What is RSS? What does it Mean to "Syndicate" a Site?

RSS makes it possible for you to use a single tool to easily read news and posts from weblogs and news sites across the web. The news comes to you without using email. Here is how you can get started:

On a majority of weblogs and some online community discussions and news sites, you'll see links and buttons like these:

Syndicate copy.gif
or: xml.gif

If you're like me, you clicked these buttons, only to be more confused by what you saw. This entry will help you understand how to use these links and an "RSS" reader to read the news and why it's something that could affect your day-to-day news reading and browsing.

From now on, I'll refer to the tools and processes as "RSS" (which means "Really Simple Syndication" or "Rich Site Summary" depending upon who you ask) It's not important to know anything but the terminology for now.

First, an overview:

Think about weblogs like individual news sources that create headlines and RSS as a way to read the news more easily. Something called a RSS newsreader or aggregator allows you keep up with these headlines more efficiently. It can be a replacement for visiting sites individually or subscribing to email newsletters. Using RSS, the news comes to you. It allows you to use a single tool to read news on the sites you choose.

Here's how it works:

First, you need to download an RSS newsreader. Here's a top ten list of RSS newsreaders for Windows. NetNewsWire is a good one for Mac. I use Wildgrape's Newsdesk.

Once you have a news reader- you are ready to go find weblogs and news sites that interest you (you finally get to use that "Syndicate this site" or "XML" link).

Let's use my site as an example. Find the "Syndicate This Site" link on the right side of the page and click it. You'll see a bunch of code. All you need to worry about is the URL (website address) on that page - it ends in ".rdf". Copy the URL and open your newsreader.

With your newsreader open, look for "New Channel" or some way to add a site. It should be very obvious. Once you click this button or link, the application will ask for the address of the site you'd like to add. Paste the .rdf (or .xml) address into the application. It should look like this:

Add channel copy.gif

Once you've added a site, you should see that the RSS reader displays the "headlines" from the site. By clicking a headline, you can read the news from the site without going to it. You should quickly see how it works. If you added my site, you should see my latest entries each time you open your newsreader.

Headlines copy.gif

Now that you have everything prepared, you can go to any weblog you like and click the "XML" or "Syndicate this site" link to add it to your RSS reader. Then, when you'd like to catch up on the news, you just open your RSS reader and read away. No email, no spam, no browsers.

RSS is fairly new, but it's good to know about because it could represent a new and growing format that may be used to access information in business.

Related Reading: A New Way to Look at News with RSS