In Part 1 of this series I provided an overview of web syndication with RSS and Atom, and in Part 2 I talked about the various feed readers you can use to keep track of frequently-updated web content.
While these technologies provide a great value to you by helping you keep up with blogs and news sources, if that's all you use them for, you're missing one of the most powerful features of web syndication: the ability to create customized news feeds.
What's the difference? Subscribing to a site's feed (for example, the feed for this blog) means that when site publishers (like your friendly Opinionated Marketers) update their sites, the new content will be delivered to you. But often, the content you want isn't just what a site publisher decides to add; you might want very specific kinds of information from many different site. Syndication lets you track that kind of multi-source information - sort of personalized web clipping service.
For example, let's say that I want to keep up with news stories about the use of social networks like MySpace for marketing purposes. I can go to Google News and perform a search on "social network marketing" and get these results.
But I don't really want to have to do that all the time. The good news: I don't have to. If you look at that Google News results page, you'll see a link over at the left called "RSS."
That's an RSS feed with that will give me new results for that search. So I just need to add that link to my RSS reader (Google Reader is the one I like) and I'll get a steady stream of clips about social network marketing.
It's a powerful tool - I can create a feed for any Google search I want. So my RSS reader is turned into my own personal clipping service.
You can do the same thing with Technorati, the blog search engine, and see all the new blog mentions of a topic. (In Technorati the RSS feed is a little button called "Subscribe" in the upper right hand section of the search results page.) (Google Blog Search provides a similar functionality.)
With Technorati, you can focus your search results even more. There are some blogs that publish so much content that it would take a good part of your day just to keep up with them. Instead of trying to sort through everything to find what you want, you can let Technorati and RSS do it for you. For example, this page shows the results of search the MarketingProfs blogs for mentions of "Web 2.0." Once again, there's a Subscribe link to let you start watching a feed that just contains the entries that mention Web 2.0.
Syndication has taken off as a way to keep track of blogs, but it's much more than that. With syndication technology you can create your own completely personalized information gathering service. Instead of seeking out information on the topics you care about, let your RSS reader do the work and deliver your morning update right to your PC.