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RSS Headline Syndication

Frequently Asked Questions for Content Providers

1. What is headline syndication?
2. What is RSS?
3. Why syndicate your headlines with RSS?
4. How can I create an RSS file?
5. How can I promote my RSS file?
6. Where can I find more information about RSS?

1. What is headline syndication?

Websites that publish new content regularly usually provide a list of news headline style links to their latest content. In addition to displaying these headlines on their own websites, it is very common for publishers to make them available for syndication, so that other websites or applications can also include their headlines.

Headline syndication does not deal with the full text of articles, it is simply about syndicating an automatically updating list of headlines, with each headline being a link to the item that it refers to on the publishers website.

2. What is RSS?

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RSS is the name given to a simple and well-established XML format used to syndicate headlines. Once a website creates an RSS file they have created a means to allow others to syndicate their headlines.

The first version of RSS (RSS 0.9) was released by Netscape in March 1999 as a format for adding news channels to their My.Netscape.Com portal. Then in July 1999 Netscape released RSS 0.91, incorporating most of the features of a format called <scriptingNews>, which was created by UserLand. Shortly thereafter Netscape discontinued developing the RSS format, however UserLand persisted and RSS continued to grow in strength. In December 2000, the separate RSS-DEV Working Group released RSS 1.0 and Userland announced RSS 0.92. As of April 2001, Userland is now planning RSS 0.93. Although RSS is not clearly an acronym of anything, different people have called it Rich Site Summary, RDF Site Summary and Really Simple Syndication at different times.

The lack of clarity in what RSS stands for or which version is the correct one to use can seem confusing to beginners. However these issues don't need to addressed by a website wanting to create an RSS file. RSS is a very well recognised format, in fact it is often referred to as the most successful XML format to date. Some websites have a preference for one version, others create more than one RSS file and support multiple versions and a recent survey suggests that the first two versions of RSS (0.9 and 0.91) are still by far the most popular.

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3. Why syndicate your headlines with RSS?

Syndicating headlines is an excellent and cost-effective way of driving traffic to, and increasing brand awareness of, any website that publishes new content regularly.

Once a website produces an RSS file they are enabling others to syndicate their headlines, without any further work on their part.

The main benefits of creating an RSS file:
 
RSS content can be included in customisable online news portals that aggregate RSS headlines like My.Userland.Com.
Websites that display news headlines can use an RSS file to incorporate another websites headlines into their own.
RSS content can be added to personal desktop news reading applications like Headline Viewer or Radio Userland.
Email newsletter providers could allow users to subscribe to RSS channels. XML.com and XMLTree.com previously offered such a service called Newsboy.

One positive side effect of producing an RSS file is that it can also be used by headline aggregation services like Moreover.com, who power news portals, specialist news search engines, business intelligence services or provide newsfeeds to websites. Most such companies use crawler-based technologies to aggregate and do not insist upon content being available in RSS, however they do have some requirements which having an RSS file addresses, sparing the need for any work on the part of a website that already publishes its headlines in RSS.

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4. How can I create an RSS file?

RSS is a simple XML format and anyone who has experience in a mark-up language like HTML or XML should find it very easy to create and maintain an RSS file by hand.

Many websites prefer to generate their RSS file using a programming language, which involves a little more work to begin with but means that maintenance is no longer an issue.

In this section:
RSS Specifications
RSS Validators
RSS Tutorials - The Basics
RSS Tutorials - Generating RSS
RSS Examples
RSS Tools & Utilities

RSS Specifications:
 
RSS 0.93 (Planning stage, April 2000)
http://backend.userland.com/rss093 (Userland)
RSS 0.92 (December 2000)
http://backend.userland.com/rss092 (Userland)
RSS 1.0 (December 2000)
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/rss-dev/files/specification.html (RSS-DEV Working Group)
RSS 0.91 (July 1999)
http://backend.userland.com/rss091 (Userland)
http://www.purplepages.ie/RSS/netscape/rss0.91.html (Netscape)
http://my.netscape.com/publish/formats/rss-spec-0.91.html (Netscape, Revision 3)
RSS 0.90 (March 1999)
http://www.purplepages.ie/RSS/netscape/rss0.90.html (Netscape)

RSS Validators:
 
http://aggregator.userland.com/validator (RSS 0.91, RSS 0.92)
http://www.bath.ac.uk/~ccslrd/rss_validator/1.0/ (RSS 1.0)
http://www.bath.ac.uk/~ccslrd/rss_validator/ (RSS 0.9)

RSS Tutorials - The Basics: (See also RSS Specifications, Websites)
 
- A step-by-step guide to building an RSS 1.0 document from the O'Reilly Network.
- An easy to understand introduction to RSS 0.91 from About.com.
- A comprehensive guide to creating RSS 0.91 files from Webreference.

RSS Tutorials - Generating RSS:
 
Active Server Pages (ASP)
An article explaining how RSS files can be generated using ASP.
Perl
Jonathan Eisenzopf explains how his XML::RSS module can be used to create an RSS file.
PHP
phpChannel, a set of two PHP class files to write rss files.

RSS Tools & Utilities:

Aaron Swartz provides a useful online utility called BlogifyYourPage, that makes it easy to produce an RSS 1.0 file for any page.

The RSS Channel Editor is a simple Perl CGI script that makes it easy to maintain an RSS channel. It can be used online at Webreference and you can also download the source.

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RSS Examples:

Newsfeeds reviews sources of RSS files, good examples and ideas you can use in putting together your own feed.

OurFavoriteSongs.Com is a source of popular syndicated files, the top picks of Radio Userland users.

5. How can I promote my RSS file?

There are a couple of important places to register RSS files, firstly XMLTree.com, a specialist directory of XML content, and secondly My.Userland.Com. Once an RSS file has been included in these sources it is likely to be found by websites, online news portals or news reading applications seeking RSS content.

Websites should also create an information page, about syndicating their headlines. This will make existing users aware that the website has an RSS file so they can add it to their news reading applications or even include it on their own websites.

This information page will be indexed by regular search engines and can also be submitted to various niche directories:
4FreeContent
FindSticky
FreeSticky
Newsfeeds
Purple Pages
WooDoggy

Websites that are interested in having their headlines picked up by organisations that aggregate headline content may also wish to visit:
LinkYourNews.com
MagPortal.com
Moreover.com
NewsNow.co.uk
NewsIsFree.com

6. Where can I find more information about RSS?

Websites
O'Reilly DevCenter RSS - Articles about RSS from the O'Reilly Network.
RSS Info - News and information on the RSS format
RSS Why?s - A site that aims to objectively and concisely explore all the points surrounding the creation, maintenance, and history of RSS.
WebReference RSS Articles - A collection of RSS articles and resources from Webreference.

Discussion Lists
ReallySimpleSyndication - RSS 0.93.
RSS-DEV - RSS 1.0.
Syndication - XML syndication, mainly RSS 0.91.

ASP hosting information
ASP Hosting

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RSSFAQ Copyright © 2001 Members of the Syndication, RSS-DEV and ReallySimpleSyndication Groups.
You may freely copy and distribute this document. Please give acknowledgements if you do.
Last Updated: 24-May-2001 Alis Marsden.


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