RSS may stand for Really Simple Syndication, but launching this feature on your Web site is hardly that simple. Here are some tips via New York Magazine’s product manager Deborah Au-Yeung.
1. Educate Internal Stakeholders It’s important to get internal stakeholders thinking about how RSS is useful on a personal and practical level, from the perspective of the magazine reader. Often, people don’t understand the benefit of RSS or they find the technology behind it daunting.
2. Your Site Is Not the Center of Your Market’s Universe Although publishers want to believe that their magazine is the final destination for a reader and want to keep visitors on their site, in the online medium of the Internet, visitors will go to the sites that hold the most relevant information for them. By creating RSS feeds, we provide a service but also help ourselves in the process by making our site a constant presence in our online reader’s personalized aggregated content and by driving readers back to the Web site regularly.
3. Use Regularly Updated Content for RSS Content that is updated often works best for RSS since readers are most likely checking their RSS aggregators once a day and are drawn to the Web site when they see there are new articles or listings available. Since New York is a weekly magazine, we chose to syndicate content from the most popular topics and columns on our site. RSS feeds will be available for our blogs as well.
4. Educate Your Customers Providing an informative FAQ page is important so readers understand what RSS is and how it’s useful for them. We want to create tools that make it easy for readers to access our content and to demystify any technology that needs to be used to do so. There are only five items on the FAQ page, but they answer the most basic questions of what RSS is, how to use it, where to get a news reader and how to add feeds to a news reader.
5. Make Ongoing Production Easy From a tech standpoint, we looked at the out-of-the-box RSS functionality available from our content management system and weighed it against editorial needs and the cost of building additional functionality. I would say that 80% of our needs were satisfied out-of-the-box and that the challenge lay in creating tools that made it easy for the staff to produce the RSS feeds. We wanted to automate the creation of RSS feeds as much as possible and re-use as much of the meta-data from our content management system as possible. Your organization will need to put resources up front to build the RSS feeds, but once they are built, they should run automatically.
6. Don’t Go Overboard All new technologies are an experiment and RSS is no different. We will tweak the available feeds on a regular basis until we find the most popular feeds to provide. The idea is to reduce overloading users with information so we don’t want to provide so many feeds that users can’t find the ones they want. Don’t try to make RSS into more than what it is – a really simple way to syndicate content.