Imagine switching on TV and only seeing the shows you want to see. No ads, no infomercials. No Bold and the Beautiful... just great content. Imagine switching on the radio in your car and only hearing your favourite bands. Great songs, no ads, no dance music. Just great content.

Now imagine one technology that could deliver only the content you want from the world wide web (the greatest source of information known to humankind) directly to your desktop. Less time spent browsing. No more waiting for pages to load, using up unnecessary bandwidth. No more ads. Just great content; and it's delivered.

Say hello to RSS.

So what is RSS?

RSS, an acronym for real simple syndication, is useful to both web publishers and web users (readers) alike. Through RSS, publishers now have an entirely new way to market the content of their web sites to a niche readership. For readers, RSS allows you to subscribe to a 'live feed' of hand-picked content delivered from the web sites you love reading on a daily basis.

There are far more technical, IT lingo unpacked explanations about how it really works, but the bottom line is that the technology works and it makes life easier.

RSS facts

Not all sites publish RSS feeds - simply because they don't all need to. Only sites with regularly updated content need to publish RSS feeds. News sites (, e-commerce sites (, blogs (, wikis (, forums, message boards, to name but a few, are examples of sites that have RSS feeds. Sites that change will find RSS a useful marketing tool.

If a company's web site doesn't have any dynamic content, then consumers and customers are not going to be incentivised to visit the site - why visit a site if the content is never updated? No industry, no organisation, no business, nor company, can afford to have a web site that doesn't change, live, breathe, adapt. In today's 'Connection Economy' people need to find value on your site to differentiate it from the billions of other online alternatives.

It's important to remember that RSS is still in the infantile stages of its development as a communications medium. Not surprisingly, many sites publish RSS feeds because they know a small minority uses the functionality, but they don't proactively advertise the feed for fear of scaring the technophobic population away. A good case in point is - South Africa's most popular news and current affairs web site. It publishes a feed but tucks the feed icon (which is what you need to look for on a web page when looking for a feed) way down on the very bottom-right of the front page. Only uber-geeks will ever find it there. Once subscribed to the feed, however, it is then possible to have news headlines delivered in real time via any selected medium.

Of course if you don't use web sites as information resources, RSS is not a necessary communications tool. But for those who do, RSS can supply updates on the latest news, and sport, market trends, blog entries, magazine articles, and book reviews; you name it, RSS can deliver. It's a huge time saver.

Getting started

There are a number of ways to take advantage of RSS. Most people use Internet Explorer as their default Web browser. Unfortunately, Microsoft has been very slow to pick up on the RSS phenomenon (although IE 7 is rumoured to have RSS integration) and a third-party RSS reader (or aggregator) needs to be used to collect, decode and display feed subscriptions. The techno-savvy will be using the open source Firefox web browser, which has automatic RSS feed detection and a nifty little tool called a live bookmark, which displays updated RSS feeds in the toolbar. Very sexy!

Bloglines is what is more commonly known as an RSS reader - almost like a decoder (visit An RSS reader receives (aggregates) and interprets site feeds, and then displays them all in one place, in real time, for reading pleasure. Hence the beauty of RSS. The Bloglines subscriptions page becomes a one-stop shop for all web content.

And Bloglines is free. Users simply set up an account and follow the on-screen directions to set up a new list of reading. The trickiest part is learning to add new feeds, but Bloglines has help for that process too. Just know where to look on those favourite web sites for the little orange RSS button!

Strategic Internet Marketing Tool

RSS is not just for under-worked IT nerds. It's a serious business tool that need to be strategically considered by companies regardless of their industry. They present exciting ways to create additional connections with existing and potential clients. If we are living in a connected relationship economy, which we undoubtedly are, then companies would do well to find innovative ways of connecting with their customer and making their lives easier.