RSS feeds (identified by the little orange square icon you see on many sites and blogs, including this one) have been around for a while, and while they’re very popular with many people, they’ve really yet to take off with a wide audience. However, I do believe that any website with regular content updates should have them.
(But first, a sidebar. If you know nothing about RSS, you can get a quick overview at, um, besthealthmag.ca, or a longer look at The Writer’s Technology Companion.)
I admit, I was a little slow to start using RSS feeds. But once I made the switch (I’m a Google Reader user, by the way), there was no turning back. Now, there are few websites I actually visit directly – most I access only through the RSS feeds in my reader. The efficiency of browsing content this way also means that I can “read” many more sites regularly than I could the old-fashioned way.
But the most important thing? If I find a new site that looks promising, I’ll sign up for their RSS feed. If they don’t have one? Well, it’s likely that I’ll never return. And I’ll hazard a guess that a lot of other RSS addicts feel the same way.
The question is, of course, why this should matter if only x percent of potential readers (where x is a pretty small number) are this devoted to using RSS. The answer is because there’s a strong overlap between these readers and the power users of the Internet, the ones who will link to you from their blogs and post your content to social bookmarking sites such as Digg, Delicious and StumbleUpon. Don’t underestimate the power of a few well-placed links; they can increase your site’s traffic dramatically. (Converting that traffic into regular readers is another matter, of course, to be discussed in a future post.)
Do you use RSS? Do you agree or disagree with what I’ve said?