IT intelligence: RSS

RSS is a quick and easy way to add fresh content to your website.

RSS is usually said to stand for Really Simple Syndication, although there seem to be many variations on this formula. It is the web version of old-fashioned ticker-tape news, sent out for syndication across the wires.

An RSS feed is usually made up of a number of titles and short summaries of the content on the website that produced the feed. You display this information on your website and visitors can read the summary or click through for the full story.

RSS is really easy. A website makes news available via RSS. These feeds might be news, weather, sports results, blogs, even book lists - whatever the site owners think the rest of the web might use. Subscription to RSS is normally free, although high-value content may come at a cost.

An RSS reader is a piece of software that takes the RSS and produces code for your website. Sometimes they are provided by the website offering the feed. Free ones are widely available.

Finally, there is the code produced by the RSS reader, which you add to your website. Many readers allow you some level of customisation; most of the free ones add in advertising links.

So you find an RSS feed you want, sign up for a free RSS reader, tell it the URL of the RSS, and dump the code it gives you onto your website.

Hey presto, you have up-to-date weather/news/scores on your site without any more work.

Experts are constantly telling us to add relevant news to our sites.

The biggest issues are normally time and effort. With RSS feeds you can add something fresh and worth reading to the site on a regular basis without the work. Whether people will visit your site to see the new information will depend on the usefulness and relevance of the link, so think twice about adding the latest tiddlywink championship scores.

• Sue Fidler is director of communications and solutions at the Charity Technology Trust.


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