Really simple...syndication

Want to deliver announcements to a targeted audience? A look at Really Simple Syndication (RSS).
Written by Scott Withrow, Contributor
Delivering business announcements outside your organisation can be a challenge because the target audience may be difficult to reach. Many companies deliver this information via Web site postings, local or national media, trade journals, radio, television, and so on.

Unfortunately, there are usually two main drawbacks to distributing information through these channels: cost and reception. Media distribution can be very costly, eliminating or curtailing expensive avenues such as television or radio. Even if your budget can afford it, when you send out media announcements, you're merely assuming that your target audience is receiving your message.

As enterprises search for a more reliable and less expensive mechanism to communicate corporate messages, there's one technology that's garnering attention. Really Simple Syndication (RSS) is an XML-based technology that allows organisations to publish corporate information through a standardised XML-based paradigm. Then, Web clients known as aggregators pick up this information and pull the content to the end users' desktops. This allows target audiences to receive information from your organisation without actually coming to your business' Web site. This may seem counterproductive to corporate Web adoption, but, in fact, it can increase adoption by presenting users with headlines that may entice them to visit the enterprise Web site.

RSS is content that is published to the corporate Web site in XML form. This content is often announced with a tag such as RSS or XML. The data contains tags that include the content's title, URL, and description. Then, the aggregator software formats this content into a consistent readable format.

One issue with RSS is standardisation. Like many new technologies, RSS has suffered under diverse implementations championed by different organisations. Fortunately, version 2.0 is emerging as the accepted standard. With this general adoption, I think more businesses will consider RSS as a viable means to deliver targeted content such as new product announcements, sales contracts, financial news, and career opportunities.

Think about how RSS could help your company fill a job opening. Most businesses post open positions on their Web sites, and advertise in the local or national media, in trade journals, or on job boards. The downside to all these approaches is that they require the job seeker to actively hunt down the posting, which can be an insurmountable task. RSS changes this paradigm by syndicating the position announcement to an engaged audience who is ready to receive it.

RSS benefits both you and your users. Not only does it get your corporate message out to interested users in a timely and targeted fashion, but it also provides users with information that interests them, saving them time from having to seek it out.

Scott Withrow has more than 20 years of IT experience, including IT management, Web development management, and internal consulting application analysis.

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