort of use of RSS for republishing for financial gain would be considered to be on the more dubious side for RSS usage. RSS is all about syndication for both personal consumption and to a lesser extent commercial republishing, so where is the line to be drawn.

Fair usage of RSS

Consuming an RSS feed in your RSS reader I think we can all agree on is fine, that is why publishers publish RSS. What is less clear is whether or not someone can take an RSS feed and publish it on their own site.

Why would someone want to republish an RSS feed on their website? The reason is usually financial. Is it right? Everyone is going to have their own answer to that question. In my opinion as long as clear spiderable links are used giving clear attribution then it seems fine. I am sure most webmasters would appreciate the extra traffic although I would also recommend that you contact the feeds publisher as a courtesy to let them know what you are doing. At least then they can ask you to stop if they feel it is infringing on there copyright.

More uses of RSS

A few posts ago I wrote about how we use RSS, it seems I am not the only one who is talking about the uses of RSS.

Ben over at Inelegant has come up with a list of 42 uses for RSS and Atom feeds (nice number Ben). There is a pretty diverse list that will give you an idea of the potential for using feeds.

I think I also best make a mention about the release of the specifications for RSS autodiscovery from the RSS advisory board. What sort of RSS blog would this be if I had failed to mention that.

Darren Rowse Problogger on RSS

Over at Bloggertalks there is an interview with Darren Rowse, the long time webmaster of Problogger and other blogs. Darren is a full time blogger so his opinions are much respected.

In the interview Darren is asked about RSS which I found strange as no one ever asks about RSS in interviews, not even when the interview is tech orientated. Two questions are asked and both have been pertinent to RSS since its inception.

First and foremost is whether full RSS feeds or excerpts of content should be published. Darren answers that he does both stating that republishing without acknowledgement or consent is his biggest worry.

The second big question is the problem of educating less techie readers about RSS so they understand that they can subscribe to the news feed to get the content. Darren tries to solve this problem by talking about RSS in his blog posts.

Uses of RSS

There are quite a lot of uses for RSS so it is time to put down some RSS facts so you know what you can and can't do with RSS.

RSS Feeds

The most obvious use of RSS is the RSS feed. Feeds first appeared for blogs when blogging platforms were given the ability to produce feeds. Most bloggers did not realise they even produced a feed in the early days now everyone knows.

Since the early days the use of RSS for feeds has become more diverse. Sites that are not blogs are now offering feeds of there written content.

Updates via RSS

It is not uncommon for sites that are almost entirely automated to produce feeds. You can find feeds for video posting sites such as YouTube where they provide an RSS feed for things like new content and most viewed videos.

Many entertainment sites such as arcades and funny flash sites also provides feeds so other sites can syndicate their content or uses can be notified as soon as new content has been added.

RSS announcements

I call them announcements but this also covers reminders. Some of the more useful sides of RSS are announcement and personal feeds, stuff you need to know but don't always remember. A few examples of this include lottery results and birthday reminders.

RSS auto responders

Taking RSS a step further you can use RSS to deliver auto responder messages. An auto responder messages is a series of messages such as a training or informational course where messages need to be delivered at intervals over a period of time.

Personal and public feeds

All of the above examples cover two types of RSS, personal and public. Public feeds are the most common and cover blog and site feeds. These are feeds that anyone can subscribe to and contain the same information.

Personal RSS feeds are individual to a particular person such as a reminder feed or autoresponder feed. These are feeds that only one individual is subscribed to and the content will most often only be relevant to them.

I have covered only a fraction of the uses of RSS here but hopefully it will spark your imagination and give you some ideas on how you can make better use of RSS.

More on RSS in 2007

I previously wrote about RSS being big in 2007. Now it seems Pheedo are also predicting 2007 to be a big year for RSS. A big part of this future mongering is to do with both Firefox and IE7 integrating RSS, people still do not know what RSS is but they are wondering about those little orange squares.

Like all new technology it takes a while before it becomes mainstream. RSS has been welcomed by the internet savvy community but has remained elusive to the majority of internet surfers who care not for how things work.

Subscribing to a feed has become more transparent and many do not even realise they have subscribed to a feed and probably do not really care. The main point of RSS is the content not RSS itself.

The problems with email spam have almost crippled email as a broadcast medium because the end user has no control over receiving the message. RSS changed all this because the user has complete control and that is the way it should be.

There are figures being bandied about that most email is spam and most emails are blocked. Figures for AOL show about 75% of messages through there system. I for one get a deluge of spam mails, why send me the message once when you can send it to me a hundred times to different aliases.

As more and more people consume RSS and more sites provide feeds the incentive for spammers to send you emails will reduce. I predict RSS will eventually overtake email as the primary vehicle for delivering messages to users but will never replace email as a conversational tool.

ReviewME using RSS

A new Pay Per Review service has been launched where you get paid to write a review on your blog. I was looking into this and found an interesting use of RSS you may be interested to see.

I am getting paid to review ReviewME. This is one of the things you have to do in order to do reviews for ReviewME, you need to declare that you are doing a paid review. You are offered reviews to do, if you accept them you get paid. The reviews do not have to be positive, but why would you waste your time reviewing something that is not any good in the first place?

What I found interesting is their use of RSS on their site. Firstly their blog has what they claim to be the biggest RSS button. Whilst this may be true the fact that they make the RSS button so prominent on their site shows just how mainstream RSS is becoming.

If you look at their blog you will notice that there is no email newsletter links just the over sized RSS subscription button. I have noticed this sort of tactic on other blogs and they claim it actually increases their subscription rate.

The second use of RSS is that they provide a personal RSS feed to each blogger. This feed is unique to just that person and keeps them updated on their account activity. The feed is identified using a unique key that only the blogger is given.

This is the first mainstream use of RSS I have come across. It means they can keep their user base updated about their account and make sure they are made aware of time sensitive information. An email would be prone to spam filters and the risk of non delivery.

One click RSS feed subscription

With the release of Firefox 2 and Internet Explorer 7 has come one click subscriptions from your chosen web browser. This means that visitors to your site can now click on the RSS icon that appears in the address bar of their browser to subscribe to your feed.

As more and more visitors to your site are using RSS enabled web browsers it is time for you to make sure they are able to easily subscribe to your feed. Luckily it is really easy for you to do this now without much hassle.

One click RSS enable your site

For the RSS icon to appear in your web visitors address bar you need to add some HTML into the header of each webpage where you want your visitors to be able to subscribe.

<link rel="alternate" type="application/rss+xml" title="a descriptive name for your feed" href="http://www.yourfeedaddress.com/rssfeed.xml" >

You will need to place this line between the head tags in your page. Change the title to a descriptive name for your feed and change the href to the location of your RSS feed.

If you have multiple feeds just add a new line for each feed and just change the title and href accordingly.

I have shown the type as RSS XML as this is the most common format but this can be changed to whatever RSS format your feed is in.

Upload and test

Once you have added the new code upload your modified pages to your server and you can test to make sure the code is working. You will need to be using IE7 or FF2 yourself to see this properly. If you are currently using either of these browsers then click on the RSS icon in the address bar of this site to see how it works.

Now when your visitor visits your site and clicks on the icon in the address bar they will be taken to a page where the visitor can select from a list of RSS readers to add your feed to.

Universal RSS

So far in the history of RSS this is as universal as subscribing to a newsfeed has gotten. It means that RSS should become more ubiquitous to the user making it a more recognised information channel. It should benefit everyone that RSS is finally becoming easier for the end user.

RSS in the year 2007

I have long thought RSS would eventually play a big part in the mainstream internet. The term RSS would become as ubiquitous as the web and email. Well according to Read Write Web 2007 is the date this will happen.

One of the factors that are given is the integration of RSS into Outlook 2007 which will give much wider access to users who may never had the chance to embrace this technology.

Another boost will come from widgets, small graphical applications that sit on the users desktop providing updated information. Many of these widgets are being fed by an RSS feed. With MySpace starting to offer widgets this will expose this technology to the masses.

Feedburner RSS statistics revisited

If you are a regular reader at NewsNiche then you will know I am a big fan of FeedBurner. This is the free service I use to get statistics for my RSS feed. Recently FeedBurner has had a major overhaul so I decided to revisit.

If you have an RSS feed you can sign up at FeedBurner and have your feed handled by their service. This means that when someone requests your RSS feed the request is sent to FeedBurner. This means that their service handles the bandwidth load which saves your bandwidth. It also means that you have access to statistics about your feed.

The statistics provided include your daily circulation. Daily circulation is the number of unique requests in a 24 hour period for your feed. This gives you a rough idea of your readership and is the equivalent to your daily uniques in your web stats.

The next metric provided is the clickthroughs, this is the number of clicks on a particular item in your feed. This means that someone has clicked on an item in your feed to take them to the corresponding page on your site or wherever you have linked to. This gives you an idea of how interesting readers have found your item.

The third metric I am going to cover is readership. The Readership stats give you a breakdown of how your RSS feed is being parsed or read. This is broken down by reader and aggregators, browsers and bots. This gives you an idea of how your RSS feed is being consumed by your visitors and which bots are trawling your feed.

MSN search for RSS

You can now search RSS feeds on MSN search. This allows you to find results within RSS feeds and it uses the search operator Feed: followed by your search term. So if you wanted to search for mentions of your site in feeds you could perform a search like this. You just need to replace Newsniche with your site name.

Microsoft search has also added the search operator Hasfeed: that allows you to search for sites that link to an RSS feed. You could use this to find out which sites link to your RSS feed with the query Hasfeed: yoursite.com, this returns all sites that have a link to your feed.

This move by Microsoft shows the growth RSS is experiencing and it's move towards mainstream. The new search ability in MSN search will not replace RSS directories as a means of locating RSS feeds but will help experienced searches in finding information within feeds.

As the uptake of RSS grows the ability to search for RSS feeds in search engines such as MSN search will help bring RSS into the mainstream. In the longer term this is going to benefit webmasters who have decided to create their own RSS feeds.

RSS publishing tools to help you create an RSS feed.
Automate your RSS feed submissions.
Submit you RSS feed manually using our list of RSS directories.

Personal Bee

Personal Bee is an RSS discovery engine. It discovers terms within RSS feeds and then creates a tag cloud or the current buzz words and their current popularity. At the moment this RSS discovery engine is in it's infancy but features are being added all the time. There is a Bee Blog that where you can keep up to date with new changes.

You can browse the public bees or create your own private bees, currently there is not a way to create a personal account other than emailing the webmaster. The public area allows you to use the tag cloud to navigate popular terms for each of the news groups, they call these groups editions.

There are lots of new terms you will become familiar with. Firstly there are the public and personal editions or bees. An edition is a group of RSS feeds that cover a particular topic such as technology. You can then browse this edition for posts relating to phrases in the tag cloud. The tag cloud is a group of phrases that give an indicator of popular terms in a particular edition, in this example popular phrases about technology.

At the moment there are only a few editions, mostly internet and technology orientated, but no doubt this will grow over time. As a user of Personal Bee you will be able to stay aware of the current buzz (no pun intended) around your particular topic of interest.

On the main discovery page you are able to view posts by clicking on the popular phrases in the tag cloud or you can type in your own search phrase. I must admit other than the basic search and navigation I did find it difficult to get to grips with the usage interface with there possibly being too many options available on a single page. Other than this I would say this is an impressive tool that will become as popular as the likes of Technorati, Digg and Delicious.

reBlog RSS publishing system

ReBlog is an RSS republishing system developed by Eyebeam and Stamen. It is available as a Moveable Type or WordPress plugin and is free to download and use under the GPL license.

ReBlog allows you to subscribe to RSS feeds, select the posts that you think are interesting and the republish them to your blog. What makes this different from many of the other RSS republishing tools currently available is that it requires some human management of the feeds. This is good as it promotes a quality editorial element rather than the simple hands off copy and republish system that basically just promotes republishing duplicate content.

Using ReBlog allows you to monitor several feeds and select the posts from the feeds you deem interesting. These posts are then published into a new feed which can be made available on your blog, to view or as a new feed.

You can find out more information at ReBlog where you can view sample blogs using ReBlog and download the latest version. A version for Blosxom is on its way.

Full or partial RSS feeds

The jury is still out on whether or not RSS feeds should contain complete articles or just excerpts of the article. Here are the arguments from each camp.

Full posts in RSS feeds

The main benefits of publishing full posts in RSS feeds is that it is more convenient for readers. The reader does not have to leave their aggregator to read the rest of the post, convenient if they are on the move with a laptop and no net connection.

A major drawback to publishing full posts is that it makes it very easy for other unscrupulous webmasters to steal your content. Content theft may become a major factor in turning publisher off of full post feeds, especially with the availability of software that farms such feeds.

Summary posts in RSS feeds

Publishing a summary of the article in your RSS feed reduces the bandwidth needed compared to publishing the full article. If you are using your own server to serve your RSS feed the bandwidth costs will hit you hard as most RSS readers request the file multiple times a day, unlike a webpage.

Publishing a summary encourages the reader to click through to the page where the full article resides, this is essential if your site depends on advertising revenue. Of course you could put ads in your RSS feed if you decide to go the full post route.

Choice based on circumstances

Depending on your particular circumstances you are going to have to decide whether or not full posts are more relevant to your audience. If you go for summaries then you need to make sure that the summary contains enough information so the reader can decide if the full post will be of interest to them.

Submit your RSS feed to Google

You can submit your RSS feeds to the Google personalized homepage. As yet it is not clear how Google will be using this information or if it will help webmasters promote their own RSS feeds.

To add your feeds to Google you need to sign up for a personal account. Once you have done this you can log into your account. To add a feed just click on the add content link and then the create a section. You can now type in the url of your feed and click add.

The new feeds added to your personal Google homepage will appear showing the feed title and by default the 3 most recent items. Currently only the titles of each item are displayed and clicking this takes you directly to the linked page.

At the very least this allows you to make Google aware of your RSS feeds by creating your own personal homepage and adding your own feeds. Perhaps the future will bring and RSS search facility within Google that will be a boon for RSS publishers.

The Google personalized homepage seems to be treating RSS feeds as news headlines rather than the more techie RSS feed look. This would suggest Google may be going for a simple implementation of RSS so as to appeal to the less techie audience who are mostly unaware of RSS.

If this is the direction Google are taking then it would make sense that Google will be adding some sort of news search facility on the personalized homepage to make it easier for users to search for news that they are interested in. At the moment the RSS feed url has to be entered which is really only useful to those who are familiar with RSS.

New RSS directories

I have not been adding new RSS directories to the RSS feed directories as religiously as I should be. There seems to be new sites appearing on a daily basis, all of which can help bring more publicity for your RSS feed. Here are the latest entries in the RSS feed directory.

The first of the bunch is the strangely named Shas3. to submit your RSS feed first find the most appropriate category and submit. You can enter your email address if you want to be notified of when your feed has been included in the directory.

Next up is Scenda, an RSS directory organised by category and also searchable. To submit your RSS feed you need to first create a feed owner account. This is not a major hassle but this may put of some webmasters.

The cutely named Feedzie is an RSS directory organised by category and also uses tags to organise its feeds. This is the first RSS directory I have seen to use tags.

The last on the list is Your Feeds, an RSS directory that boasts nearly half a million feeds. Rather than being a directory of its own feeds the feeds are sourced from three other directories. There is an RSS submission tool that allows you to submit your feed to several RSS directories.

Time saving uses for RSS

RSS is an underused and underappreciated technology by a majority of internet users. There is a small minority who are just starting to appreciate the benefits RSS can have on there personal and business lives. It is hard to define RSS, you cannot really get it until you see it in action.

The primary use for RSS is content syndication, but this can realise itself in many different uses. The most popular use for RSS is as syndication format for blogs, blogs and RSS are very closely aligned as RSS feeds are a built in option for most if not all blogging software. Due to its close integration with blogs and the ease with which you can make a feed available on your blog means many blogs have RSS feeds. Blogs offer the content from their site in RSS format.

Search is also becoming a popular use for RSS, take a look at Yahoo. Type in any search at Yahoo and you will return the top 10 results, you can now subscribe to the feed for that search. Admittedly they don't make it obvious but if you look in the bottom right of your Firefox browser you will see an orange button. The orange button shows that an RSS feed is available on this page, subscribe to it and you have constantly updating results for your search.

Social bookmarking, the newer and more trendy brother of traditional search also makes use of RSS. If you take a look at del.icio.us you will see at the bottom of every results page is an RSS link to subscribe to the feed for that tag. You can subscribe to tags relating to your interest to keep abreast of what is new and recently happening or popular. This is useful as you can get results quicker than they appear in the traditional search engines.

It is not just search and blog syndication that are benefiting from RSS. What if you need to keep a look out for new content for your site without having to constantly trawl the internet. With an RSS feed subscription at ezinearticles for any specific topic you can be made aware of new articles as they are added. This is useful not just for new content but also as a research tool for you area of interest.

I have covered only a few example of how RSS is being used now and how it can benefit you by having content from various sources delivered to your RSS feed aggregator. Imagine how much time you would save in having to search this content out. Conversely for the RSS publisher they have a contented subscription base of users who they may not have been able to attract previously without making it so easy to digest their content.

RSS feeds future revealed

I don't claim to be a futurologist or an RSS pioneer but I have been keeping a pretty close eye on RSS and how it has been evolving. From what I have seen so far I think I can make some pretty good predictions about where RSS feeds are heading.

The first prediction is pretty obvious but I think it needs to said. RSS feeds are here to stay and they are only going to become more popular. This year we have seen the likes of Yahoo pretty much integrate RSS into its search and Microsoft will integrate RSS reading into it new browser and make RSS a part of the next version of Windows. It won't be long before RSS Google search appears.

RSS feeds will see richer content becoming more common. We already have inclusions in RSS 2.0 that are used for pictures and more frequently podcasts. I think we will see an increase in video in RSS feeds although due to the bandwidth needed I think many inclusions will be in the form of torrents. That's right you heard it here first, RSS readers with integrated support for torrents.

There will be more and more service based RSS feeds such as RSS weather and the delivery of lottery results, sports results and other results reporting RSS services. This is because RSS feeds are downloaded to your RSS reader and sit there ready for you to read them, you never have to miss the sports results again.

News in RSS feeds will continue to be big especially in niche areas where there isn't as much coverage as there is for the mainstream news such as Yahoo news and BBC news. There will be more smarter services that will be able to mix you RSS feeds taste so you get exactly the sort of news you like to read about.

My final prediction will be that of how we consume RSS feeds. At the moment there are many RSS readers you can choose from, this will change very soon. I predict there will be only a couple of major RSS readers that will emerge, pretty much like how we now only have two main web browsers. I however wouldn't like to say whether Microsoft and Mozilla will be the two to emerge as dominant, the field is still too new.

Not is all lost for the other players in the RSS reader market. I see agrowth in the number of custom readers in the form of widgets. Widgets are small lightweight apps that run specific task such as displaying the weathers but in a pretty GUI environment. We will see more widgets that take RSS feeds and translate them into graphical representations, a good example of his would be a weather widget. The weather widget would get data from an RSS feed containing weather data and represent this in a graphical format on your screen.

The future truly is bright for RSS and will continue to compliment its older and more mature HTML cousin. Now I wonder if anyone has thought about creating a racing tips RSS feed.

Choosing your RSS reader

If you want to be able to read RSS feeds then you are going to need an RSS reader. The types of RSS reader that are available to you come in two flavours. There is the desktop RSS reader and there are the online or web RSS readers.

Choosing your RSS readers need not be a difficult task, to be quite honest most RSS reader software performs much the same task. It downloads the RSS file and parses it into a readable format for you. Rather than trying to ram this or that product down your throat I am going to tell you what to look for in an RSS reader and share my personal preference.

Now I think the first and most important feature you will look for in your reader is price. Lets face it most of the software out there today is free so a fee based solution had better be outstanding. One free solution I did try but did not like, just my preference is Amphtadesk. This run from your desktop but displays the feeds as a webpage. This offering is open source and runs cross platform.

Another feature you need to look for is ease of use. You don't want to spend hours trying to figure out how subscribe to a feed. Again this is going to be your own preference as everyone has their own abilities. I would suggest that if you can't subscribe to a feed after a few minutes then you are probably using the wrong software for you.

A feature you will need in your RSS reader is the ability to import and export your OPML file. This is a file that holds all of your RSS feed subscription addresses, just like a list of email addresses. You will probably try several RSS readers over time before you settle on one you like. Without OPML you will have to manually subscribe to all of your feeds if you change your RSS reader.

Speed is of the essence. The more feeds you subscribe to the longer it will take to download them. I have used one desktop based RSS reader that took fifteen minutes at each update to download and parse the feeds. If your RSS reader turns out to be slow, dump it, there are plenty more out there.

I went through this process a while back and went through dozens of RSS readers. I finally settled on Bloglines, a web based RSS reader. There are other web based RSS readers out there, here is a list of RSS readers that I know of. I chose Bloglines as it was fast and easy to use and continues to work well for me.

RSS content theft and how to prevent it

There are concerns among RSS publishers that their RSS content is being stolen or used without consent. The content is then being displayed on other websites surrounded by ads with no accreditation to the author.

To prevent RSS content theft there are several methods that you can use. The first method and the method that I advocate is only publish partial content in your feed. This is where you would publish just the first paragraph or snippet of the full article. Now I know there are some who will not subscribe to summary only feeds. While I strongly disagree with this view I accept everyone has the right to choose.

RSS is a publishing format for site summaries, this I believe is what it was originally intended for and what it is best used for. By publishing a summary you are giving the reader a choice as to whether they want to read the entire article. If they find the article interesting then they will click through to the site that hosts the article. This benefits the reader as they do not have to download entire articles that they may not want to read.

If the publisher chooses to publish only summaries in their feeds then they will benefit as the user will click through to their site. In this case you know that the user is interested in what you are saying and possibly may be interested in related information displayed on that page. This means it could result in the reader buying your products or services or clicking on a related ad.

Publishing summaries will deter content thieves from stealing your RSS content because they will only have a summary. To read the content the reader has to click through to your site.

You may wish to publish full articles in your feed. In this case you can help prevent content theft by adding a copyright and terms of use notice at the bottom of each feed item that you publish. I have seen this used a few times and it seems to deter those using automated feed scrapers.

Taking a step further for those persistent RSS content thieves you can additionally try blocking their scrapers by setting up your server to refuse to serve the scrapers content. You can contact the offenders directly to let them know that what they are doing is unacceptable. As a last resort you can contact their advertisers and explain the situation to them.

How to promote your RSS feed

You have finally got an RSS feed set up and you are rightly proud of your achievement. The next step is to make sure you get as many visitors as possible to subscribe to your shiny new feed.

It's always easiest to pick the low hanging fruit first, it's human nature and it will get you the biggest rise in subscribers to your RSS feed the fastest. You need to tell your existing readers that you have an RSS feed. This is easy, however the hard part is explaining to your readers what RSS is. I have put together a small RSS subscribers FAQ your readers might find useful.

Put an RSS icon in your navigation so that it appears on every page, this should link to your XML file that contains your RSS feed. Next to your RSS link you should put a what is this link. Create a page to explain to your readers what your RSS feed is, how it will benefit your readers and how they can subscribe and read your RSS feed.

To launch your RSS feed to your readers create an article explaining why you are making an RSS feed available or if you have a blog, then blog about it. If you have a newsletter then add some information that will appear on each newsletter to tell your readers that they can get your newsletter via RSS. RSS will be a lot less maintenance for you than an email subscribers list.

Now you have covered your existing website visitors it's time to explore some new avenues to build up your RSS feed subscriber base. Your next stop is the RSS directories. I maintain an Alexa rated list of RSS feed directories. You can submit your feed to these which should keep you busy for a while.

Before you start make sure you have your feed URL and your feed title along with a short description of what your feed is about. You may find it useful to paste this information into a text editor so you can cut and paste it into the relevant forms on the RSS feed directories.

After you have completed all of this your RSS feed will start to grow. Of course there are no guarantees, there are a lot of factors that will affect your subscription rate such as the quality and popularity of your feed content. If you don't try you won't know.

RSS and Microsoft

With all the announcements lately about Microsoft and RSS I have been wondering what this will mean for RSS. Microsoft will be supporting RSS in its new version of Windows and Internet Explorer. You might be thinking so what.

There are two changes we are likely to see. The first is that Microsoft will claim that they invented RSS and that RSS is a good idea. Of course I am being pedantic but from an end users point of view with RSS so well integrated into Microsoft software it will seem that RSS is a part of Microsoft.

For the end user and many webmasters I believe this will generally be beneficial to RSS as a whole as RSS will become more mainstream. Some users are struggling with subscribing to RSS feeds especially when they have no idea what RSS is. A user clicks on the XML or RSS icon and gets a page of nonsense, their not going to subscribe to that.

I'm speculating here but I would imagine IE7 will allow a user to click on an RSS button and this will ask the user if they want to subscribe to this sites RSS feed. I am not going to complain if they are going to make it that easy but I am sure some of the developers of RSS readers are not going to be too happy.

The thing I am concerned about though is when Microsoft start messing about with standards. As I understand it a list extension is already being introduced into RSS. Remember when Internet Explorer started to implement it's own version of HTML, I sure don't want to see that happen to RSS.

Overall I am sure that most people will be happy with the Microsoft adoption of RSS, I sure wouldn't mind if it meant my RSS subscriber base increased. Sure RSS is a great tool for webmasters and subscribers alike and anything that improves the current situation can only be good. Just keep an eye out for what Microsoft has up its sleeve.

RSS feeds and why webmasters need them

There still seems to be a lot of confusion among webmasters of how RSS feeds can be of benefit to webmasters. From a users perspective once they have subscribed to an RSS feed then it is pretty clear what the benefits are to them. For a webmaster it is not so clear how they will benefit from offering RSS feeds from there site. So here are a few pointers.

Lets start with what an RSS feed is. In simple terms an RSS feed is like a regularly updating news report, as new items are posted to the feed they are immediately available to the feed subscriber. The RSS feed itself is just a file that is hosted on your server. To be able to read RSS feeds you need an RSS feed reader.

The first benefit a webmaster will see from offering RSS feeds to their users is that of return visitors. That's right, every time you publish a new post to your RSS feed a percentage of those readers will click through to your site. This means that you have a method of communicating to your readers directly and these readers are interested in what you have to say. You know they want to listen to you because they have subscribed to your RSS feed.

Publishing an RSS feed is instant and hassle free. If you have the correct software it is as easy as cutting and pasting. If you are using blogging software then you can cut out the cutting and pasting part, even easier. Once you have posted to your RSS feed then there is nothing else to worry about. It really is easy to publish RSS feeds. I have written my own software that will take the first paragraph of this article and post it to my RSS feed. I know not everyone can code so here are some RSS feed publishing tools you can use.

Your feed is not just for your existing visitors, you can attract more visitors to your site by letting everyone know you have a feed. Like directories for sites there are also directories for RSS. You can submit your feed to RSS feed directories and new users will search and discover your feed the same way they discover your site. Without a feed you would not have access to this audience. Go on publish an RSS feed, your visitors will love you for it.

The great RSS land grab

According to Feedburner in a recent interview some interesting RSS metrics came to light. Based on a large sample of 60,000 publishers there shows a weekly growth of subscribers to feeds of 5 percent. This rate of growth is quite impressive for such a relatively new media.

The interview also goes on to reveal that there are RSS feeds in existence that have half a million subscribers, that's right half a million. They also claim to manage several feeds in excess of 100,000 subscribers. These are quite amazing numbers considering that RSS is still a very new niche media.

There could be several reasons for such growth. Firstly I would speculate that there is currently an RSS land grab going on. Like the web 5 years ago when it started to take off there was a rush to stake your claim on the web. I believe this is a good time to start your feed before RSS reaches saturation. I mean people will only subscribe to so many feeds.

RSS is still a techie media and so most subscribers are relatively glued up on all things internet. Once RSS becomes mainstream then the general web population will start to take to RSS, this will I believe be the main growth of RSS.

Already you can start to see saturation in the webmaster targeted news feeds, this was the same at the beginning of the web. Just take a look at how many webmaster related sites there are now. If you visit some of the RSS directories you can see how many feeds are available.

You can listen to the Feedburner interview and find out for yourself about the rapid growth of RSS.

RSS as search results

,p>RSS is not just for publishing your own feeds. Have you ever considered using RSS as a research tool. All you need to do is to subscribe to some keywords through search engines and social bookmarking sites. Make a search and then subscribe to the resulting RSS feed link. This will allow you to stay on top of new results for your specific keywords.

At MSN you can get the top 10 search results for your query. Just type in your keyword and click on search. At the bottom of the results page will be an RSS icon which provides the location of your RSS feed.

The social bookmarks manager del.icio.us allows you to subscribe to tags. There are a number of popular tags but you are also able to search on keywords. For each search the RSS link appears at the bottom of the page.

Another bookmarking system is Jots which is a new site to me. Like del.icio.us you can subscribe to RSS feeds based on tags or from your own search. The RSS links appear at the bottom of each page. For discovery the front page lists new entries so you can subscribe to get all of the new bookmarks.

Blinklist is a new tag search engine which also provides RSS feeds for tags and most recent links. Again the RSS links are displayed clearly at the top of the page. Another useful feature is that the number of times each link is clicked is also displayed although this information is not available in the feeds.

These are just some of the search sites that are making RSS feeds available for its search results. This makes it easier for webmasters, particularly bloggers, who want to keep up to date with what is happening in their field of interest. By subscribing to feeds based on queries webmasters have an aggregated source of up to date information tailored specifically for each webmaster delivered directly to an RSS reader. This will certainly save time when researching for new trends or stories.

RSS feeds and how to use them

RSS feeds are the most important technology to arrive on the internet since blogging, yet take up of RSS feeds among webmasters and web visitors is still very low. The Sunday Times recent ran a survey to see how home users use the internet , RSS did not appear in it at all.

It's true that RSS is nowhere near as ubiquitous as email, but email have been around since the beginning of the internet. RSS and RSS feeds are relatively new to internet users. If you are a webmaster you can benefit from this new technology that will allow you to speak directly to your visitors and keep them updated with what you are up to. You can get up to speed with RSS feeds at http://www.newsniche.com/.

According to Feedster, one of the largest RSS feed search engines, there are over 9 million feeds in its index. RSS feeds are a technology to be taken seriously, you can ignore it now but you will find yourself way behind other webmasters when it comes to the benefits of having your own feed.

To put RSS in context take a look at Bloglines, probably the largest feed aggregator on the internet. When you subscribe to a feed using Bloglines they tell you how many other of their readers are subscribed to the same feed. Slashdot there more subscribed to feed besides their own has about 35,000 subscribers to their RSS feed. Remember that's just other Bloglines users so it only reflects a small percentage of their total readers.

Let me take you through some of the benefits of having your own RSS feed. If you take the example I just used for readers of the Slashdot feed. Every time a new item is published to the RSS feed it is available to every single subscriber immediately. You are guaranteed that every reader will get the message whether they choose to read it or not. If you done this with email you would be lucky if a majority of your readers even received the message due to spam filters and other obstacles.

Unlike email an RSS feed is zero maintenance. There is no list of addresses to maintain, no server needed to send out your messages, all you are doing is updating a file on your server. There is no need to worry about being accused of spamming, double opt in or adding to the spam problem.

I have left the best till last. You can even have detailed statistics about your RSS feed by using a third party such as Feedburner, all free. Feedburner will monitor the requests made for your feed so you know how many readers you have and even tell you which items have been clicked on. Plus Feedburner saves you your valuable bandwidth and takes away any worries about the compatibility of your RSS feed.

I have been publishing an RSS feed for several months, it has worked so well that I have decided that I do not need the hassle of an email newsletter. The only time I use email now is if I want a personal conversation with someone, that's what email is great at.

RSS publishing for webmasters

Since the recent rise in interest in RSS there has been a slew of RSS sites and RSS software. RSS has been proclaimed as the next big thing. There has been many wild claims about the benefits of publishing an RSS feed such as it will generate floods of traffic to your website.

If you have never heard of RSS publishing then you might want to take a look at this RSS Publishing FAQ to get yourself up to speed. More and more webmasters are starting to publish an RSS feed, those of you who are bloggers will be lucky enough to have RSS publishing capabilities built into their blogging software. The rest of us will have to rely on third party software.

The amount of RSS publishing applications has grown recently due to the demand from users needing simple to use software. You can of course edit an RSS file in a text editor which is relatively straight forward but time consuming. This is the reason that most webmasters need RSS publishing software, most webmasters want to be able to publish an RSS feed with has little hassle as possible.

There are a number of applications that I am aware of and I have listed them for you at RSS publishing tools. Most of the titles I have seen are free and this is a good way to familiarise yourself with RSS publishing and test out the benefits of having an RSS feed.

All of these applications are great except for one thing. Publishing an RSS feed means using another piece of software where you need to cut and paste your content for it to be published. Do not get me wrong, this additional software is a great time saver for webmasters, but what they really need is an application that is integrated into their existing web publishing software. I am sure this will happen soon for many of the major titles but it would be nice to see some independent software writers produce an all inclusive publishing system.

I realise that every webmaster has different needs so such a piece of RSS publishing software may not be for everyone but it would sure make RSS publishing a whole lot more attractive to webmasters. By the way if you are using such a piece of software or you are a programmer currently writing RSS publishing software then let me know at rss{at}newsniche{dot}com.

Why I use bloglines as my default RSS reader

,p>Choosing a decent RSS reader to browse and read your favourite RSS feeds was not a straight forward task. I tried and tested many different windows desktop readers but I ended up uninstalling them for one reason or another. Then I found Bloglines and I am pleased to say I have not yet been disappointed with it.

The reason I need a decent RSS reader is that I spend a lot of time reading feeds. I run an RSS resource website http://www.newsniche.com/ which means I have to keep up to date with all things RSS. Naturally I have come across many RSS readers but have found them always to be lacking in one thing or another. In my research I came across Bloglines which is a web based reader.

It's a shame Bloglines does not have an affiliate program as I would love to promote it, purely because it is such a great tool. Unfortunately for me but fortunately for you this tool is free and everybody loves free internet tools. The main reason I am writing this is because I feel I need to give something back to Bloglines and I also want you to benefit from such a great RSS reader.

Lets start by looking at the main benefits of using Bloglines. Firstly it is fast to use. Now usually web based tools are a lot slower than there desktop counterparts, in this case because Bloglines has a cache of feeds because of its large user base the feeds are already on the Bloglines server. With desktop reader you would have to download the feeds when you start up your reader, if you subscribe to a lot of feeds like me then you will end up waiting a long time.

As it is a popular web based reader you have the advantage of the social side of RSS. There is a directory of all the feeds it there readers have subscribed to and if the reader chooses to make their list of RSS feeds public you can see what everyone else is reading. Another great spin off from this is the ability to see how many Bloglines users are subscribed to each feed.

As you know everything has its down side and Bloglines is no exception. The main negative is that if Bloglines is ever down then you will not be able to access your feeds. Now this is certainly a big potential problem especially if you really heavily on being able to have access to your feeds. Since I have been a user I have as yet not experienced any down time. As a precaution you can export your RSS feed list as an OPML file so you can import into another RSS reader should Bloglines go belly up or experience any serious down time.

I am happy to say Bloglines is a tool I would gladly recommend to an RSS user. It is easy to setup, easy to use and it is at the moment totally free. So why not try it, I promise you that you will quickly become addicted and you will be checking your feeds more than your email

Why are you abusing RSS

When you are involved in RSS everyday you get to see the fantastic opportunities RSS can bring to the web and how it can contribute to bettering the browsers experience and the webmasters bottom line. Unfortunately there is a dark side of RSS use.

It continues to amaze me how some webmasters always see ways to abuse new communication mediums. It is well know that email has become synonymous with spam. Email was a great communication tool when it arrived, but individuals soon started to abuse email by sending unsolicited messages to everyone with an email address. Now the same seems to be happening with RSS.

More and more webmasters are starting to use RSS to improve and maintain a good relationship with their readers. They are using RSS the correct way by keeping their readers informed and using RSS to syndicate content around the web. I talk more about this at http://www.newsniche.com/ where I help to inform and educate webmasters about RSS.

Unlike email you can't spam readers using RSS as it is a pull technology which means as a webmaster you do not have the contact details of your readers. Unfortunately as RSS is such a good tool for syndicating content it looks like some webmasters have taken that to mean all RSS content is public domain. This has lead to RSS feed being copied verbatim and reused in new feeds or republished on websites.

I know what your thinking, what exactly is my problem, that's what RSS is for. Well consider this. How would you feel if you found the contents of your feed copied word for word in another feed and also replicated on someone else's website. No problem you might be thinking, think of all the traffic it will bring to your site. No, I'm afraid all the links back to your site have been removed, in fact all reference to you has been removed. It's as if you didn't even create the content.

I am afraid this is the new scourge of the internet and it is going to affect you sooner or later. But all is not lost, there are a few things you can do to protect yourself. First off I would suggest not publishing full content feeds, that is only publish part of a large article and link it back to your website. Secondly put a copyright notice in your feed. Then if someone copies it verbatim they will get the copyright notice as well, when they republish it all of there readers will know what they've been up to. Thirdly contact there publisher of your work and remind them that they are stealing copyrighted material.

If you do want to republished content from other feeds then you should contact the publisher and ask permission. When you republish the content do not remove any links and make sure the original publisher is properly attributed. This way you get free content and the author get some traffic, a fair exchange and everyone wins.

RSS more effective than email

Long have I been proclaiming the effectiveness of RSS as a communications channel for non personal communications over that of email. The protection and anonymity that RSS can offer over email means that it is fast becoming the preferred medium for many users. It seems visitors to your site now put more trust in RSS as they are five times more likely to subscribe to an RSS feed as they are to the equivalent information via email.

A recent article from Rok Hrastnik at Marketing Studies shows that there is greater trust in RSS over email as well as RSS being more effective at attracting visitors back to your site. Over a 48 hour period it was shown that the average CTR from feed to site was 23 percent. That means that nearly a quarter of the readers of your RSS message click through back to your main site.

Rok's report also shows that there is a 6.8 percent average CTR from a content item in your feed to the web page that the content item points to. Better still is the results that show a 150 percent CTR from your feed to the site within a 30 day period. That means on average each subscriber of your RSS feed clicks through to your site one and a half times each month.

The report also points from data obtained from Lockergnome where it is shown that RSS subscribers out number email subscribers by 5 to 1. This clearly shows the increased take up of RSS, particularly among the more tech savvy internet audience.

At http://newsniche.com/ I have often argued that one of the major benefits of RSS over email is that it does not have the flaws that makes it susceptible to spam and control over the subscription to the information you provide is totally in the hands of the subscriber. This makes RSS subscribers more confident than email subscribers that they can unsubscribe knowing they will no longer receive communications from that source.

I have seen numbers banded about that show there are as few as 5 percent of the browsing public use RSS. The reason for this is that it is not yet as ubiquitous as email, but email has had a lot longer to be established. I truly believe that these results will encourage more webmasters to offer RSS feeds to their readers and help educate the browsing public to the benefits of this form of communication.

Why you should be using RSS

RSS opens up a whole new channel of communication between you and the browsing public. If at the moment you do not have an RSS feed then there is a whole community of people who do not know about you. Isn't it time you started to publish an RSS feed, here are a few reasons to get started right now.

If you do not have a feed then you can't submit it to the many RSS directories that are out there. That means you can start to publish to a whole new group of people. A list of directories and tools to get you started can be found at http://www.newsniche.com/.

The good news is that it is not going to take up much more of your time to publish an RSS feed. There are many software products, maybe even the one you use now, can automatically generate an RSS feed for you. Why don't you go and check. If not then there are plenty of other free and low cost products that make it very easy to publish a feed. You won't need to learn any new skills to do this.

Did you know that your content in an RSS feed makes it easy for other webmasters to publish your content too. Just imagine you content on other sites linking back to you. And all this happens without you having to do anything else, all you need is an RSS feed.

Still not convinced. Then how about if I tell you that the major players on the internet such as Yahoo, MSN and Google are starting to pay serious attention to RSS. At the moment it's almost an RSS arms race to be the number one RSS player. You can bet that your competition is using RSS.

Unlike email, RSS is guaranteed to be delivered to your readers. Your RSS feed is contained in an XML file on your server so it is fetched by the users RSS reader or feed aggregator. That means there are no spam filters of other servers between you and your visitors.

The greatest feature of RSS is that the user is always in control. That means they are confident and comfortable with using RSS. They can unsubscribe with one click and be totally confident that they will be unsubscribed. If the user is reading your feed then they must really be interested with what you are publishing.

Using RSS for publishing and syndication

There are two reasons why you would want to use RSS as a webmaster and that is for publishing and syndicating your content. If you publish your content via an RSS channel then you can keep your subscribers notified of changes to your site, announcements and news. Publishing an RSS feed for syndication means that your are offering your content for others to republish.

RSS feed publishing is fast becoming the popular option for website owners to keep in contact with their visitors. With your own feed available you are making an information channel for your visitors to tune into. In my opinion an RSS subscriber is more valuable than an email subscriber. The reason for this is that the subscriber is in control and they can just as easily unsubscribe to your feed as subscribe to it, this makes the visitor more comfortable. With a feed, readers tend to prefer daily or even multiple updates a day. If you tried that with email you would soon be labelled a spammer.

Creating a feed for syndication purposes you are targeting a different audience, that audience is other webmasters. Where as a feed for visitors is more of a news channel or update channel a feed for syndication purposes is a content channel. By this I mean that the content of your RSS feed is designed to be republished so the feed acts as a delivery mechanism.

If you want to create an RSS feed for syndication then you should concentrate on providing content that is more verbose such as articles and press releases. Webmasters will thank you for creating a channel where they can gather much needed for their sites. You will benefit by your site and your name reaching a wider audience. If you have not considered an RSS syndication feed and you already produce articles then you are missing an opportunity to increase your presence in your chosen field.

RSS can be used for many purposes and creating a feed in not that difficult. There is a whole new method of content delivery which is very good at delivering your content to readers. Whether you decide to publish for news or syndication purposes it is a good idea to create an RSS landing page to explain the purpose of your feed.

RSS can keep you in the loop

When webmasters first hear about RSS they tend to concentrate on the promotional side of things. They want to know how it will bring more traffic to their site and get them higher rankings in the search engines. Webmasters always seem to ignore the fact that RSS can be used to keep up to date with your field of interest with little effort and saving you precious time. Time you could be spending promoting your site.

If you are a webmaster one of the most time consuming activities is keeping up to date with what is going on in your field of interest. Usually you would be trawling the search engines, visiting the forums and frequenting websites that cover your area of interest as well as sites of you competition. This as you well know takes time. You have to visit each site, see if there is any new content and then read it. What you need is a way for all this information to be gathered into one place where you can quickly scan through any new information.

More and more sites are now providing RSS feeds of the information from there sites. All you need to do is subscribe to that feed, its that simple. Once you are subscribed any new updates from that site will be collected for you by your RSS reader, all you have to do is read it. If you use an online reader such as Bloglines then you don't even have to wait until the RSS feeds have been downloaded as Bloglines does all of the downloading for you. All you need to do is log into your account.

Imagine how much time you will have saved. No more will you have to visit a website only to find that nothing has been updated. Imagine not having to trawl through large sites trying to find the latest information. RSS can save you a serious amount of time that I am sure you would rather be spending developing content for your own site.

How to use RSS correctly

There is no doubt in my mind that RSS is here to stay. RSS is a simple and effective means of communicating your message to your visitors without invading their privacy or spamming them. It has many benefits over email and there have been many reports of the death of email due to the continual rise of mass spamming and non delivery due to spam filters. By no means is email dead, it is still the best personal communication method besides picking up the phone. It's just that RSS does some things much better than email.

I have been informing and educating webmasters about RSS since I first discovered the potential of this medium. A whole industry has now grown up around RSS and now there are directories that specialise in listing RSS feeds and tools to help you create RSS feeds. Everyone seems to be jumping on the bandwagon and everybody seems to have their own opinions about how RSS should be used. Even Google has joined in to offer adsense in RSS feeds.

The problem I see is that improper use of RSS may well send RSS the way of email. Currently it seems that if you publish an RSS feed the contents of that feed seem to be considered public domain. The reasons for this is, I believe, to do with the way content is packaged in RSS, this makes the content easy to syndicate. It is not that difficult to create a script or desktop application to strip out the content of RSS feeds and publish them on someone else's website. There is even a few applications being sold for just this purpose.

This has lead to what I consider improper use of RSS feeds to spam the search engines, this seems to be aimed particularly at Google. Although not yet widespread yet many webmasters are cottoning on to the fact that they can get easy content for their websites without putting in much effort. Although off hand this may not seem detrimental to you, consider the long term consequences. Your feed copied hundreds if not thousands of times and no back links to your site as the links have been stripped. What if Google decides to penalise due to duplicate content, the consequences could be that your site is dropped from Googles listings.

After considering such a scenario I have come up with a few suggestions. Firstly only publish a teaser paragraph in your feed that links back to the main article. Although some may disagree with me as they prefer the full article in the feed, I truly believe RSS is better suited to notification type messages. Secondly you can publish some terms in your feed which states that the contents are personal use only and you should be contacted for syndication rights. While this will not stop those determined to copy the content of your RSS feed it will help raise awareness of the issue.

Using RSS as an autoresponder with RSS Autopublisher

Autoresponders have been available using email for several years. They allow you to send a series of messages to customers over a period of time, such a set of reminders. Now you can use autoresponders with RSS to send out your messages.

One of the problems with using email is that you can easily be accused of sending spam or your sales messages could be stopped by spam filters. This means a percentage of your messages are not reaching. As email is push technology you can send an email but you cannot be sure it has reached its recipient.

With RSS being a pull technology you cannot be accused of spamming as it is the users software that requests the RSS messages from you. RSS messages will always reach there intended target as it is the RSS reader or RSS aggregator that fetches the messages.

RSS Autoresponder is such a system that allows you to publish autoresponder messages as well as conventional RSS feeds. If you already use email autoresponders then switching to using an RSS autoresponder will mean you will benefit from higher delivery rates and so potentially increase the effectiveness of your autoresponder campaigns.

Using Feedburner to add statistics to your RSS feed

Out of many of the free RSS and blogging services that I have tried one of the most useful has been Feedburner. Feedburner allows you to publish your RSS feed and provides circulation statistics about your RSS feed. It also allows you to make your feed more friendly by using Feedburners Smartfeed system and can also make your feed browser friendly.

The most useful service provided by Feedburner are it's circulation statistics. These statistics are not only useful for yourself to see how popular your feed is but also to provide circulation statistics to potential advertisers. Feedburner can tell you which RSS readers are being used to read your feed, how many readers you have and which posts readers are clicking through back to your website.

Feedburners Smartfeed system can supply the most valid feed by detecting which RSS reader the user is using. This irons out any potential compatibility problems there may be between your feed and the readers feed reading software. If your visitor click on your RSS feed subscription link Feedburner will provide your visitor with a web friendly version of the feed rather than an unformatted XML file. This is great for educating the reader about RSS feeds.

To use Feedburners services first you need to go to Feedburner and enter your feed link. Your feed link is the address you give your readers to add your feed to their feed readers. Take a look at my RSS sign up page at Newsniche to get a better idea of how this works.

Once you have your feed address enter it into text box on the Feedburner page. Clicking on ok will bring up a page with all of the options for your feed, you will need to decide for yourself which services you need. At the bottom of the page will be your new feed address which you will now offer to your readers instead of your original feed address. Follow the rest of the instructions to complete the process and then you will have an improved feed with statistics.

There is one final point before we finish and it is something optional you may wish to choose. You may wish to keep your existing feed address if you have existing subscribers and to future proof your feed. To do this you will need to use an HTTP redirect in your htaccess file. If this means nothing to you I would suggest further research before doing this.

You will need to add a new line to your htaccess file.

redirect temp /rssfeed.xml http://feeds.feedburner.com/feedburnerFeed

You will need to change /rssfeed.xml to the name of your current feed and the Feedburner path to the new feed address you will be given by Feedburner. You will need to point Feedburner to a copy of your feed that only Feedburner will see. You will then offer the /rssfeed.xml feed address you created in your htaccess file to you visitors to subscribe to your feed.

This is how it should work. Feedburner will periodically check your address you gave to Feedburner for new posts. Your visitors will subscribe using the address you used in your htaccess file and get redirected to the feed that Feedburner has created for you. This will mean that in the future if you wish to stop using the Feedburner service all you need to do is remove the line from your htaccess file and your readers will not notice any difference.

How to republish RSS on your website

In this article I am going to cover some tools that you can use that will allow you to publish RSS feeds on your site. This will allow you to have fresh, updated content on your site and you have control of what sort of content you display and how often it is updated.

First off if you do not know much about RSS or feel you require more information take a look at this RSS publishers FAQ and then rejoin us again later.

There are several ways you can go about publishing RSS content, two of which this article will cover are using third party software that will take care of the RSS republishing for you. The second is to use some freely available PHP code to generate your RSS pages.

If you do not know what PHP is or have little PHP knowledge or programming then I would recommend that you use RSS Equalizer which takes care of the complicated stuff for you. RSS Equalizer produces HTML format pages that it has transformed from the RSS feeds it is using as its source.

RSS Equalizer is a PHP script that runs from your server so you will need to make sure your host can run PHP, most web hosts do. Once installed and set up RSS Equalizer can be left to parse content from the RSS feeds and produce a readable HTML format pages on your website.

If you have any programming experience or know a little PHP then there are some other free tools that you can use. These PHP scripts will allow you to parse RSS feeds and if you know PHP will give you more options for customisation. These tools are CaRP, Last RSS and zFeeder.

If you have the time and feel you can handle the PHP then the free PHP scripts above will be your best option. If you neither have the time or the inclination and want the hard work already done for you then try out RSS Equalizer, its not free but it's the best option for the non programmer.

Using Quicksub

You can make it easier for your visitors to subscribe to your RSS feed. With a free and easy to install javascript function you can add the QuickSub feed button to your webpage in just a few minutes. Let me show you just how easy it is.

QuickSub is a javascript mouseover function that produces a list of RSS feed readers that you can use to subscribe to your RSS news feed with one click. You can see it in action on my RSS resource site, just move the mouse over the subscribe link. You should see a list of RSS feed readers. If you click on one of the news reader links it will open up that RSS reader and add this feed to it. You will need the particular news reader installed on your computer for this to work. So for example if your visitor uses SharpReader as their RSS reader then they would click on the Sharpreader link and this would add your feed to your visitors RSS reader.

To use QuickSub on your site you will first need to download the javascript and CSS files from QuickSubs site. The file is compressed so you will need to unzip the file which will leave you with quicksub.css and quicksub.js as well as a sample html file.

Upload the CSS as javascript file to your server. Now you will need to add some code into your web pages. You will need to do this for all of the pages that you wish to use QuickSub on.

Please note that in these examples I have used square brackets instead of angled brackets.

First you need to copy some code to call the CSS file. Add this line with your head tags.

[style type="text/css"] @import "quicksub.css"; [/style]

Then copy this code into the body of your page.

[div id="quickSub" style="position:absolute; visibility:hidden; z-index:1000;" onMouseOut="return timeqs();" onMouseMove="return delayqs();"][/div]

[script language="JavaScript" src="quicksub.js"][!-- quickSub (c) Jason Brome --][/script]

Then where you want to use QuickSub place this code in the body of your page.

[a href="http://www.sitename.com/rssfeed.xml" onmouseout="return timeqs();" onmouseover="return quicksub(this, 'http://www.sitename.com/rssfeed.xml');"]Your link text here[/a]

You just need to replace the path with the path to you RSS feed and enter you own link text. All is left now is to upload your modified page to your web server and the new QuickSub javascript will be active.

Are you thinking of republishing RSS feeds

There is lively debate about the republishing of RSS feeds on other sites. The argument surrounds the use of RSS feeds from the feed publisher being used in an unfair manner. This includes republishing the entire articles and not displaying sufficient credit to the original source.

Before we go into the details you may want to brush up on your understanding of RSS. This will help you fully appreciate and fully understand the issues involved.

I am glad this conversation is happening now as it needs to be made clear what fair use of RSS feeds actually means. There may be webmasters who are republishing RSS feeds in all innocence at the moment not realising the furore that is going on around them with regards to their republishing activities. I would like to help clear up any misunderstandings that surround RSS republishing.

Being an RSS publisher myself who is considering republishing other authors RSS feeds I would like to make sure I am not treading on any toes. I am basing the following RSS republishing etiquette on the good practice that Rok Hrastnik has enthused.

If you wish to republish an RSS feed then you should first consult the publisher with your intentions. This would be an email to the author stating how you wish to reuse their feed and the page or pages the feed will be republished on and the attributions you will make. You will need to clarify some points. If the authors feed contains ads then will they be republished? Will you be monetizing the authors work by placing ads on your republished page? To avoid conflict these issues need to be sorted out.

The general guidelines Rok Hrastrnik has provided state that the article title must link back to the original article. If the RSS feeds contains a complete article only an excerpt, Rok suggests 100 to 200 words, can be republished. A link should be provided to the article source, the website of the original publisher.

Further to this it is suggested that no archives are kept on the republished site and no full articles are used. I would suggest permission is sought from the original author if you wish to keep an archive on your site.

You can follow this discussion further at PR meets the WWW and Micro persuasion.

Improve your RSS marketing

You have created an RSS feed, or maybe you have several feeds and you post at least once a week to keep your RSS subscribers interested. So now you can sit back and watch your hit counter tally up all those extra visitors. Well you may think you have finished but there are a few things you can do to improve things still further.

1. Let browsers and search engines know you have an RSS available.

To do this you need to add a line of HTML to every page that has a link to your RSS feed. The link will be:

link rel="alternate" type="application/rss+xml" title="title" href="http://www.site.com/rss.xml"

This line will need to be enclosed by angled brackets and placed between your HEAD tags of your page. Once you have done this some search engine bots and web browsers such as Firefox will know you have an RSS feed available.

2. Submit your RSS feed to the RSS and Blog directories.

Like you would submit your site to search engines you can submit your site to RSS specific directories. This will give your RSS greater exposure to an audience that is already interested and educated about the benefits of RSS. This is a list of Alexa ranked RSS directories and another can be found here.

3. Announce that your RSS feed has been updated.

Every time you add a new item to your RSS feed you can announce it to the world, or at least many of the RSS directories. To do this you need to ping each service. If you are using Blogging software your software is probably already doing this for you , check your documentation.

For those of you who do not have software set up to automatically ping for you there is no need to worry. There is a free service at Ping-o-matic that will do this for you.

How to create an RSS feed

An RSS news feed can be used to communicate with your target audience. It is an ideal means of notifying people of new content on your website without the need for them to keep on visiting your site. You can send newsletters to your readership without having to use email and risk being accused of spamming. You will be comfortable in the knowledge that people who request your feed are actually interested in it because they have actively subscribed to it. This article will explain just how to create your own RSS news feed.

There are a couple of ways to create an RSS file, you can use an editor designed for the purpose or you can create a file using a simple text editor. The latter will require you to learn some XML whilst the former will do the hard part for you. First off I will describe an RSS file, there are several versions and I will be showing you version 2.0, the latest RSS version.

An RSS file looks just like an HTML file except it has different tags and the files end in .rss or .xml rather than .html. The file is made up of header information and item information, the item information contains the actual news items.

The first section of the file contains the header information. This states that the file is XML and which version, the encoding used and the version of RSS that you are using. This part of the file is mandatory. Next up is the channel tag, this encloses the whole of the rest of the file. This is followed by a title, description and link which explain the what the feed is about and what website it is associated with. The final part of the header is the optional image information. If you use this the software that is used to parse or read your file can display a small picture such as a logo.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="iso-8859-1"?>
<rss version="2.0">
<channel>
<title>The Widget news feed</title>
<description>The latest news on widgets</description>
<link>http://www.widget.com/</link>
<image>
<title>Widget News</title>
<url>http://www.widget.com/widget.gif</url>
<link>http://www.widget.com/</link>
</image>

The body of the file is made up of the news items. Each news item is enclosed in the item tag and comprises of a title, a description and a published date. The date needs to be in the format shown in the example below.

<item>
<title>Which is the best Widget to?</title>
<description>In this article we discuss the release of several new widgets, but which is the best widget.</description>
<pubDate>Sun, 20 Mar 2005 14:38:50 GMT</pubDate>
<link>http://www.widget.com/the-best-widgets.html</link>
</item>

You can have as many items in the feed as you like but many webmasters just show the 10 most recent items to keep the bandwidth usage down and also so not to overwhelm the end user with too many items.

Finally the file is ended with the closing channel tag and a closing RSS tag.

</channel>
</rss>

I have covered the basic tags to create an RSS file, there are other tags that can be used and these are explained in the RSS 2.0 specification.

Once you have created your file you will need to verify it is ok, to do this upload the file to your server and then go to this validator to validate the file. Your file is now ready. Now anyone can subscribe to your feed just by pointing their RSS reader to your RSS file.

That is the basics covered. I will be covering other areas in future articles as there is far too much information to fit into a single article.

How to display RSS feeds on your site using javascript

This article is intended as a guide for webmasters who want to display automatically updated content on their website in the form of RSS feeds. In this article I will cover the easiest method to implement using javascript for displaying RSS on websites to create additional dynamic content. This will allow you to display headlines from syndicated content around the web on your website.

RSS to Javascript.

By far the easiest method is to use client side javascript to parse and display the headlines on your site. To achieve this all you need to do is cut and paste some HTML or javascript code into the web page where you want the RSS feed headlines to display.

To achieve this there are several sites that offer a free service that will allow you to select a few options to choose your feed source and display formatting parameters. You will then be presented with some javascript code that you can cut and paste into your website.

Now before I give you the address of the sites that offer this service freely there are a few points I need to clarify with you. Although you will achieve your goal of displaying dynamic content on your site in a few short minutes there are some downsides to this method.

Javascript is not search engine friendly.

As you may or may not already know, javascript is not visible to search engine spiders. They will not see the RSS feed you have parsed into your site and so this will not benefit you if you are doing this to better your search engine rankings.

b>You are using a third party service.

The second potential downside is that although the javascript is on your site you are actually calling a script on another server. This could lead to a couple of potential problems. If the server is busy it will mean the news feed will take longer to display on your site. The other point is if the third party server fails or disappears altogether then your feed will not be displayed at all.

In summary there are a few downsides, but if you do not code and want some feeds on your site quickly then this is the way to go. Ok, so now you understand what is involved here are the links to the sites that provide the free RSS to javascript service. All you need to do is follow the on site instructions.

This article is intended as a guide for webmasters who want to display automatically updated content on their website in the form of RSS feeds. In this article I will cover the easiest method to implement using javascript for displaying RSS on websites to create additional dynamic content. This will allow you to display headlines from syndicated content around the web on your website.

RSS to Javascript.

By far the easiest method is to use client side javascript to parse and display the headlines on your site. To achieve this all you need to do is cut and paste some HTML or javascript code into the web page where you want the RSS feed headlines to display.

To achieve this there are several sites that offer a free service that will allow you to select a few options to choose your feed source and display formatting parameters. You will then be presented with some javascript code that you can cut and paste into your website.

Now before I give you the address of the sites that offer this service freely there are a few points I need to clarify with you. Although you will achieve your goal of displaying dynamic content on your site in a few short minutes there are some downsides to this method.

Javascript is not search engine friendly.

As you may or may not already know, javascript is not visible to search engine spiders. They will not see the RSS feed you have parsed into your site and so this will not benefit you if you are doing this to better your search engine rankings.

You are using a third party service.

The second potential downside is that although the javascript is on your site you are actually calling a script on another server. This could lead to a couple of potential problems. If the server is busy it will mean the news feed will take longer to display on your site. The other point is if the third party server fails or disappears altogether then your feed will not be displayed at all.

In summary there are a few downsides, but if you do not code and want some feeds on your site quickly then this is the way to go. Ok, so now you understand what is involved here are the links to the sites that provide the free RSS to javascript service. All you need to do is follow the on site instructions.

Your RSS feed in Yahoo

Your RSS news feed can get you into Yahoo. I am going to take you through the steps you need to take to get yourself listed in Yahoo. Before we start you will need to create a feed, take a look through the feed publishing tools for software to create your feed.

I would recommend that you do not submit your feed until you have several posts otherwise when visitors subscribe to your feed there is not going to be much for them to read. You may need to come back to this article at a later point once your feed is ready.

Okay, so you have your feed ready. Now you can follow these simple steps to get your feed into Yahoo.

Firstly you need to go to and sign up for an account. Once you have signed up the next step is to log into your account with your new username and password. You should now be in you're my.yahoo page, click on the add content button and then click the add RSS by URL link.

Now type in the URL of your news feed. You should type the full URL including the http part.

img src="/yahoo-enter-url.gif" width=503 height=303 border=0 alt="enter RSS feed url">

You should now be presented with a preview of your feed with a message telling you that your feed has now been added to your my Yahoo page.

preview RSS feed

Next click on goto my.Yahoo and this will take you to your main my.Yahoo page which should shown your new feed.

your RSS feed

That's it. Shortly the Yahoo Feed Seeker bot will visit your site, take a look in your raw logs and there should be a YahooFeedSeeker entry in there somewhere similar to this.

yahoo feedseeker

Proof that you are now on Yahoo's radar. Now while your on a roll you may want to submit your RSS feed to some of the other RSS directories.

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