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Uses of RSS

January 24, 2006

RSS (really simple syndication) is poised to enter the market this year as another viable outlet to broadcast information. Instead of website "pushing" content to users (via email or other outlets), RSS enables the user to subscribe to certain content feeds and "ask" for the information. No more annoying emails, no more spam emails, no complicated unsubscribe methods. If a user doesn't like the content they are receiving, they simple delete the feed from their feed reader and it's gone!

RSS is starting to catch on, and I believe it can be used in tandem with any type of active website. Note the word "active". The entire purpose of creating an RSS feed to syndicate your content is to let people know you have a constantly evolving website that updates information at least somewhat frequently. It makes no sense to create a news feed if it will never be update. That being said, let's look at some different types of websites that could utilize RSS effectively:

"Sales" Type of Websites
I will categorize any commerce website as a sales website. A sales website is broadcasting to the general public, the smallest RSS audience today, and the audience that will make RSS a popular and widely used tool. Right now I believe RSS subscribers are limited to those interested in the more cutting edge technologies available on the web. RSS will never become mainstream popular (like instant messsaging for example), until the general public starts using it. This use will be driven by sales websites. I can envision Macy's, Bloomingdales, Bed Bath and Beyond, even Pathmark, creating feeds with sale items. With an RSS reader users could be instantly notified when certain products have been lowered in price, about to be dicontinued, or when new products are coming out. Another huge "sales" area for RSS syndication is the real estate market. Imagine being on the lookout for new a new house and subscribing to an RSS feed that sent you information about a listing that matched your preferences immediately after it goes on the market.

News Websites
This is an obvious one, but an example nonetheless. I think every major news site right now incorporates RSS in some way, shape, or form. What's great about news syndication is that you can choose RSS feeds based on the type of content you're interested in. If you're interested in financial headlines, you can subscribe just to the finance RSS feed. I think every type of news syndication website should have an RSS feed.

Blog Websites
Similar to news websites, blogs have a strong footprint on the Internet. Blogs are run by people with a passion about certain topics and you can pretty much find someone with a passion for anything on the Internet. Most likely the serious ones will have a blog to make sure they can tell as many people as possible about their opinions...nonetheless RSS is almost a right-of-passage for blog developers and is already incorporated into many blogging platforms.

Business Intranets
I'm using "intranets" here to describe any kind of business personnel communications. RSS is probably never thought of as a time-saving utility for business flow, especially for larger corporations. RSS, when integrated with a content management system, can form a nice workflow type of notification system. RSS can be used by authors and copywriters to send alerts to managers that content has been produced and needs to be approved. Once investigated RSS notification can be sent to the author alerting that the content is ready for publication or needs edits. Finally notification can be sent out that content has been published. This holds true for any type of content, from an actual news story, to contract creation, to any kind of reports. In addition, the next version of Microsoft Outlook will include an RSS reader to make integration with the current workflow a snap!

Again, RSS syndication can be worked into any type of active website. If a website has continually updated content, it needs an RSS feed. Once the "sales" websites start using RSS to alert consumers of sales and product notifications, RSS will really start to become a "serious player" compared to email and instant messaging.

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