RSS Feeds User Guide

RSS Feeds User Guide

RSS (Really Simple Syndication) is an XML-based format for content distribution. It provides a simple way for you to be notified when content that interests you appears on your favorite websites. Instead of visiting a particular website to browse for new articles and features, RSS automatically lets you know when new content is available. Many news organizations and blogs offer RSS feeds for use in news aggregators, often called feed readers. Such feeds often include headlines, summaries, and links back to the original article online.

If you want to share your content on most social media networks, you will need an RSS feed. The RSS feed is an indispensable part of any social media campaign. You should plan to offer an RSS feed for any type of web media that will be updated regularly over time: blogs, event calendars, alerts systems, video sites, podcasts, and more.

Many people use RSS readers to subscribe to multiple blogs, events, podcasts, etc., and view them all in one location. Some readers are web-based, such as My Yahoo! and Google Reader; feeds can also be viewed using e-mail programs, such as Apple Mail and Microsoft Outlook.

Many people use RSS readers to subscribe to multiple blogs, events, podcasts, etc., and view them all in one location. Some readers are web-based, such as My Yahoo! and Feedly, while some e-mail clients include viewing feeds, such as Apple Mail and Microsoft Outlook.


Best Practices

  • Make sure your feed works properly. You can do this by going to http://validator.w3.org/feed/ and having your feed validated. If there are errors, the site will provide details on how to correct them.
  • Some websites will allow you to adjust how much of your content appears in the RSS feed. This is for people who want to ensure subscribers are still visiting the original website or blog. Typically, there are four ways to display your content in an RSS feed:
    • Title, full body, and all included media
    • Title, summary or excerpt of the body, all included media, and a link to the website
    • Title, summary or excerpt of the body, and a link to the website
    • Title and a link to the website
  • If your RSS feed is set to automatically update as soon as you click “Publish,” make sure you proofread your content several times. The way your content appears when you first make it publicly available is the way it will appear in your RSS feed. Depending on what software you use, any changes you make after publishing may not be reflected in the RSS feed.
  • If you decide to make the full body of your content available for your feed, include some call to action for subscribers to visit your website and leave a comment or share it with their friends. If social media functions only as a one-way conversation, then it’s not social.
  • Continue to create more content. Update your RSS file every time you post something new. It is recommended that you use a program or website that will do this part for you (rather than updating it manually with XML code). In most cases, whatever you used to create the RSS feed will also be what you use to update it.
  • Find an RSS feed reader and subscribe to your own feed (and some others, too, while you’re at it). It helps to monitor the way your content appears in the RSS feed in case there are formatting errors or other inoperable elements.

Tools & Resources

  • Feedburner allows users to re-route their existing RSS feed or XML file through their software and, in return, receive advanced tools and analytics data. Owned and operated by Google, the site helps users create more cleaned-up, accessible feeds, and even participate in an optional advertising system.
  • Feed43 can create an RSS feed for websites that don’t create one automatically. There is a bit of a learning curve here, but the site offers quick tutorials on how to specify different fields, tags, and variables for your feed. Free and paid accounts are available.
  • Twitterfeed is a revolutionary tool that makes both your RSS and Twitter work much easier. Any time your RSS feed is updated, Twitterfeed automatically updates your Twitter feed with a new tweet containing the title of the new content and a shortened URL.

Examples on campus

  • The UChicago News feed offers news and announcements about notable faculty, students, and alumni, as well as happenings on campus and University initiatives. Includes the article title, an excerpt, and a link to the website.
  • The Campus Notices page houses two feeds: IT Services announcements regarding technical outages and performance issues, and Facilities announcements regarding campus construction and other works.
  • The Oriental Institute Events Calendar is an example of a RSS feed formatted specifically with dates and times. Users can subscribe to stay up to date on all the exciting events taking place at this research organization and museum.

Help and Feedback

Contact us if you have any questions about RSS feeds, or if you have recommendations for this page.

Connect and collaborate with communicators across the University.

Join the Campus Communicators to share updates and announcements with University colleagues via listhost, Facebook, and at workshops and biannual gatherings.

Find an array of UChicago new media sites, as well as contact information for their owners, in the Social Media Directory.

Create targeted communications campaigns and digital platforms.

Work with UChicago Creative’s team of designers, writers, and producers to develop compelling materials and comprehensive multimedia campaigns.

Enlist University experts to build, design, and support your web applications by partnering with Web Services.

Discover resources to enhance your communications platforms and outreach.

Follow social media and multimedia from across the University at UChicago Social.

Collect and disseminate our latest stories with print-on-demand news.

Capture the images and ideas of the University community.

Enlist UChicago Creative to produce expert videography.

Book the TV studio for broadcast interviews.

Book the sound booth for remote radio interviews.

Align the look and language of your communications with those of the University.

Find best practices for the use of our logo, typeface, color palette, and editorial style within our visual identity.

Build and refine social media sites using our social media guide, and find web writing tips in Web Services’ multimedia content guidelines.

Order print materials created for your audience and customized for your office.

Present a uniform look with University of Chicago business cards and stationery for your department, office, or position.

Purchase maps, calendars, and brochures to welcome your guests and visitors to the University.