What is RSS? It stands for Really Simple Syndication and Wikipedia can give you more technical details, but what you really need to know is that RSS lets you “subscribe” to frequently changing website (like blogs) and read them at your leisure without having to actually visit the website. This can be very helpful with parts of your website that you update frequently like a blog, Press Release page or an events calendar.
It’s extremely easy to set up an RSS feed on your website, and there are several ways to do so. We use FeedBurner here on the Tourism Tech Corner. FeedBurner is great, not just because they’ve recently been acquired by Google, but because it gives you tons of options about how you want your feed displayed. It is also very simple to put a feed up and will certainly work without having to go through too many of the details. FeedBurner also allows you to set up email alerts for your page in addition to RSS feeds. You’ll notice that on the left hand side of the Tourism Tech Corner, you can click on RSS or on Email. One great feature that FeedBurner offers is the ability to track RSS readers and email subscribers. You can see who has signed up to subscribe to your feed and keep tabs on them.
Updated (10/22): There is one other great feature about using FeedBurner for your RSS rather than a standard domain-provided RSS feed. If, for some reason, your blog ever moves from it’s current place, everyone who is subscribed through the FeedBurner RSS won’t have to re-subscribe. So, if I moved the Tourism Tech Corner blog from WordPress to Blogger, the RSS transition would be seemless. All I would have to do is log into my FeedBurner account and change the blog address. Most of you won’t change your blog address once it’s set up, but this is a good safeguard, just in case! Updated (10/22)
Now that you’ve got RSS feeds set up on your website or blog, your next question is probably, how do I read RSS feeds?
Well, there are a number of great, free RSS readers out there. Typically, whenever you click on an RSS feed link (look for the icon at the top of the post), you’ll be brought to a page where you can decide which reader you want to view the RSS feed through. If you’re interested in a web-based RSS Reader, Google Reader is a great option. It’s free with a Google Account and you can organize your different feeds into folders (tourism feeds in one folder, hotel feeds in another folder, etc.)
If you’re looking for a desktop-based reader, FeedDemon is one of the most popular ones out there for PCs (NetNewsWire is the Mac equivalent). One bonus of a desktop-based RSS reader is that your feeds can be downloaded to your computer and read even if you’re not connected to the internet.
The best thing about RSS Feeds is that they enable you to keep up with websites that talk about things you are interested in without having to visit the sites multiple times a day. Once you’ve subscribed to an RSS Feed, it will automatically update in your reader when the site gets updated.
Do any of you use RSS readers or feeds for your organizations?