Friday, July 29, 2005


To paraphrase Ol Blue Eyes, Frank Sinatra, "Start spreadin' the news about RSS." Maybe you are an Internet marketer or publisher that already understands the basics of RSS and can see the use for RSS on your web site. But according to Internet market research, about 12% of online Americans are using RSS although only 9% of them really understand it. Let's assume for the moment that the rest of the world fits into those figures as well, or not far from it. Those are not very good statistics for a new technology that is supposedly simple to use. Internet publishers and marketers have a lot of work to do in order to get web site visitors using RSS and thereby increasing the chances of repeat visits.

One way to do this is to follow the BBC News' example. On their web site,, every page I viewed has one of those orange "RSS" buttons like so:

(Don't like orange? There are blue buttons available. Or you can make a button to suit your site. Just make sure it stands out from the surrounding text.)

A link entitled What is RSS? is usually beside or below the orange button on the BBC web pages. The linked-to page gives an explanation of RSS, how to start using it, where to get a Reader app, and a breakdown of the available BBC RSS feeds. This is a great way to introduce RSS newbies to the technology and something that all feed publishers should be doing. Many large newspapers are not even offering an RSS feed on their web site, let alone explaining what RSS is if they do have a feed. (If they are, it's not obvious on their site.) Imagine how many other web sites are not offering RSS. If you want to increase awareness of RSS, you have to contribute to the effort. Make sure that your "RSS", "RSS 2.0", "Atom" or "XML" buttons stand out on the page. Add an "RSS Explained"-type of page to your site that's easy to find and written as plainly as possible.


By the way, here's a neat idea that Canada's The Globe and Mail newspaper has for their XML feeds. Each of their RSS XML links, instead of hyperlinking to the actual XML file, causes a javascript window to pop up. This little dialog has a text area contain the URL of the feed selected, as well as an "OK" button and a "CANCEL" button. All you do is copy the URL's text and paste it into the "Add feed" dialog of your fave RSS reader. This beats the steps you usually have to go through to copy the URL of a feed.

(c) Copyright 2005 Raj Kumar Dash,


By now you are probably wondering what kind of information you can publish via RSS Feed. The rule of thumb is that RSS content should be linear in structure, with each item in the feed essentially independent of other items. If there is any sort of hierarchy implied, then the information is not ideal for RSS. RSS feeds essentially contain "headlines" and a brief description per headline. Select a headline one at a time in an RSS Reader application and you will see the brief description for that headline or "story". If there are further details, a link from the description takes you to a web page with greater detail.

Fortunately, there is a vast amount of information that fits a "linear" structure. However, there is a misconception that RSS feeds contain only fresh, daily updates of information, such as news, weather, or sports. While RSS feeds are more likely to carry regularly updated content, they can also carry "static" content. A few examples of either type are listed below:

Examples of Static or Infrequently-Updated Information
1. FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions), provided that the list is mature
2. Information about old TV Shows
3. Details about existing insurance policies
4. Company policies for employees
5. Static collection of media files such as photos, interviews, audio. (This case is more likely to appear in the next list.)

Examples of Frequently Updated Information
1. News, weather, sports
2. Information about new TV Shows
3. Store or office locations
4. Internal job listings
5. Public/external job listings
6. City council general announcements, meetings, water usage warnings, garbage pickup changes, bus route changes, public events
7. Crime scene information and subsequent arrest details
8. Apartment listings
9. Births and deaths (publisher: hospitals and/or funeral homes)

These are just a few examples of the uses of RSS. (Many of these examples may include maps as a supplement to the text information.) The point being made here is that regardless of what industry you are in, you very likely to have some information that can be massaged into an RSS feed. Your target audience may be a very focused group of people (for example, industry salespeople) or the general public.

We will explore examples more in-depth in future postings.

(c) Copyright 2005 Raj Kumar Dash,

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

What is RSS?

While this blog is predominantly aimed at people who would like to publish digital content using RSS, there may be a few of you who do not know what it is. This posting is a brief intro to RSS.

RSS originally stood for Really Simple Syndication, but is sometimes referred to as Rich Site Summary. Simply put, RSS is a means of defining a digital content feed that people can subscribe to or opt out of whenever they feel like. As well, assuming you have permission, you can syndicate someone else's RSS feed on your web site. The "Simple" aspect earns its moniker for two reasons. Firstly, RSS makes it is easy to syndicate your content. Secondly, the actual feed content consists of predefined "markup text" very similar to HTML tags, but which is actually a derivative of XML. [If you are not familiar with either HTML or XML, you may want to at least pick up and skim a beginner's book on HTML before continuing here.]

RSS is considered a "pull" technology because subscribers request the information by actively requesting and reading your RSS feed content. Compare this to email, which is a "push" technology because it can be sent to people whether they want it or not.

RSS is not a replacement to email, as we'll see in a later posting.

Monday, July 18, 2005

RSS Marketer Blog Begins


Looking to learn more about RSS? This is one of two RSS blogs I'll be posting at least weekly. This one is geared towards using RSS for marketing purposes and coincides with a book tentatively titled "The RSS Marketing Cookbook" that I am currently working on. The other blog is RSS Developer and coincides with a book tentatively titled "The RSS Technical Cookbook", which is in development. A third related blog is Data Mining the Internet which will focus on web site and RSS metrics. Look for information about these three topics in about a week's time.


the chameleon