What is an RSS feed?

"What's an "RSS feed" and why would I want one on my organisation's website?"


RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication (amongst other meanings) – A simple and industry standard format for distributing news headlines and other content on the Web, which works like this: a client subscribes to a RSS feed and then every time that there is new content on the source web site, the client is notified.  There is an excellent one page primer on www.whatisrss.com 

What form does it take?  What does it look like?

An RSS feed is, in essence, a list of headlines and summaries.  Depending on the software used to read them, they may be displayed in a manner similar to emails, with a title and then body text, in a list.  Every headline will contain a link back to the original source article.

Benefits to the consumer

It allows you to easily stay informed by retrieving the latest content from the sites you are interested in. You save time by not needing to visit each site individually. You ensure your privacy, by not needing to join each site's email newsletter.  You don't have to remember the addresses of all the sites you might like to visit.

Benefits to a website operator

RSS offers your visitors an easy way to stay abreast with your content.  When someone is reading a feed and wants to know more, it is simple for them to click on a feed title and visit the source article.  In this way, feeds generate traffic to your website.  RSS can also be used to share information between websites.  A feed generated on www.ictpoint.ie could be displayed on www.wheel.ie.  This offers a two fold benefit: it benefits www.wheel.ie through new, changing content which is managed outside of wheel.ie.  It also benefits www.ictpoint.ie through traffic gained from wheel.ie, when interested visitors follow the RSS feed links back to the source website.

What do I need to read an RSS feed?

  • You can download special news reader software. The good folk at Google have compiled a fine selection here. 
  • A modern web browser, e.g. Internet Explorer 7 , Firefox has built in RSS reading functionality. 
  • Also, many email programs, e.g. Thunderbird , incorporate RSS functionality (these are also called news aggregators).
  • If you don't want to download newsreader software, you can simply visit a website that acts as a reader such as www.feedster.com or my.yahoo.com