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Factfile: Adding value with RSS

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Raise your profile using RSS for newsfeeds and alerting
RDF Site Summary or RSS
(sometimes alternatively referred to as Really Simple Syndication, or Rich Site Summary)

Many content providers use email alerting to make announcements to users. While this can be effective, it relies on users ‘signing up’ to the alerting service. RSS provides a mechanism for disseminating information such as news, product announcements, tables of contents or virtually any list-oriented content to potential users. An RSS item appears to users as a short ‘headline’, normally with a slightly lengthier descriptive piece of text associated with it. Clicking on the item takes the user to the original web page for the full content. RSS is a growing phenomenon and the main format now used to distribute and share ‘news’ on the web by small and large organisations (eg the BBC). Thus using RSS to disseminate ‘headlines’ about your content will raise product awareness and draw interested users to your site.

The JISC Information Environment advocates the use of the RDF Site Summary standard for providers who wish to use RSS. This involves constructing an RSS file, often referred to as an RSS feed or channel.

The file is made available on the content provider’s website for others to capture and process further, for example, by including it in their news services (sometimes alongside other RSS files gathered from the web). An RSS reader (software application) is required to display the items in an RSS newsfeed. Some browsers have RSS reader add-ins, and standalone desktop applications are also available.
A JISC project has produced a document about RSS, RSS – A Primer for Publishers and Content Providers. The primer provides a comprehensive overview of the principles and issues associated with using RSS from a content provider perspective, and provides examples and case studies to guide the organisation setting up an RSS newsfeed for the first time.

Content provider benefits

RSS is a simple technology and relatively easy to produce either manually (eg using an editor) or automatically (eg generation from a Content Management System). Providing RSS can raise your profile and widen audiences by attracting interested users to your site from a variety of routes. Your products are also potentially visible to users, even if they do not visit your website.

User benefits

The recent growth in RSS across the web suggests users are quickly becoming accustomed to this service. As uptake increases, many may expect this service to be widely available. With the growth of online resources, it is also possible that users will come to rely on RSS to prompt them to visit websites of interest rather than make regular visits of their own accord.

References and further information

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