Responding to the tremendous buzz over RSS—or Really Simply Syndication—a number of free sites on the Web have sprung up that completely automate the process of syndicating site content across the Web. In practice, this means that in a matter of minutes, you’re now able to tweak your site so that hotlinks to your newly posted news stories or other new Web content can be sent to RSS readers across the Web.
As you’re probably aware, the popularity of RSS within the TV broadcast industry is growing exponentially. All the major networks’ news organizations, including ABC News, CBS News and NBC News offer RSS “feeds” for Web users with RSS readers. Plus, an increasing numbers of industry equipment suppliers are following suit. Avid, for example, offers a sign-up for RSS feeds in its online press center, as does Axon Digital Design.
One of the key reasons RSS continues to grow in popularity is that it can be used to track changes and updates on websites without requiring a user to release an email address. In practice, these RSS-generated news feeds—which include press releases, white papers, new product information, site changes, and the like—arrive in the form of headline hotlinks, which RSS-users click on to pull up complete information about the content update.
People read these RSS feeds with news aggregators—PC or Mac applications very similar to email software. The difference is that news aggregators are able to “read” RSS feeds, and organize those feeds in chronological order in the form of hotlinked headlines. Simply click on the headline of choice, and the news aggregator presents the full copy of the text and graphics to your computer screen.
While initially popularized by bloggers to alert their readers about blog updates, RSS is currently poised to go mainstream. My Yahoo!, a site used by millions worldwide to track news and information, recently added RSS-tracking to its arsenal of Web data gathering tools. And third-party products like RSSExplorer are enabling users to add a toolbar to Internet Explorer to make the browser RSS-ready.
Also fueling mainstream acceptance are sites like IceRocket (rss.icerocket.com), which offers an easy-to-use RSS-Builder that auto-generates the tiny strip of code you need to make a Web page RSS-readable. (IceRocket offers the service free-of-charge as a way to encourage use of its main products, its Web search engine.)
HOW TO OFFER RSS FEEDS FROM YOUR SITE
Probably the first thing you’ll notice when you get to IceRocket’s RSS Builder is the great pains the company has taken to simplify and goof-proof the process of RSS-link generation. (If IceRocket doesn’t suit your fancy, you can find any number of other free RSS Builders by entering key-phrase “RSS builder” into any search engine.) Essentially, creating the link takes four steps: Registration, Channel Creation, Item Creation and Publishing. All told, the process takes about five minutes.
You’ll breeze through the first step—Registration—in seconds. All IceRocket asks for is your email address, a password you’d like to use and your name.
Once you’re in, you’ll be asked to create a Channel, which is used by RSS-distribution sites to send your RSS link across the Web. All you need to create a Channel are some data inputs: your website name, URL, a brief description, a URL that will be used to source an image for the channel (usually your home page), your email and any copyright info you’d like to add.
Once your Channel’s created, you can begin adding links to specific items—such as news stories, corporate press releases and the like—with the next step. Here, all that IceRocket requires is a title for the item, a URL, a brief description of the item and your email address. As an added service, IceRocket also verifies that your item as rendered on your Web page can be read by RSS news aggregators and republished on other websites.
The last step is actually handled automatically by IceRocket. It auto-generates the code for a tiny RSS icon, which can be cut-and-pasted onto your website where your item appears. The icon serves as a heads-up for anyone using an RSS-reader—or anyone using an RSS-capable portal like My Yahoo!—that changes to your site can be tracked via RSS.
And that’s it. With these four steps, you’ve just created an “RSS feed,” and your site has joined the ranks of tens of thousands of others—including The New York Times, CNN, BBC and About.com—that have decided to broaden their reach by making their sites readable to the RSS community.
PROMOTING AND TRACKING YOUR SITE’S RSS FEED
Even though IceRocket’s RSS Builder is virtually goof-proof, you’ll probably want to spend some extra time making sure the feed is picked up by all the major RSS news aggregators, and that all the major RSS readers are picking up on the feed as well.
The major RSS news aggregators include Syndic8 (www.syndic8.com), Feedster (www.feedster.com), News Is Free (www.newsisfree.com) and RSS Feeds.com (www.rssfeeds.com). Each of these sites will offer a link you can click on where you can enter the URL of your site where RSS-coded content is available.
You’ll also want to double-check the readability of your site’s RSS feed in a few, well-established RSS readers. These include FeedReader (www.feedreader.com), NewzCrawler (www.newzcrawler.com) AmphetaDesk (disobey.com/amphetadesk), Newsgator (www.newsgator.com) and Bloglines (www.bloglines.com).
Yet another group of sites, RSS search engines, specializes in searching out RSS content on the Web, and summarizing those offerings. These sites differ from the others in that they go beyond simply citing RSS feed names and descriptions, and bring back summaries of the actual text being offered by the RSS feeds. These sites include Technorati (www.technorati.com), Feedster (www.feedster.com), PubSub (www.pubsub.com) and Rocket News (www.rocketnews.com).
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