What is RSS? What’s a Feed? What Is Content Syndication?

What is RSS? Feed? Syndication?

While human beings can view HTML, in order for software platforms to consume content, it must be in a structured, readable format for programming languages. The format that’s the standard online is called a feed. When you publish your latest posts in blog software like WordPress, a feed is automatically published as well. Your feed address is typically found just by entering the URL of the site followed by /feed/

What is RSS? What does RSS stand for?

RSS is a web-based document (typically called a feed or web feed) that is published from a source – referred to as the channel. The feed includes full or summarized text, and metadata, like publishing date and author’s name. RSS strips out all of the visual design elements of your site and simply publishes the textual content and other assets like images and video.

Most people believe the term RSS originally stood for Really Simple Syndication but it was Rich Site Summary… and originally RDF Site Summary.

Nowadays it’s commonly referred to as Really Simple Syndication (RSS) and the universal symbol for an RSS feed looks like this on the right. If you see that symbol on a website, it’s simply enabling you to grab that URL to enter into your feed reader if you utilize one.

Feed readers used to be quite popular until social media platforms came along. Now, most people will follow a social media channel online rather than use and subscribe to a feed. That doesn’t mean the technology can’t still be leveraged, though.

RSS Feed Symbol
RSS Feed Symbol

This is an old but great video explanation from Common Craft explaining how feeds work and how users can take advantage of Really Simple Syndication (RSS):

What is Content Syndication?

RSS feeds can be utilized with feed readers and social media publishing platforms. Feed readers enable users to subscribe to the channels they wish to read on a frequent basis and read them from the application. The feed reader notifies them when there’s updated content and the user can read it without ever visiting the site!

This method of automatically feeding your content to subscribers and platforms is known as content syndication.

Social media platforms often enable publishers to automatically post their content to their social channels. For example, I utilize FeedPress to syndicate my content to both my personal and professional social media accounts across LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. Utilizing a platform like FeedPress also allows you to monitor your feed growth.

PS: Don’t forget to subscribe to our RSS Feed!

4 Comments

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      Woohoo! You’ve been so patient, Christine. I tend to get more and more technical with my posts. I figured that it was time to slow down and help some folks catch up.

      When you’re a geek mired in this stuff, it’s hard to remember not everyone else knows what you’re talking about!

      One last note on RSS. Imagine stripping down this page to simply the words and pictures in the article… with all the other superfluous items removed. That’s what the post looks like in an RSS feed!

      I recommend Google Reader!

  2. 3

    One of the things of my long to-do-list was to ask Douglas to write a little explanation of what RSS actually is.

    Thanks for that pre-emptive strike, Doug. (and inspiration for a new section in my blog, too 😉 )

  3. 4

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