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RSS feeds are the most important technology to arrive on the internet since blogging, yet take up of RSS feeds among webmasters and web visitors is still very low. The Sunday Times recent ran a survey to see how home users use the internet, RSS did not appear in it at all.
It's true that RSS is nowhere near as ubiquitous as email, but email have been around since the beginning of the internet. RSS and RSS feeds are relatively new to internet users. If you are a webmaster you can benefit from this new technology that will allow you to speak directly to your visitors and keep them updated with what you are up to. You can get up to speed with RSS feeds at http://www.newsniche.com.
According to Feedster, one of the largest RSS feed search engines, there are over 9 million feeds in its index. RSS feeds are a technology to be taken seriously, you can ignore it now but you will find yourself way behind other webmasters when it comes to the benefits of having your own feed.
To put RSS in context take a look at Bloglines, probably the largest feed aggregator on the internet. When you subscribe to a feed using Bloglines they tell you how many other of their readers are subscribed to the same feed. Slashdot there more subscribed to feed besides their own has about 35,000 subscribers to their RSS feed. Remember that's just other Bloglines users so it only reflects a small percentage of their total readers.
Let me take you through some of the benefits of having your own RSS feed. If you take the example I just used for readers of the Slashdot feed. Every time a new item is published to the RSS feed it is available to every single subscriber immediately. You are guaranteed that every reader will get the message whether they choose to read it or not. If you done this with email you would be lucky if a majority of your readers even received the message due to spam filters and other obstacles.
Unlike email an RSS feed is zero maintenance. There is no list of addresses to maintain, no server needed to send out your messages, all you are doing is updating a file on your server. There is no need to worry about being accused of spamming, double opt in or adding to the spam problem.
I have left the best till last. You can even have detailed statistics about your RSS feed by using a third party such as Feedburner, all free. Feedburner will monitor the requests made for your feed so you know how many readers you have and even tell you which items have been clicked on. Plus Feedburner saves you your valuable bandwidth and takes away any worries about the compatibility of your RSS feed.
I have been publishing an RSS feed for several months, it has worked so well that I have decided that I do not need the hassle of an email newsletter. The only time I use email now is if I want a personal conversation with someone, that's what email is great at.
Allan is the webmaster at http://www.newsniche.com an RSS resource for webmasters. Learn how to use RSS to attract and retain visitors to your site.