What is RSS? How to Understand This Essential Tool for Reporters and Producers

by Shawn Smith on December 30, 2008

RSS is an acronym used for describing the process of content syndication via the Internet.

Rather than try to explain the concepts, I’ve grabbed a video that does a great job of visually showing how RSS works and its benefits for you.

Check it out: RSS in Plain English

If you watched the video, you should have a good idea for how RSS works.

REAL-WORLD RSS EXAMPLE

Here’s another quick example in real-world terms for how RSS works: Imagine you like to read about the news in your town. Every morning, you could walk downtown, buy a newspaper from store and then return home with it to read it during your morning coffee.

Or you could subscribe to home-delivery of the paper. If you subscribe to home-delivery, you never have to leave your home to get the day’s newspaper.

Now, think about the delivery service that chucks the paper at your front door as RSS and think of a RSS reader as your home.

By using an RSS reader, you can have content delivered to you and you don’t have to visit a number of sites to discover whether or not new content has been created for you.

STEP 1: FIND YOUR FEEDS

The first thing to do is to open the sites you most regularly visit. Look for the orange RSS icon and click them. Next, copy down the RSS feed addresses of the sites you’d like to put in your reader.

Examples of an RSS feed:

STEP 2: USING A READER

I’ve found another video for you to help you learn how to get started using an RSS reader. My favorite reader happens to be made by Google, aptly named Google Reader.

All you need is a Google account (they’re free!) and to visit http://www.google.com/reader.

Here’s the video: Google Reader in Plain English

OTHER PLACES TO USE FEEDS

If Google reader isn’t your thing, you can also subscribe to feeds using Google homepage (http://www.google.com/ig), your social networking profiles and even your mail program, such as Thunderbird or Microsoft Outlook.