Bob Stepno's Other Journalism Weblog
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Monday, January 31, 2005

(Updated Feb. 1, 1:45 p.m.) Is this a trend? Last year the city of Knoxville website started sending out news with a "Really Simply Syndication" RSS feed. A few weeks ago the UT Daily Beacon started an RSS feed. Today the News Sentinel had an article about RSS, which would be a good quick intro if you're new to this weblog and are still going "huh?" after seeing the abbreviation three times in one paragraph. Also today, early-adopter SouthKnoxBubba pointed out that WBIR-TV (Channel 10) has its own feed.

After a quick check, I discovered that
WATE-TV (Channel 6) does have its own local and regional feeds now, as well as sharing some headlines with its sister station WKRN in Nashville, whose feed I wrote about a few months ago.

Back at Channel 10, along with the usual news and sports headlines, WBIR's RSS feeds include one for the station's "Style" program, so you can be alerted to the "Monday Makeover" or news that some states are thinking of taxing cosmetic surgery. Not exactly the stuff I want up-to-the-minute alerts about, but I've never been accused of being stylish.

So far these TV station RSS feeds are just text headlines or short story summaries. Elsewhere the RSS and weblog communities are sharing ideas about audio and video subscriptions via RSS. See, for instance for audio examples, including some from National Public Radio. If your connection can handle big video files, see the video blog and ANT, which is short for ""

he News Sentinel is at least spreading the word about RSS in today's "Net-working" column by Joel B. Southern of the UT School of Information Sciences.

Does that mean the paper is planning to roll out its own RSS headline feeds? Not immediately. I didn't see any telltale orange XML tags leading to "subscribable" content, so I dropped the webmaster a line asking whether a feed is coming soon. His reply was that "RSS is something we'd like to see available," but that other projects have higher priority right now. (More on this in the message comments.)

While The New York Times, Christian Science Monitor and BBC were early adopters of RSS, many ad-supported sites have hesitated. As UT colleague Matt Grayson told Joel, "many commercial news sites were initially afraid they would lose traffic to their Web sites, but adding an RSS feature has actually added traffic to many sites."

Of course turning "traffic" into "revenue" is another issue for-profit publishers. The New York Times has made headlines recently by saying it's considering charging non-subscribers for Web content that has been free for the past decade. For now, both its site and RSS feeds are still free.

For newcomers, here's how Joel sums up the benefits of subscribing to RSS feeds:

"Technology-savvy people today who want to keep their finger on the pulse of global information are using Really Simple Syndication 'aggregators' to perform their information gathering for them."

He also provides a link to the School of Information Sciences "What is RSS?" page.

A link to my own old essay on the same subject lurks in the left column of my weblog page, and can serve as an example of the difference between using a browser and an aggregator: Reading in an aggregator, you may get headlines, summaries or full text from the sending site, but you don't get to see standard webpage features, which would include most of the advertising and menus on a commercial site like

This just in: Updating this page on Feb. 1, I chanced upon another UT RSS intro by John B. Rose, and a rich collection of RSS feeds from the UT Libraries, including one for the Environmental Semester news page. UT isn't the only school in Tennessee getting into RSS: Bryan College in Dayton, for one, has a page of RSS feeds (and the history of the college makes for fascinating reading to any fan of "Inherit the Wind"). Use of RSS in higher education does appear to be evolving.

In my case, this blog's RSS feed delivers the full text of today's blog posts, but you don't get to see the left column of links. You can click through to the full page, but you don't have to. For aggregator users, here are a few related links you're missing, part of my site's usual left-column stack of links: What are RSS and that orange XML thing? and last summer's reviews of aggregators and more aggregators.

Here's another RSS intro and collection of reviews at CNET. (Because folks have asked, my own current choices for RSS readers are the one built into my Radio weblogging software and the Sage plug-in for the Firefox browser. My collection of feed subscriptions at needs pruning now, but was a great way to explore a lot of feeds.)

2:36:41 PM    

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