Why Every Website Needs an RSS Feed

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OK, I’ll admit that I’m behind the curve on some tools that people are using to keep up with all of the information these days. Thankfully, because I talk often to people like Sally Church and William Gunn, I am persuaded to try ‘new’ (to me) tools, and one of these is Google Reader. Google Reader is a way to get updates from many website RSS (really simple syndication, see review here) feeds, which are simply a list of all of the new content on the page, be it blog posts or news updates. These days, I hear many people using RSS readers to collect a lot of information for filtering or analysis later.

I have been shocked to find that several general news and scientific publications do not have RSS feeds, although they update content regularly. This may be for several reasons–the website is built on an old platform that doesn’t support it, they may ‘subscribe’ to the old models, that users must ‘pay to play,’ or they don’t consider their content to be amenable to an RSS feed.

Not only does having an RSS feed help with disseminating content to individual subscribers, but it opens up your website to all sorts of syndication. For the San Diego Biotechnology Network, I pull news from many sources, and filter, to come up with a specific news feed for the local industry. I direct anywhere from 50-300 people to the original sources every day. Sites with no RSS feed do not get covered.

For scientific news and research publication sites, this is a no-brainer–set up an RSS feed, get more traffic. Life science companies: think of the potential! Launch a new product, automatically send it to all of your subscribers without having to format a newsletter. Yes, you may already have a way for readers to sign up for email updates, but consider that due to ‘information overload’ and personal preferences, people may prefer the RSS option. Also, you’ll picked up by sites which aggregate this type of information.

How do you do it? Modern programs such as WordPress and likely the newer content management systems (CMS) will have an RSS feed by default, you just need to look for the feature. Feedburner can help too, and will also give you useful stats and a way to send email updates from your feed. I also suggest using the orange RSS symbol AND the text ‘RSS’ on your website so that people can easily find your feed. Ahem….if you’d like to subscribe to the Comprendia RSS feed, or email updates, please do!

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1 Comment
  1. For video that describe Google Reader in pain English and what it can do for you, see:

    http://depth-first.com/articles/2009/02/21/casual-saturdays-the-lazy-path-to-enlightenment

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