RSS, for those still new to the term, stands for Really Simple Syndication. Unfortunately not even the definition really explains what RSS means to the average blogger or site owner.
The shortest way to explain RSS is to think of it as an internet language that allows internet users to create custom pages which automatically pull headlines, articles, and stories from sites and blogs for viewing and reading without the internet users actually having to visit any of the sites.
Here is a more lengthy explanation.
Imagine for a second that you like to watch the news on TV. But if you are like most people you have preferences. Say for example you like the weather report on channel 7, the local news from channel 5, the national news on channel 8, and CNN financial news on channel 23. Now let’s say, rather than sitting through all the stuff you don’t like, jumping back and forth between channels, trying not to miss the stories that interest you – you are able to create your own custom channel. With your custom channel you are able to view only the weather from channel 7, the local headlines from channel 5, and the national and financial headlines broadcast.
Of course to make this happen all these channels must broadcast using one common signal and it must be a signal that your custom channel specifies and understands.
This is very similar to how RSS works.
RSS allows internet users to create a single location (using a subscription service) where they can view content from any number of websites and blogs that they specify without ever actually having to visit those sites. Of course to make this possible the sites of interest must be capable of “broadcasting” in RSS, which unlike television signals is actually an internet language.
The good news is that most blog platforms (Blogger, TypePad, WordPress, etc.) pages are already designed to “broadcast” the page content in an RSS signal format. So for most of you, your blogs are already capable of broadcasting your blog stories in RSS format across the World Wide Web.
But there is still the matter of the subscribers to your content.
The subscription services, also known as Feed Readers or Aggregators, as we’ve discussed, allow individuals to create a page and specify what content is shown.
Normally a Feed Reader only requires the individual setting up a Reader to supply the URL (e.g. http://www.blogtalk.com) of the site or page they want to subscribe. Once the URL is entered it will generate a list of the most current stories as they are released. The subscriber is typically shown a headline and the first sentence or two of the story. If they choose they can click on a specific story that interests them and read the full article or just delete it. If they click to read the full story they will typically be redirected to the site where the full story is posted.
There are currently hundreds of Feed Readers available to internet users. Some are more popular than others. Here are a few examples.
Often times you see blogs and sites with a whole list of these logos. These essentially allow internet users to subscribe to your content easily and quickly, provided you have listed the one they use.
For bloggers and sites with a steady flow of content releases this means that a large part of your audience may not actually be coming to your site. Never the less, these people are an important and valuable part of your total audience since they are viewing your content.
When we launch our new SiteMeter platform our plan is to offer you statistics about your RSS subscribers. We’ll be able to tell you things like how many people clicked on your subscription links and which links they clicked. We’ll also be able to tell you when subscribers are arriving to read your full stories, which reader they are arriving from and which story they are choosing to read.
The SiteMeter Team