Recently, Melissa from GLBTConnect emailed me asking about the value of using third party RSS feeds as content for a website.
I always harp on about the importance of creating content if your online community is to succeed, and Melissa was interested to know my thoughts on incorporating RSS feeds into a website to add value and additional content.
What are RSS feeds?
RSS is, simply put, a way of publishing content. On this blog, you can subscribe to new articles through your RSS feed reader. This allows you to read content published on this blog without actually visiting this website.
RSS can be convenient for readers who devour a large amount of online content – rather than visit each and every website of interest, they can read articles from various sources all from one place via their feed reader.
Some authors may choose to syndicate their RSS feeds – this allows other website developers to automatically publish the content on their own website; as soon as the original author writes a new article, it will automatically be displayed on all the sites that are publishing the syndicated feed.
Using RSS feeds to generate content
Because of the automated process, many site owners add syndicated RSS feeds to their websites. It is a fantastic feeling to see the amount of content on your site increase without you having to slave away and write it yourself. The problem is, you are publishing content that is not unique; you didn’t write it, and other sites are publishing the exact same stuff.
It is essential for your community to be different from all the others out there. Publishing content that people can read elsewhere doesn’t make you different.
Depending on the feed you are syndicating, the content that you are publishing may not be entirely relevant to your audience. It may even contain content you would not otherwise wish to associate your site with. There is also the fact that you lose editorial control over your website – other people are generating and publishing content, rather than you!
When to use RSS feeds
I don’t think there is anything wrong with publishing third party syndicated RSS feeds on your website. However, you must ensure you do not use them as a replacement for content: they should be used to complement the content that you and your members are generating.
If you replace unique content with that drawn from RSS feeds, you are offering your visitors nothing unique. Once your visitors realise this, they will often go elsewhere.