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RSS: Making it Easy to Subscribe

Introduction

We hear about a new technology more and more every day. Most people that blog understand what RSS is and what it means, but most of the rest of the world has still not joined the RSS revolution. They browse through sites, looking for content they like, and then bookmarking it. With no way of knowing the great new article you posted, they sometimes forget about your site completely. Expanding the market for RSS has been slow going, mostly because it isn’t understood.

I would like to see bloggers unite and work on comprehensive guides to explain RSS to the casual user, and how it can benefit them. This post is my addition to the newbies guide to RSS, a service that makes it easy to subscribe to websites.

What is RSS?

The initials used in RSS actually stand for different things depending on the technology being talked about, but all the technology has the same end goal: allowing easy syndication of content.

You might know them as RSS feeds, webfeeds, RSS channels, or by another similar term, but they are all the same thing. The letters have stood for RDF Site Summary, Rich Site Summary, and more commonly today, Really Simple Syndication. Basically what it all boils down to though is an XML file (see image) written in a certain way that websites and/or software can translate it back into readable articles for us, the subscribers.

XML Code

Basically RSS is almost like subscribing to a newspaper. The content written on a blog gets delivered via RSS (newspaper) to your feed reader (mailbox). I will discuss feed reading options later in this post.

How is RSS useful?

I currently use RSS to track the content being added to many different websites. If I had to load up each of these sites independently in a web browser, it might take me all day, but using RSS, I can skim all the articles on hundreds of sites very rapidly, dismissing the ones I don’t want to read further, and carrying on to other sites and their content.

Another reason I like RSS is that it pushes the content to you. Once you are subscribed, your RSS feed reader will go and get you the latest posts. Depending on how you subscribe, that means being able to tell the software to get the feeds, and then reading them without an internet connection. Something that constant travelers will definitely enjoy.

How can I subscribe?

RSS IconThere is a standard icon for RSS now. Usually it is a bright orange color with a white circle and semi-circle lines coming off it to show how the feed radiates outwards. (example to the right.)

Clicking the icon will do different things for different web browsers, but the most important thing is getting the address it brings you to. Once you have found the address for their RSS feed, you can put it into your favorite feed reading software, and subscribe. Blogging Pro’s RSS Feed address is http://www.bloggingpro.com/feed/.

Bloglines

Here are a few different websites and applications you can use to subscribe to RSS feeds. Some are free, and some are not. I have probably only covered less than one percent of the available tools for managing and reading subscriptions, so search around to find one that fits your needs best.

Online Tools

Downloadable Software

If you are looking to offer an easy way to allow visitors to subscribe to any of the online services, RSS.Blogflux.com makes it really easy. You can add a button to your page that when clicked will give users the option of subscribing to one of a number of different services, including those listed above.

Try the one shown below to subscribe to Blogging Pro.
Quick RSS Subscription Links

What are Full Feeds and Partial Feeds and What is better?

Just as the name implies there are people that only send out partial feeds, and there are people that send out full feeds. The difference being that partial feeds are usually just the first few lines or paragraphs of an article, while full feeds have the full text of the article. Partial feeds usually don’t have any images or other multimedia attached to them either, meaning that you will still have to go to the website where the article was posted to read the rest.

Some people believe that partial feeds are better because it forces the user to come to their website and view the content with their design and advertisements. Others believe that full feeds are better, as you will get more subscribers and there are increasing amounts of advertising services for RSS feeds to allow people to continue to monetize their content. The debate has been raging on for a long time, with no real resolution. It then comes down to personal preference.

For me, I like full feeds because I can download the full text of the articles to my FeedDemon software and read it while on a long trip or when I visit family that doesn’t have Internet. (Crazy isn’t it? Who doesn’t have Internet these days…)

WordPress Plugins

For many of the Blogging Pro readership, we have WordPress currently installed, and so don’t forget to check the WordPress Codex under syndication for RSS related plugins.

Conclusion

If you want to track many websites quickly, easily, and sometimes needing access to new posts and content while not able to connect to the Internet, subscribing to RSS feeds is probably the easiest, and best way to do so. I highly recommend it, and I think that if the technology continues to expand and is presented in an easy to use and understand way, we will continue to see more people adopting it, and thus subscribing.

Categories: Blogging Tips, Blogging Tools, General

This post was written by . You can visit the for a short bio, more posts, and other information about the author.


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Comments

  1. Josh says: 1/25/2007

    great info! so what’s a good way to get the links and icon into the sidebar without modifying the template. Seems like there would be a plugin/widget for that but haven’t seen one. Thanks!

    Reply

  2. J. Angelo Racoma says: 1/26/2007

    This is a great guide, David — especially for beginners who are not yet familiar with alternative ways to digest content off the web (and blogs). I hope RSS uptake would continue growing. I read only about 2% of ‘net users know what RSS is and even a lower percentage comprises the people who actually use RSS.

    Cheers.

    angelo

    Reply

  3. Sreejith says: 1/27/2007

    Well, its only a basic overview. I expected more. When I saw the title, “Making it easy to subscribe”, I thought this was some tutorial to optimize RSS in site for easier subscription. Anyway, nice article, May be good for newbies.

    Reply

  4. Josh says: 1/27/2007

    yeah, “Making it easy to subscribe” is what I was getting at in my previous comment. What makes it easy (for me anyway) is seeing that big orange icon in the UPPER RIGHT of the web page. I absolutely hate having to scroll down to the bottom of the page or search for some text that says RSS feed.

    I saw with the K2 theme that you can add a RSS module or a HTML module to put your own customized Subscribe code in.

    A small area that tells about RSS is a good idea to. I still find a large majority of people still don’t know what it is or are adverse to learning about it.

    Reply

  5. FeedPass says: 2/5/2007

    David,

    Nice post. It’s a shame that so many sites still fail to make RSS easier for their users. FeedBurner does a nice job but requires users to “burn” their feed and change their URL. FeedPass provides an easy RSS subscription landing page for any feed without having to burn the feed. So publishers stay in complete control and users find it easy to subscribe and learn about RSS at the same time.

    (Disclaimer: This post written by the founder of Feedpass)

    Reply

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