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What Is An RSS Feed?

The RSS feed originally stood for “Resource Description Framework Site Summary,” but in keeping with the streamlined nature of RSS feeds, it is now commonly known as “Really Simple Syndication.” Below is an easy guide to understanding RSS feeds.

RSS feed basics
An RSS feed is like having a newspaper delivered to your door, only the paper is filled with exactly the articles you want, from a list of the news sources you have personally chosen. Using an RSS, you can subscribe to your preferred news websites and blogs, and then all of the articles are delivered in one page, right to your screen.  You can access your feeds through a website or news reader application. Feeds may also be sent right to your e-mail. Unlike newspapers, RSS feeds can include text, audio and video. By organizing all of this information for you, feeds allow you to consume a huge array of published content, without having to visit hundreds of different websites.

How to use an RSS feed
RSS feeds are published in feed readers, which are platforms such as websites or applications on a mobile device.  You can find thousands of feed readers on the web, many of which are free. Text readers are primarily known as “news aggregators,” while podcasts (pre-recorded audio broadcasts) are fed through “podcatchers.” Most feed readers look a little different, but they generally come with the same basic functions.  You can usually search for feeds, then subscribe and add them to your reader. Once you have your feeds lined up, the reader will display any unread material, usually in chronological order. Depending on the reader, you may be able to organize your feed into categories and bookmark your favorite articles.

Popular feeds
Essentially all of the major news outlets have RSS feeds. Popular feeds include Google News, the Wall Street Journal and Fox News.  Once you start looking, you can find RSS feeds to suit any taste. In addition to news articles, feeds can include weather alerts, humor sites, technology updates, food bloggers and music reviews. Many readers will even make new recommendations based on your current subscriptions.

Publishing your own feeds
Anyone with a blog, website, video or audio webcast or photo stream can publish a feed  Popular content platforms such as WordPress, Blogger and Flickr will generally publish your posts automatically. For personal websites, you may have to customize your code to allow for an RSS feed. Online tools are also available to help you publish your website automatically   Some websites can provide you with a simple HTML code for your site, while others will create and publish a feed for you. You can control the information that shows up on your feed, whether its the entire article or a teaser that leads people to your website. Publishing your own feed allows readers to access your content regularly without having to visit your website. While this may seem to take away from your site’s visibility, the convenience may actually lead to greater popularity.