RSS XML Explained
Do you ever feel like you are a little behind the times? Music, fashion, hair styles, etcetera seem to change on a monthly basis. However, if the same timeframe of fashion was applied to technology we would be wearing leisure suits one day and baggy pants the next.
In this edition of our newsletter we are going to play a little technology catch-up by taking a closer look at the syndication feed known by its initials as RSS (Rich Site Summary -or- Really Simple Syndication). While the technology is not “fresh-out-of-the-box” new, the ways in which it is being utilized are beginning to challenge traditional views on how we think about marketing and communication over the Internet.
What is RSS?
RSS is one of a number of web feed formats that makes it possible to send condensed chunks of information (whether headlines, advertisements, job openings, etc.) to an audience who have already indicated their interest by opting in for the service. Information feeds are received by RSS compatible browsers or through third party software packages that usually take the form of extensions to the web browser rather than stand-alone programs. RSS enabled browsers or third party aggregators automatically search for new content, which, when found, is passed along to the end user.
From the developer’s perspective, the code required to make RSS technology work is fairly straightforward, and, from the user’s perspective RSS feeds are seamlessly incorporated into the everyday operation of their computer.
Implications of RSS
The next time that you find yourself in browsing mode on the web take a moment to notice the number of pages with the orange square with white radio waves icon . Based on observation you might be led to believe that RSS is all over the web and that you’re the last one to adopt the technology. Fear not, despite RSS omnipresence the number of users is still relatively low. Depending on which study is referenced the percentage of RSS users hovers between 5-10% These low numbers aren’t discouraging marketers who in a recent poll (administered by Ad Age) indicated with 63% approval the need to keep up with emerging web based technology, such as RSS feeds. Do marketers know something that others do not? Yes. Marketers realize, perhaps better than any other profession that we are living in a frenetic age of competing messages, and that if you want to be heard you do not try to out-yell, but rather pinpoint your message. Small chunks of information with a high degree of relevance to the end user have a better chance of reaching the consumer within the end user than just about anything else.
Though the reality has yet to catch up with the potential, the potential looks very good for RSS. So, is it time to consider adding RSS feeds to your website? Every site and situation is different, but here are a few basic questions that should be asked prior to any decision to add RSS.
- Does your website produce new content on a regular basis?
- Have you identified a target audience, and, do you have an overall marketing plan?
- Are you overlooking any other marketing opportunities that may yield just as good or better results (i.e. search engine optimization or Website re-design)?