RSS, short for RDS Site Summary, Rich Site Summary, or Really Simple Syndication, is a a way of publishing work in a standardized way to different places. This is most commonly used for blogs — people use an RSS Reader to feed all of the blogs they follow into one location so they can read them without going to each site. This is also helpful to writers and content creators because they can set it up so that content automatically gets published in multiple formats.
The feed can include either the entire text or a summary in addition to the metadata, such as keywords, authorship, and date. The RSS basically drills down to the most essential information in a post and makes sure that the important things get syndicated. This can mean a loss of format, particularly anything fancy done with HTML. Oftentimes the RSS version of a post does not look the same as the original, although it contains the same information.
RSS readers come in many formats, some are desktop based, others web based, and many are for mobile devices. Popular RSS readers include Google Reader, Bloglines, FeedDemon, and MyYahoo. These readers function similarly to an e-mail inbox in that, once a user has subscribed to a feed, they get “new messages” in their feed whenever someone updates the sites that they are following.
For content followers, this means saving a lot of time in the process of following content creators. For content creators it means that you have to be very aware of making your material available via RSS and encouraging your readers to subscribe so as not to miss any content. Almost every site makes it very simple to insert an “add to RSS feed” button for the readers. Those who are RSS savvy can figure out how to follow almost any site, but making it easier for the reader means more will be following you.
Another thing you should do if you’ve got content going out RSS is to make sure that it looks OK and see if it’s losing HTML code. Making sure your content looks the best it can in as many venues is possible is key to getting your message out. RSS is an important part of that process.