Monday, October 23, 2006

Getting Started With Syndication (Part 4): Creating Feeds

I've talked about the basics of web syndication, RSS and Atom readers, and creating custom feeds to act as your own "clipping service." To finish up this series, I'll briefly cover how you can create your own RSS feed.

First, the caveat: I'm not a techie, I'm a marketing guy! If you're looking for specifications of what a feed's XML file is supposed to look like, you're in the wrong place. If you're a marketer (even some of the time) and want to add feeds to your site, however, this should be useful for you.

There are a couple of ways you can start syndicating your own content so that your customers, readers, members, or whatever audience you need to reach can find it and subscribe to it.

First of all: what should you syndicate? The anwswer to that is, anything that will be updated and you want people to find. Obviously, if you have a blog, that's one thing. But don't stop there - you can create feeds for press releases, customer support bulletins, company news, or almost anything else you want to share.

So how do you do it?

The easiest way: create a blog. Or rather, use blog publishing software. All of it will create feeds automatically for you. This doesn't, by the way, mean that you will be stuck with your feeds living on a blog hosting service (like Blogger's Blogspot); most blog software will either let you publish to your own domain (so you could use it to put your syndicated content in a subdirectory on your web server) or is installed right onto your server.

If you're using syndication for a company-sponsored blog, this may work just fine; if you're syndicating other content, it can be a bit clumsy. For those cases, you have a couple of options.

First, look at the software you're using to maintain your web site. For smaller organizations, this may be something like Dreamweaver or FrontPage; those programs (like most web site management packages) can create feeds for you. For larger organizations, you probably have a content management system in place; again, most of that software can create feeds.

Ask your IT people about it. If you don't have IT people, or they're not cooperating (unimaginable, I know), or you just want more control, there are also services and software that will set up the feeds for you. Google "create RSS feed" and you'll see a number of them. They vary in features, price, and ease of use, but there's something for almost any budget and set of requirements.

And don't forget to let people know that the feed is there - put links and buttons on your site so that RSS-savvy visitors can subscribe.

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