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Why Have Feeds?
By: KC Morgan
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    2008-05-14

    Table of Contents:
  • Why Have Feeds?
  • Creating Feeds for Your Content
  • A Word About Digg, Del.icio.us and Reddit
  • Having Feeds

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    Why Have Feeds?


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    Content remains king on the Internet despite the addition of tons of links, streaming video and lots of graphics. Itís still all about the words people want to read. What better way to spread those words around than through Web feeds?

    Whatís a Web Feed?

    Youíve heard of syndication, right? In print media, syndication is highly common. A single article, instead of appearing in only one publication, is syndicated to appear in many different papers across the nation or world. Syndication on the Internet is similar, and itís done through Web feeds.

    Youíll find Web feeds on blogs, news sites, in fact any site which offers frequently-updated content may find feeds useful. A Web feed appears in the form of a link, usually attached to an icon, and allows visitors to subscribe to a particular blog or siteís content.

    In other words, Web feeds are little buttons users click so they can easily receive the content from their favorite sites.

    The Tech of Web Feeds

    Any Internet content which is frequently updated could have a Web feed. News, blogs, weather information, pictures, video, horoscopes and even lists are available through Web feeds. When users subscribe, they receive content through mobile devices, email, Web portals or news readers. Instead of going to the content, the content comes to them.

    Most Web feeds are based on XML. This is a type of technology which allows information to be updated between different sites very, very quickly. Basically, XML allows Web feeds to work. Of these feeds, RSS is seen very often and is very well-known. RSS, short for either Really Simple Syndication or Rich Site Summary depending on who you ask, is a type of XML which actually condenses content (generally offering a title, short description and link to the full piece). A whole host of feeds are available when using RSS. This makes it an easy process for sites to offer feeds to traffic.

    ButÖwhatís the point of having them on a Web site at all?

    Why Have Feeds?

    Subscribers enjoy feeds because they can quickly and easily access Internet content by simply opening their email or online reader, as opposed to going to a Web site and seeking out the information they want to read. Also, subscribers donít have to risk anything to enjoy their feeds. Feed subscriptions donít ask for personal information or even email addresses. Readers can sign up while still avoiding spam emails and potential identity theft. Feeds are easy to subscribe to; theyíre also easy to unsubscribe from. In fact, users who decide to stop their feeds donít even have to officially unsubscribe. All it takes is the deletion of the feed itself within the content reader.

    Feeds are obviously a nice option for Web traffic and the readers themselves. But what good are they for those who actually own the sites the content is coming from?

    Through feeds, a siteís content (and continued existence) are continually presented to visitors. Even if traffic isnít visiting the site, readers are still enjoying the content. The value of potential word-of-mouth advertising alone makes feeds attractive for sites with a lot of content to offer. Feeds also add yet another Web 2.0 element to sites, an important consideration in todayís highly interactive Internet. It offers a little extra to your site visitors, and Internet users love those little extras.

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