RSS For Dummies

Apparently today is RSS Awareness Day.

I’ve known for some time that very few web surfers actually use RSS, and those are the more technically sophisticated. Often they’re bloggers themselves, so blogs that blog about blogging usually have good subscriber numbers. Most web surfers don’t bother with RSS, they do a Google search to find something of interest, read it and get what they need out of it, and then never visit again (my Google Analytics stats for all my web sites bear this out).

So, today is a day dedicated to raising awareness of RSS. Okay, I’ll bite. Here’s my take at RSS For Dummies.

If you think of a blog like having a bulletin board outside your house, you’re not far off the mark. You can write each day on this bulletin board, and people who like what you write can drive by your house and read the board. Regular readers will drive by every day on their way to work, or you might just get people driving by once out of curiosity, and never again.

The main problem with this model is that it requires the readers to come to you. And let’s face it, most of us are pretty busy, so finding time to make that drive doesn’t always happen. There are always more blogs than there is time to visit each, so some get dropped.

RSS is a way to allow people to get the blog posts delivered to their home. So instead of needing to drive by your house to read your board, they get a copy of the day’s posts in their mailbox at home. They can read it at their leisure, without needing to actually visit your blog.

RSS is a mixed blessing for blogs. One the one hand, it allows blogs that might have gotten dropped the chance to get read. The blogs that were interesting enough to think about going back to, but not so interesting that the reader wanted to make that drive every day.

On the other hand, many people who read your blog via RSS don’t actually visit your web site. So they don’t see your ads, and don’t get a chance to earn you any money. They do need to go to your web site to leave a comment, but bloggers are painfully aware that most people don’t leave comments on blogs.

On the whole, though, RSS is a good thing for bloggers. Being read off line is far better than not being read at all.

To actually subscribe to a blog via RSS, you need something called an RSS reader. That’s a piece of software that goes out for you and picks up the daily posts and delivers them to you. It’s like a butler that drives by every blogger’s house and copies down anything on their board that day, so you don’t have to.

The easiest RSS reader to get started with is probably Google’s Reader. It’s easy because you don’t have to install any software, it’s all web based.

So if you haven’t tried subscribing to any blogs via RSS, go over to Google’s Reader and sign up for it, then come back here and subscribe to Online Opportunity via RSS.

3 Replies to “RSS For Dummies”

  1. Thanks for taking the time to write about RSS feeds. I agree with you that primary RSS users are bloggers themselves. But, I do not believe that a RSS feed has to hurt revenue numbers. Yes, just about all ads sold on a site are valued based on traffic to that sight, but if you are referring people to other products through your post RSS feeds help you reach more people daily to ‘seel’ the product.

    Also, if you do internal linking in your post you are likely to get a visit to your site from someone who enjoys your writing style and the information you share.

    On last benefit from RSS feeds are all the fun mashups out there. Without the fun medium of RSS feed they would not be possible.

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