Revised with new information as of June 04, 2013


 
RSS & Mission-Based Organizations

 
RSS... another tech acronym / more tech jargon to learn. What is it and why should your nonprofit / NGO / government office care?

I'm going to describe RSS in the way I wish it had been described to me once upon a time:

RSS means "really simple syndication." It's a tool that allows you to create a private web page, or even a group of pages, that only for YOU, as an individual human being with his or her own needs and goals, can read. This RSS page, or "reader", is updated automatically with only the online information you have requested.

I use my RSS reader to track:

In fact, here's a list of most everything in my own RSS reader.

In addition, I use RSS to track stories and blogs about virtual volunteering and microvolunteering, including in languages other than English, and I share these feeds publicly.

An RSS page (usually) offers clean lines of text and links - no large graphic files or flash or whatever to slow down your computer (let's hope it stays that way).

I love RSS because it keeps my email box from filling up even more than it already does -- instead of news and updates filling my email box, I can glance at what I'm subscribed to on my RSS reader and decide to read it or to skip it. RSS also means for me that, instead of visiting dozens of web sites and blogs, I can visit just *one* page for everything I want; at a glance, I can see anything that's been updated and if it's something I want to read more about. RSS has definitely simplified my life and reduced my virtual clutter.

A growing number of online publications, including newspapers and TV stations, offer "RSS" feeds. And a many readers will monitor a variety of news outlets per whatever keywords you want reviewed regularly. Therefore, RSS makes media monitoring a BREEZE. It's an essential tool for public relations folks, no question.

There are various RSS readers, most of them free. You can see a list of RSS readers here. I think web-based readers, that don't require you to download any software, are best, because you can use them no matter what computer you are on.

Attention users of older browsers: Google's RSS reader and Yahoo's RSS reader (MyYahoo) require the latest versions of only the most popular web browsers in order for them to work. So unless you can upgrade your browser, you cannot, or soon cannot, access these RSS readers. Such a shame -- no good reason for creating such inaccessibility. Try wikispaces.com instead.

Once you have chosen an RSS reader, you can start subscribing to feeds. To subscribe to an RSS feed, you do one of the following steps:

Clicking on the RSS icon, you will see a page that presents the RSS "raw feed." The URL address of this page is the URL to use in your RSS reader.

The most popular RSS readers have "chicklets." A chicklet is an icon on a Web page or blog for a specific RSS reader, like Bloglines (which I now use instead of MyYahoo). This icon has been specifically coded to make it as easy as possible to subscribe to the site's feed; if you see the chicklet for your RSS reader on a site, and you want to subscribe to that site, just click on the chicklet!

Here are some popular RSS reader chicklets; these icons have all been pre-programmed with my own blog, so if you use any of these RSS readers, all you need to do is to click on the ONE appropriate icon for your reader:

Most web sites or blogs that are accessible via RSS have the RSS icon or a chicklet on the site. HOWEVER, there are some exceptions. For instance, blogs hosted on Blogger or Blogspot often do not have any RSS button on them. But they DO have RSS subscription capabilities. Just type this into your RSS reader to subscribe for a particular blog hosted on Blogspot:

 
What About Media Monitoring?!?

The aforementioned information will help you to subscribe to newspapers, media outlets, blogs and other online outlets that provide RSS feeds. But what if you want to monitor any mentions in news articles or blogs of your organization's name? Or the name of your executive director? Or the name of a publication that you have just released?

Here's how I monitor such using one tool, but many other news readers do the same:

Please note that it can take from a few minutes to several hours for articles to show up in your RSS reader.

 
In Summary

RSS has simplified my life big time, saving me a LOT of time. I think you will love it. Give it a try! For information on how to make your blog or a portion of your web site accessible via RSS readers, please visit TechSoup.

Hope you will consider adding my own blogs to your RSS reader:

 
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