In the last decade, the place held by RSS as the means to disseminate all the content vying for a consumer’s limited attention span has been aggressively overtaken by social media, but that doesn’t mean the technology has no part to play in your online publishing strategy.
RSS is short for Really Simple Syndication, and the technology is what allows almost anything that is published online to be collated into a single news feed.
At a consumer level it allows people to create one news feed from all their favourite websites via an RSS reader, and be notified as soon as any new content is posted.
It also allows readers to quickly and easily see which posts have been read and which ones are still waiting to be read – that way no new content is missed in a busy schedule.
RSS had its heyday during the web publishing boom prior to social media’s takeover of much of the world’s daily content feeds.
Once social media became ubiquitous people quickly started using the platforms to consume their daily dose of news from commercial networks in the same place that they keep up to date with all the gossip, trivia and viral chatter from their social networks.
Now many people allow social media platforms and their feed logarithms to decide what content will be read and what is deemed unworthy.
But there are many content consumers who have realised that they know their own needs far better than the social media technology giants.
These people understand the value of a well curated RSS feed – it is rarely populated with items that are not wanted and it faithfully delivers all the items from suppliers that are approved.
In particular, those who consume content in the process of their daily work regularly choose to avoid social media platforms while during work hours. For them, the deafening cacophony of viral fakery and associated advertising is incapable of delivering online content for professional purposes .
So, publishers in their haste to seek a greater penetration for posted content may concentrate the entirety of their efforts on social media distribution, thereby failing to cater for the more professional or technically adept readership that separate social from professional news consumption.
And the bad news is that this much smaller group of online consumers most likely contains a far greater percentage of the consumers a publisher should be targeting.
Some of the major publishers of specialised content still offer RSS as a part of their service. GitHub is one that still show RSS links on their pages and for others there are simple tricks to finding the RSS feed URL.
Although Google got out of the business of serving consumer-created RSS feeds when it closed down its hugely popular Google Reader, there remain many buoyant services such as Feedly, Newsboat, NewsBlur, Inoreader and others.
So, while RSS has taken big hits to its popularity over recent years, it’s far from dead and in fact is gaining popularity with those in the know – a group that may just represent a very large target readership for you content.
The message is clear: ignore RSS at your own peril