What are feeds? I see “RSS”, “XML”, and “Atom” out there, but I
don’t know how I might use these links when I find them.
Feeds are a way for websites large and small to distribute their
content well beyond just visitors using browsers. Feeds permit
subscription to regular updates, delivered automatically via a web
portal, news reader, or in some cases good old email. Feeds also make
it possible for site content to be packaged into “widgets,” “gadgets,”
mobile devices, and other bite-sized technologies that make it possible
to display blogs, podcasts, and major news/sports/weather/whatever
headlines just about anywhere.
What Does This Mean?
You may recognize the universal feed icon or these “chicklets” from
your favorite websites, blogs, and podcasts. These icons represent
content in any format – text, audio or video – to which you can
subscribe and read/watch/listen using a feed reader. What’s that?
Why is This a Good Thing?
Technology evolution in online publishing has made it really easy to
not only publish regular updates to web-based content, but also keep
track of a large number of your favorite websites or blogs, without
having to remember to check each site manually or clutter your email
inbox. You can now streamline your online experience by subscribing to
specific content feeds and aggregating this information in one place to
be read when you’re ready.
* Consumer Bottom Line: Subscribing to feeds makes it possible to
review a large amount of online content in a very short time.
* Publisher Bottom Line: Feeds permit instant distribution of content
and the ability to make it “subscribable.”
* Advertiser Bottom Line: Advertising in feeds overcomes many of the
shortcomings that traditional marketing channels encounter including
spam filters, delayed distribution, search engine rankings, and general
Who publishes feeds?
Most of the biggest names on the web offer content feeds including
USATODAY.com, BBC News Headlines, ABCNews, CNET, Yahoo!, Amazon.com
(including a podcast!), and many more. Google publishes feeds as part
of many of our services; for example, you can get a feed of new items
for any search you make in Google News. In addition, hundreds of
thousands of bloggers, podcasters, and videobloggers publish feeds to
keep themselves better connected to their readers, listeners, admirers,
and critics. Apple, through its iTunes Music Store, offers tens of
thousands of audio and video podcasts for download, each of which is
powered by a feed.
How do I read feeds?
If you want to browse and subscribe to feeds, you have many choices.
Today, there are more than 2,000 different feed reading applications,
also known as “news aggregators” (for text, mostly) or “podcatchers”
(for podcasts). There are even readers that work exclusively on mobile
Some require a small purchase price but are tops for ease-of-use and
ship with dozens of feeds pre-loaded so you can explore the feed
“universe” right away. Free readers are available as well; a search for
“Feed reader” or “Feed aggregator” at popular search sites will yield
many results. A handful of popular feed readers are listed at the
bottom of this page.
A typical interface for a feed reader will display your feeds and the
number of new (unread) entries within each of those feeds. You can also
organize your feeds into categories and even clip and save your
favorite entries (with certain applications).
If you prefer, you can use an online, web-based service to track and
manage feeds. Online services give you the advantage of being able to
access your feed updates anywhere you can find a web browser. Also,
upgrades and new features are added automatically.
How can I publish my own feeds?
If you have a website, blog, audio/video content, or even photos, you
can offer a feed of your content as an option. If you are using a
popular blogging platform or publishing tool like TypePad, Wordpress,
or Blogger, you likely publish a feed automatically. Even other
non-blogging sites like social photo-sharing service Flickr offer feeds
of content you produce that others can retrieve. There are also tools
on the market that can help transform traditional web content into the
right format for distribution.
FeedBurner’s services allow publishers who already have a feed to
improve their understanding of and relationship with their audience.
Once you have a working feed, run it through FeedBurner and realize a
whole new set of benefits.
And finally, some technical backstory…
The new method for easily distributing online content is often called a
web feed and the technical format that makes it possible is called RSS,
which stands for Really Simple Syndication, Rich Site Summary, and/or
Rockdale, Sandow, and Southern (Railroad) if you trust the good folks
at AcronymFinder.com. RSS is based on XML, a widely used standard for
textual information exchange between applications on the Internet. RSS
feeds can be viewed as plain text files, but they’re really designed
for computer-to-computer communication.
We should point out that RSS is just one standard for expressing feeds
as XML. Another well-known choice is Atom. Both formats have their
boosters, and it doesn’t appear that consolidation toward a single
standard is imminent. However, most feed subscribers simply want fresh
content and don’t care at all about the underlying protocol.
(FeedBurner helps publishers avoid this quandary with our SmartFeed
service, which makes any feed format readable on any subscriber
Popular Feed Readers
* NewsGator – FeedDemon 2.0
(Windows, more info)
* NewsGator – Inbox for Microsoft Outlook
* NewsGator – NetNewsWire
(via “Live Bookmarks” feature)
(feed support in the Apple OS X native browser)
* Pulp Fiction
* Google Reader
* My Yahoo!