Tuesday, November 06, 2007

RSS For The Win

RSS Feeds For The WinEarlier this year something took place that could drastically alter the way the business community communicates with their customer base. For the rumored sum of $100 million dollars cash Google bought a company called FeedBurner.

If this news is new to you then let's back up a bit and start at the beginning and talk briefly about a little “gadget” that has been around since 1999 called an RSS feed. Although there are several possible and acceptable meanings to this acronym the most common is Really Simple Syndication. And to put a definition to the term an RSS feed is just another way to share data on the web.

The purpose of an RSS feed is to summarize, or possibly contain the entire content, of some news or information found on the web. This is often referred to as a web feed. A web feed can be anything that gets published on the web, be it from a blog, a website, a podcast, etc. Companies can take advantage of this new way to share data in several ways:

First an RSS feed allows even the smallest of companies to have the largest of audiences if they have good content to publish on the web.

Secondly the basic RSS service is free. Other than the time and effort to write the marketing material, the potential cost savings over traditional printed marketing materials is astronomical.

Thirdly RSS information is propogated around the world almost immediately and will reside on the web in perpetuity. These RSS feeds once distributed can also bring increased traffic to your website.

Finally as a reader of RSS feeds a company can stay on top of current market or technology trends. This could give the RSS user an edge over a competitor who might chose to wait for their market news from the slower but more traditional media outlets.

Many readers will not realize how far this technology has already come so here are a few things you should know:

An RSS reader now comes standard with all new copies of Windows Vista.

RSS headline animators that summarize and link to your latest stories can easily be placed on your website for no charge. These animators can display a scrolling list of recent news or articles you have posted and if clicked on can take the user directly to that source. (Click here for an example of a headline animator from a Computer Rental Blog)

Hundreds of millions of RSS feeds are indexed and distributed automatically every day by Google News.

RSS feeds can be automated with free software from FeedBurner or right from your blog on sites like Blogger.com.

If your company has not yet started using an RSS feed there is no better time than now.

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