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Three reasons why RSS remains a vital tool for PR and marketing pros

Photo courtesy of Robert Scoble via Flickr

If you’re among the 89 percent of Internet users who didn’t use an RSS reader even at their adoption peak a couple of years ago, you may not have noticed that IAC Corp. recently announced the shutdown of its Web-based reader, Bloglines. IAC, which owns Ask.com, Evite and Vimeo, among other properties, said its research indicates that RSS usage is down 20 percent. But despite the decline of Web-based readers, RSS remains a very important medium for public relations and marketing professionals who want to broaden the reach of their brands online.

The promise of RSS readers as they began to grow in popularity in 2004-2005 was appealing: rather than visiting dozens of sites to get your news, pull all of that content into one place where you can whiz through it more efficiently. That proved to be popular with news junkies, and anyone with a desire to read lots of posts and articles fast, but it never caught on with the general Web-using public. The demise of Bloglines follows the shuttering of Newsgator’s Web-based reader last year, leaving the power users with just one well-known, Web-based option: Google Reader.

Like many technologies, RSS has evolved to become valuable in lots of ways outside of its first popularized use. It remains one of the best ways for a layperson with no technical skills to collect, curate and share large quantities of Web content. Here’s why:

  1. RSS lives on in the enterprise. Companies and organizations continue to use RSS through desktop applications like Attensa, Newsgator’s enterprise tools and integration with Microsoft Outlook 2007. Our flagship application, CisionPoint, also allows users to push their news content via RSS.   
  2. It’s great for content syndication.  Turnkey widget creation tools like SpringWidgets and Widgetbox allow you to plug an RSS feed for your blog, company news or other content into a widget that can be placed on your organization’s site, your Facebook page or other social sites. It’s a great way to get eyeballs on content in new places.
  3. It powers mashup tools.  Applications like Yahoo Pipes (covered here before) allow you to combine content from multiple RSS sources into a single feed, allowing you to curate information from different sites and blogs for internal or external sharing. Dawn Foster’s Fast Wonder blog contains the best set of video tutorials on how to make the most of it.

I think we’ll continue to see RSS repurposed in lots of interesting and useful ways, even as RSS readers prove not to be the future of news consumption.

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