Thought RSS is Dead? Think Again, RSS is Still VERY Useful

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RSS as we all know is one of the oldest and most powerful weapons of mass content distribution for publishers and mass content consumption for readers. Launched back in 1999, RSS has seen a tremendous rise in the past decade. Since the dawn of social media and the boom of email marketing, RSS has been taking a slow but steady turn down the river. Prominent web authorities have started (long back) to outcast RSS and shift to cooler, smarter and faster alternatives than RSS – Twitter and other forms of social media.
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RSS as we all know is one of the oldest and most powerful weapons of mass content distribution for publishers and mass content consumption for readers. Launched back in 1999, RSS has seen a tremendous rise in the past decade.

Since the dawn of social media and the boom of email marketing, RSS has been taking a slow but steady turn down the river. Prominent web authorities have started (long back) to outcast RSS and shift to cooler, smarter and faster alternatives than RSS – Twitter and other forms of social media.

Many still heavily rely on RSS – including web authorities and authority blogs on the popular niches. Authority blogs use customized open-source RSS parser software in their own servers to closely monitor their competitor’s RSS feeds in order to get ahead of the game – the head start advantage!

My experience developing a WordPress RSS importer/aggregator (WP RSS Aggregator) has taught me many lessons and as soon as I launched it I was overwhelmed by the demand there was for such plugins. That led to me building a successful business around it by providing premium add-ons for it.

In today’s debate we’ll see why RSS is here to stay. We’ll analyze certain situations and weigh them with social media and RSS feeds.

I’ve tried to factor in the pros of social media but I’m more on RSS’ side since my topic title suggests so. As always, we welcome you to participate in this discussion!

Social Media thumps RSS – I’m here to say otherwise.

Let’s analyse this situation. We have two contenders – Twitter and RSS.

Your Twitter stream is full of awesome people – sharing a cumulative 20-30 posts a minute. That’s like one post per two seconds! In order to get the juiciest content off Twitter, you’d have to actively monitor the feed and fish out the best material.

Honestly, I wouldn’t have the time to go through all that content one by one. And for a person who updates his/her blog weekly, or regularly – it’s impossible for me to catch each one of them.

There’s always an App for that!

Of course a smart person would use a software to do the same, but it would require countless logic, high fees, and most importantly, there’s room for error.

How? Let’s say you have this magical software that seeps the best material from the people you follow on Twitter and emails them to you or adds it to some read it later service. (There’s actually a free service that does this, can you guess its name?)

What happens when the person/company tweets the same thing, twenty times a day? Or responds to its followers? Authority blogs spend 100s of dollars on each article and they’re bound to share it!

Your software will in fact, send you bogus data.

Enter RSS – the Knight in Shining Armour

I’ve presented two problems in the last discussion, and I’m going to show you how RSS will overpower Twitter and bid goodbye to those problems.

Every (sane) blog will have its RSS feed enabled. The reason I’ve mentioned sane is because some blogs have in fact, disabled their RSS feeds completely. They solely rely on email and social media marketing for their outreach.

When you use RSS, your RSS Aggregator will automatically download from 100s or 1000s or practically ‘n’ number of RSS feeds and present the data to you in a neat, organized fashion. You can read the data offline, in your tablet or phone and won’t need an active Internet connection.

Each article will be downloaded only once. You can’t retweet items on an RSS feed. Be it a top authority blog like Copyblogger or a friend you made on a trekking expedition on the Himalayas, each article that appears on either blog will be added to your RSS aggregator only once.

Here’s a bonus – anything older than a week practically stops to exist on Twitter. People stop talking about it and you can’t find it. Well maybe you can, but you’ll have to sweep to 100s ofrelated results to find the one you’re looking for? Kind of like finding your life partner, no?

RSS is your life partner. It’s there for you – it gathers the best (of articles) from the hundreds of feeds you add to it, and presents it to you in a clean, familiar typography – waiting to be devoured.

News Sites and RSS

News sites and RSS go like bread and butter. Trust me on this, if you’re keen on following a particular section on a particular newspaper (well, the news site) there’s no better alternative than RSS. You can simply grab that feed and add it to your reader. Better yet, you can use our WP RSS Aggregator plugin and add those items in your blog – all with a few clicks of a button!

Hey wait, news sites do promote their articles on Twitter!

Yes, they sure do. In fact, it’s the best way to catch breaking news. There’s no doubt about it.

But tell me, which software or service will gather specific articles on Ghana or Iran from a particular Twitter feed (let’s say the BBC) and add it to your read it later service? After all, news sites will share all their stories on their Twitter channel! It’s exponentially difficult to selectively one from ten tweets and add it to your reader!

Of course, it’s not impossible. (We have computers that can read our thoughts)

Conclusion

To sign off this debate, I’d like to quote Craig Butler from SitePoint who offers a very interesting analogy for this hot topic.

However, RSS is far from dead. Users may not realize it, but the technology is beneath the surface powering inter-website communication and interactions. Most of the social networks provide or consume RSS. Mash-ups often use feeds to combine data. Google devours RSS data to power website and product searches.

RSS has become a transparent data-exchange protocol. Like TCP/IP, the user need never know it’s there, why it’s being used, or how it works. Few people interact directly with feeds so news aggregators days may be numbered — but RSS is here to stay. It may not receive the same marketing hype, but RSS is working silently and effectively in the background.

Jean Galea

Jean Galea is an investor, entrepreneur, and blogger. He is the founder of WP Mayor, the plugins WP RSS Aggregator and Spotlight, as well as the Mastermind.fm podcast. His personal blog can be found at jeangalea.com.

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