RSS Explained for the Blogging Newbie

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RSS stands for Real Simple Syndication. Blogs automatically publish their content via what’s called an RSS Feed. Here’s a great video explanation of RSS in action, but let me also give you a simple analogy to make it easy to understand how it works:

Newspaper publishing is done via a dynamic publishing system. Each reporter writes their own articles and saves them to a special file, with a designated code to let everyone know exactly how to find that article. A designer lays out the newspaper pages, and leaves coded placeholders for each headline, article and advertisement. When it comes time to go to press, all she does is click a few buttons, and automatically the layout program knows exactly where to place the articles, ads and headlines, resulting in the finished edition.

Blogs, RSS, and Feed Readers work in much the same way. The bloggers are the reporters writing articles. The blogging software does all of the designation coding so that everything appears in its proper place automatically. Blogging software pulls the content from a blog database so that the blog assembles itself all on its own. Feed Readers work similarly, except that they pull the content from many blogs into one place, enabling you to have your own custom electronic newspaper to read every morning, with all of your favorite topics and columnists. Examples of Feed Readers are MyYahoo, Google Reader, and Bloglines.

The great thing about understanding feeds is that bloggers will eventually have Subscribers to their own Feeds. Subscribers are people who elect to pull the content from a blog into their feed reader on a regular basis, and thus are a reliably captive audience!

It’s a simplistic explanation, and RSS is a technology that is capable of far greater things than simply creating your morning news. But this is all you need to know for now. You might have already used RSS without realizing it, especially if you have ever personalized a news page. If you are a person who likes details, see what Wikipedia has to say on the subject.

For those of you who want more info on Blogging too, I wrote a post a long time ago called Blogs and Blogging :: Explained, which can even explain blogging to great-grandma. ;)

If you are new to blogging and want a super-easy solution to managing your blog feed, use FeedBurner’s free service, which ROCKS!