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What is an RSS Feed?

An RSS Feed is what makes a podcast a podcast. It is the technology behind how a podcast (or blog) is syndicated over the web.


Have you ever subscribed to a podcast in iTunes, a smartphone podcast app or have you ever used a feed reader like Google Reader or Feedly?

If so, then you have utilized RSS Feeds before and may not have been aware of it.

RSS Feeds allow you to subscribe to the content that you don’t want to miss. From that point on you will receive the content, an excerpt of the content, or at the very least a notification of new content.

The new content is pushed to you as soon as it is published.

The benefit here is that you don’t have to remember to go back to the website in order to consume the content. As a subscriber, you will get the content delivered to you automatically.

This is the key concept. You subscribe once and all subsequent content in that feed is delivered automatically.

What does RSS Mean?

You may understand the concept of what an RSS Feed does,  but what does the acronym mean? There is a lot of confusion here and some people (myself included) use the unofficial description of what RSS stands for.

So you are wondering what RSS stands for?

RSS stands for rich site summary, NOT Really Simple Syndication
What does RSS stand for?

RSS stands for Rich Site Summary.

It was originally called RDF Site Summary but most people actually refer to RSS as Really Simple Syndication.

I originally thought that RSS actually did stand for Really Simple Syndication but the correct term for the technology is Rich Site Summary.

I like Really Simple Syndication because it actually describes what an  RSS Feed does.

And that is to syndicate content and it is simple to subscribe and unsubscribe to a feed.

RSS Feeds uses web feed formats to publish frequently updated information like blog entries, podcasts, news headlines.

An RSS document is the feed or channel and includes full or summarized text and metadata like the publish date and authors name.

RSS Feeds enable publishers to syndicate data automatically. A standard XML file format ensures compatibility across platforms so you don’t have to have a separate technology for different types of users.

What is an RSS Feed Reader?

The software used to manage RSS Feeds is called an RSS Reader, Aggregator or feed reader.

RSS Feed Readers can be web-based, desktop based or mobile device based.

Google Reader was a popular Feed Reader but has been retired by Google.  I have replaced my Google Reader with Feedly which is a great RSS Reader that allows you to subscribe to content and get continuous updates.

By the way, Feedly now has great integration with Onenote allowing you to send content directly from Feedly to Onenote. I love it!

By subscribing to a web feed (RSS), you will no longer have to manually check the website for new content. Your browser, feed reader or podcatcher will monitor the site and inform you of new updates.

The user of an RSS Reader can have the software notify them of new content or automatically download new content.

In the case of Podcatcher apps like Pocket Casts, they tend to notify you of new content and can be set to download the content automatically over wifi or Cellular Data if you enable this feature in the app.

The latest Pocket Casts App
Pocket Casts 7

The RSS Feed is what makes podcasting possible.

We can publish our show and it will automatically syndicate to everyone who has asked to receive it. And the subscriber does not have to do anything to get each episode or post as it is delivered automatically.

The content producer doesn’t have to do anything to send the new content to their subscribers. When you press the publish button on your podcast episode or blog post the post will enter the feed and be delivered to your readers, listeners or viewers.

And whether there is 10 people or 10 million people in your feed they will all get your content and happily consume it (hopefully).

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Andrew McGivern
Andrew McGivern

Andrew McGivern is a podcaster, blogger and mobile tech guy. Father of three awesome little ones. Interested in Social Media Marketing, New Media and Podcasting, Technology, Natural Health and Green Energy.

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