Savvy Web surfers employ Real Simple Syndication (RSS) feeds to separate the wheat from the chaff of Net content.

However, corporations can also effectively use the same technology to accurately target their message at a more receptive audience without the stigma attached to spam, according to Internet communication experts.

Organizations should take advantage of the relatively cheap “multiple syndication” capability that RSS offers, said Kris Hadlock, founder of Studio Sedition, a Phoenix-based Web development firm.

“With RSS, you can publish once and syndicate twice, thrice or more,” Hadlock said during a presentation titled Leveraging RSS at IT 360, a technology conference and expo for IT professionals being held in Toronto.

An XML-based application, RSS is employed by publishers to mark their frequently updated Web-content such as news, blogs, or podcasts for delivery to subscribers.

Consumers of RSS content use software programs called “feed aggregators” or “feed readers”. Users can obtain aggregators by downloading free or low-cost programs or by going to aggregator sites. Users let the aggregator know what feed or sites interest them by entering the feed link into the reader program.

The aggregator then scours the specified sites specified, retrieving RSS content, and presenting the material to the user.

The application eliminates the need for searching through numerous Web sites and provides users with the certainty that they will receive only the content they subscribed to.

Hadlock compared the “shotgun” approach of e-mail blasts and spam to RSS feeds that provide organizations with an effective and low cost method of disseminating product information or corporate messages to consumers who have need for them.

“Companies don’t need to pay for expensive advertisements or marketing campaigns, and won’t risk annoying people who don’t want to receive their content.”

Hadlock shared how RSS technology can be harnessed to build site brand, improve site viewership, and as a marketing tool.

He said by incorporating RSS into personal blogs and articles on his Web site, he was able to enhance his company’s profile, drive more traffic to his site and generate more orders for his book entitled Ajax for Web Application Developers.

The technology, according to one Canadian analyst, is ideal for organizations with substantial outward facing operations.

“Companies that deal with a select group of clients who need regular updates will benefit from RSS,” said Jon Arnolds, principal of J Arnold and Associates, a Toronto-based Internet Protocol communications research firm.

Financial institutions, government agencies, manufacturers releasing product information or issuing product recalls, and media outlets are among the ideal users of RSS, he said.

The technology could also be used effectively for internal communication, according to a top ranking officer at a not-for-profit information technology research consortium. “I think RSS will be very effective in disseminating information across remote braches and sites or an organization,” said Jeffrey Rohne, vice-president, administration, TRLabs, in Edmonton.

For instance, Rohne said, RSS feeds will enable project updates to be regularly delivered throughout TRLab’s five facilities in Edmonton, Calgary, Regina, Saskatoon, and Winnipeg.

Rohne said RSS feeds will also be effective in circulating newsletters, bulletins and press releases to the media, consortium members and possible investors.

“Typically e-mail and other forms of announcements might [be] blocked by spam guards and corporate firewalls due to security concerns. Because it is subscriber specified, an RSS feed is able to bypass these filters,” he said.


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