Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Why journalists should use RSS

Keyword: . The internet really is a gift for the lazy journalist - but for the lazy journalist who's prepared to put in a little work now to be extra lazy later, it's heaven.

Take RSS (Really Simple Syndication). RSS allows you to subscribe (free) to 'news feeds' for a particular site or blog, that can then be displayed on a single page - or, if visiting one website rather than dozens is too much work, it can even be emailed to you.

The first thing you'll need is an RSS reader like the web-based Bloglines or the PC-based RSS Reader (you can find a list of others here). If you use My Yahoo! that also now allows you to subscribe to RSS feeds.

With that done, all you need to do is find the RSS feeds for the websites you're using - if they have one. Look for an icon on the site that allows you to subscribe - for instance this one:

Subscribe with Bloglines

Or, more commonly, this one:



When you click on the XML icon you may see a page full of code. Don't worry. Just copy the web address of that page and paste it into your RSS reader when it asks for the feed address. (more info about that XML icon here)

Even if there isn't an icon, if it's a blog, chances are it has a feed, as most blogging sites have RSS built in - for Blogger blogs, for example, just add /atom.xml on the end of the site address (this blog's RSS feed, for example, is at http://ojournalism.blogspot.com/atom.xml). Bloglines also has a helpful facility when you click on 'Add' that allows you just to type in the 'user' of the blog that you want to subscribe to (the 'user' for this blog is 'ojournalism').

In truth it's a lot more complicated to explain than it is to actually do. Once you've subscribed to Bloglines, for example, you can put a button on your toolbar that says 'Subscribe with Bloglines'. When you find a useful blog or news site, you just click that button and confirm your subscription to the particular news feed.

If you use Firefox, it's even easier, as an orange icon appears in the bottom right corner of the browser whenever there is an RSS feed - just click on it to add it to your favourites as a news feed.

A little bit of time spent getting to grips with this can save hours of browsing.

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