We’re all hearing stories about how newspapers are obsolete and print is dead. But what’s taking their place? After, all the big attraction of newspapers is their scannability. We humans have become accustomed to absorbing a world of timely knowledge, at a glance.
At the dawn of social media, RSS (or really simple syndication) was THE way to monitor new content. It still has real value for those curating content for others in a specific niche. To put it in a nutshell, RSS solutions bring the web to you, your way. No clicking. No searching. No fancy formatting. Very little ad clutter. Just the text from your favorite sites along with relevant media. This technology continues to be a better choice for folks who want to actively control the type and quality of information they consume, rather than the passive experience of clicking on what shows up in your social media stream. It defines thought leadership, as opposed to following And the important thing is, it is indeed really simple. Here’s all you need to do:
Step 1: Get An RSS Aggregator
Google Reader was the king of RSS readers until 2013 when Google discontinued it. Using RSS in 2014 and beyond will mean are more ‘social’ experience rather than mere information consumption. The heir-apparent to Google Reader is Feedly due to its similar functionality, but Flipboard is a good choice as well for folks who like more visual experiences in a mobile environment. Bloglines refines the concept a bit with its focus on local blogs, news and events (a good option when you work in place-based heritage). Your reader is just a holding pen for all the information that will come from each site you subscribe to.
Step 2: Learn to recognize a site that offers a RSS feed
Most modern websites have RSS built in, but heritage organizations seem to be lagging behind in this regard. You will most likely recognize a RSS-enabled website by the square icon with a cone-shaped design in it. Usually it’s orange. This orange RSS button could be in the web page itself, but you know for sure by looking at the address bar of your browser. If the icon, or the letters RSS show up along with your website’s address, all you have to do is click the icon to save it to your preferred reader.
If your favorite site doesn’t have RSS, you still have options for monitoring changes to websites.
Step 3: Take stock of your web bookmarks.
Remember all those really cool sites you bookmarked in your browser thinking you would get back to them? I didn’t think so. It’s often the newest, shiniest websites that seem to get the most attention, often at the expense of more established sites that have a backstock of useful information and experienced authors. Go back and take a look at these sites. If they still seem relevant, try adding them to your RSS reader. You can also check the websites of your favorite print publications.
Step 4: Learn how to scan
The beauty of RSS is being able to immediately identify whether an article is something you 1.) are not interested in, 2.) just want to scan, or 3.) want to read thoroughly. Generally, your reader loads a few articles at a time. And items appear one after the other on your page. The length of the post within reader is set by the owner of the website providing the feed. While Web 2.0 netiquette expects that articles be fed in their entirety, some sites provide just a summary or headline. By using an RSS reader app like “Reeder” you can literally thumb through your feed entries.
Step 5: Share what’s useful
When a webmaster establishes an RSS feed, it is often with the help of a program like Feedburner. This embeds a variety of sharing options into each post that goes into the feed. Usually this appears in the bottom of each post. Feed readers also generally include easy options for sharing entries to social media services like Twitter.What you certainly will see is your Reader’s built-in options for sharing. Here’s a screenshot of the sharing options for a post in Feedly:
Featured RSS icon by orangejack on Flickr
“What does RSS mean” graphic by Brajeshwar on Flickr
Originally published August 2008. Updated Jan 2014