Using RSS Feeds and Blogs to Enhance Your Ability to Get the Word Out
Using RSS Feeds, and Blogs to Enhance Your Ability to Get the Word Out (March 2005)
By Dawn Marie Yankeelov
An investigation into the world of blogs and RSS feeds will open some new avenues for your business, both for outgoing communications and incoming competitive intelligence.
A blog, a weblog, is nothing more than an easy-to-publish personal website journal with regular entries and links of interest, dedicated to a topic of choice. Blogs are seen as updateable websites that encourage postings and hyperlinks and are tracked in now in RSS (real simple syndication) feeds. Now known as citizen journalism, the ranks of bloggers on niche topics continues to infiltrate the web at a quick pace, but recent statistics from Pew Internet Project indicate that 58% of people read blogs now as of late 2004, but 62% of online Americans do not know what a blog is. 7% of the 120 million US adults who use the internet have created a web-based diary or blog—more than 8 million people. (www.pweinternet.org/pdfs/PIP_blogging_data.pdf)
Time for a Blog?
Prominent CEOs and COOs, such as Jonathan Schwartz, chief operating officer, Sun Microsystems, Inc., and Ray Ozzie, CEO of Groove Networks, have joined the ranks. Blogs are also used in password-protected intranets, such as companies like Dutch-based Macaw where 110 employees have blogs. For a quick reference of other companies look at: www.thenewpr.com/wiki/pmwiki.php/Resources/CEOBlogsList
Forrester Research and other trendspotters have taken the stand that blogging will grow in importance and, at a minimum; companies should monitor what is being said about their product and services. If your company is looking at blogging to generate interest, consider creating a blogging code of ethics and metrics that will demonstrate the value of the effort, which Forrester offers in one of its free downloads.
Your Access to Business Intelligence: RSS Feeds
But, perhaps more important, is looking at what blogs are already out there that affect the work you do in business. This is where RSS feed readers can come in handy—bringing the key news of an industry to your cell phone, desktop, or other media device. Go to download.com and get an RSS reader; some, not all, are fee-based at $20 to $30. If you’d like a primer on RSS go to: www.faganfinder.com/search/rss/shtml. While a bit dated since RSS 2.0 is out, the basic information is there, complete with finding a directory of RSS Aggregators, like Bloglines, and picking the channels you care about, such as those for technogeeks like Engadget, Techdirt, or Boing Boing.
Most magazines, especially those in technology areas, have their own RSS feeds, such as InfoWorld. Even advertisers are beginning to see value in buying ads on or near blogs—on networks like BURST!, BlogAds, and Google AdSense.
So start following the blogs that are relevant to your business operations, with an RSS feed to your desktop. Or even follow in the footsteps of Microsoft and hire a blogger or PR expert to work for you, such as Microsoft’s Robert Scoble. Consider regularly using a current-event, blog search engines like daypop.com for your own competitive intelligence.
Setting Up an RSS Feed of Your Own?
Your company has news and you already generate articles, press releases, and other client stories. Consider working into a regular RSS feed of your own of existing items. There are tools available at all price points online, such as Sally Falkow’s simple www.press-feed.com for $89 a month to ksoft’s RSS Submit for $44.95 (Professional Edition) in a box which gets your RSS Feed into the hands of the aggregators for high distribution and awareness.
These blogger-favorite tools can also generate RSS 2.0 feeds: Blogger (Mark Gardner), JournUrl (Roger Benningfield), Manila (Userland), Movable Type (Mark Pilgrim); Nucleus CMS (Wouter Demuynck), and Radio Userland (Userland).
About the Author
Dawn Marie Yankeelov spoke on a panel at the Bulldog Reporter’s Media Relations 2005 Conference in San Francisco on “How Public Relations Can Exploit Blogs, Ezines, RSS and Consumer-Generated Media.” Duplications of the panel discussion are available from Stacy Dorter [firstname.lastname@example.org]. Yankeelov is president of Kentucky-based ASPectx, specializing in marketing and public relations strategies for healthcare and technology companies. As a marketing and public relations practitioner for more than 19 years, she has counseled many companies on their marketing strategies, including Microdyne Corp., Belcan Corp., Catalyst Learning, Genscape, Akiva, and Intellon Corp.
Definitions To Remember
Blog - A blog is a public Web site with personal posts ordered so that the most recent is always first. Often these posts are also archived and searchable. Posts may come from one or many individuals, and the messages often share a common theme. The most recent blogs posted, with links and a brief description, are available via RSS.
Channels - These are XML links to new articles or blogs. Sometimes called a feed.
XML (Extensible Markup Language) - A markup language that describes many different kinds of data so that programs can modify and validate data. Its primary purpose is to share structured text over the Internet.
Feeds - These are XML documents used for Web syndication, often with links to new articles or blog posts and brief descriptions. Sometimes called a channel.
RSS or Really Simple Syndication - This is an XML-based Web syndication tool for Web sites and blogs. RSS repackages new content with information such as a date, a title, a link, and a brief description. An RSS Reader then interprets this feed so that the user need only read the description and link to the news story or blog post. The RSS concept first surfaced in the late 1990s. Who came up with it first is in some dispute, but versions of RSS protocols have been developed by UserLand, Netscape, and O'Reilly and Associates.
Definitions excerpted from CNET.com: Internet Services: RSS (Robert Varnosi, July 2004)