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What is an RSS Feed: Complete Beginners Guide -

An RSS feed (Really Simple Syndication) is a web feed that provides automatic content updates. Find out why you need one, how they works & more!
Stephen Robles
Video & Podcast Creator
Last Updated:
December 27, 2023
Reviewed by
Ortal Hadad

If you create content in the digital age, chances are you've heard of an RSS, but what is an RSS feed, and how does it work?

RSS feeds are used on all kinds of digital platforms, from blogs to websites and more. Through the power of RSS, it is possible for online algorithms to curate content and deliver personalized results that align with audience interests. No matter what kind of content you create, understanding how RSS feeds work can help you navigate digital publishing with confidence. 

Don’t get intimidated by all the web terms! Here's everything you need to know to understand and respond to RSS tech!

What is an RSS feed?

RSS stands for "really simple syndication" or "rich site summary," depending on who you talk to. An RSS feed is a web feed that allows applications and their users to access automatic website or content updates.

RSS feeds rely on simple text files, extracting important information from XML (extensible markup language). Simplified, streamlined content is then input into an RSS reader, which converts text files into digital updates.

Through this process, an RSS feed makes it possible to turn simple information, like a site name or a content’s title description, into a steady stream of news articles and new content pieces. This helps readers stay up to date with the latest online developments.

To keep up with advancing digital capabilities, RSS files are becoming more complex too. An RSS feed can now handle images, video, and other non-text content, simplifying all information to improve organization, loading speed, and RSS reader compatibility.

As internet content became more complex, so did RSS files, quickly adopting images, video, and more, but still in a stripped-down format for more effortless loading and compatibility across all feed readers. Readers usually automatically update to deliver the newest content right to your device. This approach allows internet users to create their online feeds filled with custom updates from the sites they regularly visit.

What is the purpose of an RSS feed?

Using RSS technology, it's easy to stay on track of new developments online. RSS feeds make it easy for sites to offer personalized search and viewing experiences in a way that just isn't possible on other platforms, like social media sites.

With RSS, new content can be categorized and compartmentalized, allowing users to access regular updates without fear of missing out on important information. For many users, relying on RSS is considered a popular alternative to maintaining a social media account.

Updating even when you're not online, RSS software allows you to catch up on news, articles, posts, podcasts, and other new content additions. In today's world, most major blogs and websites have RSS installed. There are even some mobile apps that can be used as feed readers!

What is an RSS reader?

An RSS feed reader can be used to access important data from a variety of selected feeds or sources. A reader can display posts from a list of feeds, usually based on sites you subscribe to or show an interest in.

RSS feeds also play an important role in the push notifications you receive when new content is published. Using an RSS reader, you can make sure you see everything from your favorite sites and publications.

Examples of an RSS feed reader

There are many different kinds of RSS readers, each with its own unique strengths and benefits. Some of the most popular readers include:

1. Feedly

Feedly is a popular RSS reader for entertainment content, as well as professional updates. The system features a simple, easy-to-navigate interface, which uses a series of basic categories to collect and display information from diverse RSS feeds. This allows Feedly to populate a full newsfeed with all the latest details in news. Plus, you can organize your feed yourself, share updates with others, create notes on what you read, and access an AI research assistant to read, analyze, and declutter content. Feedly is a great choice for online feed reading.

2. Feedreader

Feedreader is another good example of an effective RSS reader. With a simple, minimalistic design, the free reader system is committed to clever content curation. It uses a number of clear categories to keep content where it belongs. Feedreader is also a favorite due to its variability, with editing alternatives available for users who want to change their feed or display. The web-based software operates entirely in an online environment and features view mode options that allow you to group information by source, date, or tag.

3. Flipboard

A little fancier than some other basic software applications, Flipboard has a rich design and excellent mobile compatibility. The system produces organic results using intuitive category systems. Using Flipboard, you can receive updates on many content types, from blog posts to website updates and even e-zines! The system has plenty of extra features that make for an enjoyable user experience.

4. The Old Reader

The Old Reader is a favorite on account of its simple design and easy usability. It's a great example of clear, minimal RSS technology, operating without excess features to categorize content and organize newsfeeds. The Old Reader is compatible with many device types, including mobiles, tablets, and desktops. The system has some social features but mostly sticks to the basics that it does best!

5. Other options

If you're still looking for the perfect RSS reader, another option could be the answer you're searching for. You can also use Inoreader, NewsBlur, Feeder, or Good News.

How does an RSS feed work?

An RSS feed displays content that matters to you. The process begins when you subscribe to an RSS feed, such as a news site or blog.

Your subscriptions trigger an automatic transmission of updates to your RSS feed reader. These updates summarise new information, like the content of a newly published blog post or a company update. Through this process, your RSS reader is able to send the content to your feed in real-time, placing the most recent items at the top, where you'll be sure to see them.

Does anyone still use RSS feeds?

RSS feeds remain a staple of digital communications! While they're not quite as popular as they used to be, RSS feeds are still a great way to read, manage, and navigate online information.

For certain types of content, RSS feeds are essential! For example, podcast directories like Apple and Spotify often require RSS feeds to integrate content and provide regular updates to listeners. In these cases, an RSS feed is the key to maintaining good discoverability and reach potential.

Using RSS technology, you can avoid missing out on important new information both professionally and during your downtime. RSS technology is compatible with all kinds of platforms and publications, with all signs pointing to the idea that RSS is here to stay.

Benefits of using an RSS feed

There are many important benefits to using an RSS feed, whether you're a creator or a consumer.

As a creator, RSS feeds allow you to reach audiences reliably. Using RSS reader technology, you can ensure that recent content is sent out to the people who care about it, all using data-driven automatic processes! Really simple syndication is just that: really simple.

By using RSS to target audiences at the top of their newsfeed or inbox, you can boost your content reach and address your followers directly. While sharing news on social media can sometimes be hit and miss, RSS feeds allow for subscriptions and push notifications that prevent anyone from missing out on what you have to say.

Similarly, using an RSS feed has great benefits for consumers of information. Whether you want to stay aware of website updates, keep track of important news developments, or find out about fresh entertainment content as it becomes available, RSS can help.

Just by hitting the subscribe button on your favorite websites, you can plan to automatically receive updates that keep you aware of all new posts, articles, episodes, podcasts, news updates, and more. There's no missing out with RSS!

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Why do I need an RSS feed for podcasts?

In the podcast world, RSS feeds are especially important, helping to ensure that new podcast episodes are easy to find for relevant audiences. 

RSS feeds are how new information and published podcast episodes can be transferred to popular podcast directories, like Apple and Spotify. This is why most podcast hosting platforms integrate RSS technology.

Using RSS readers, podcast directories or sites can automatically update to display the latest episodes to listeners. Interested podcast listeners can then receive automatic updates when the podcasts they subscribe to post fresh content. RSS can also support recommendations for related podcasts, helping new creators get discovered by audiences.

In most cases, RSS readers are unable to read information from audio sources, so it's important that relevant, informative text is available to help a reader create a suitable XML file. This data might include a title, description, creator name, or even a link.

If you want to make sure that your podcast can be easily located on podcast directories,  Google or any other search engine, or if you want to ensure listeners can tune in regularly to hear new episodes, an RSS feed is essential.

How do I get and use an RSS feed?

Step 1: Install a feed reader

Before you can set up an RSS feed, you'll need to install a feed reader on your device. There are plenty of free options to choose from, with many of these apps and web-based systems offering compatibility across a range of device types. Choose the reader style, type, and interface that best suits your needs and preferences.

Step 2: Find and subscribe to your favorite sites

To get the most out of an RSS feed, you'll need to know what content you care about! Once you've set up a feed reader account, you can search for your favorite websites, blogs, podcasts, and news sites. Using your feed reader system, you may be able to subscribe with just the press of a button! In other cases, you'll need to locate the orange RSS icon and follow a more complex process, depending on the directions of your reader.

Step 3: Organize your feed

An organized RSS feed is the clearest and easiest to understand, especially if you often read updates on the go. Once you've finalized your RSS subscriptions, most reader systems will allow you to create folders and categorize the content you receive for easy navigation.

How to add websites to an RSS feed reader

To add websites to an RSS feed reader, there are a few different processes you can try.

Depending on the functionalities of your reader system, you may be able to add sites quite simply by clicking an RSS plus button and inputting the URL of the site you want to receive updates from.

If this isn't an option, you may be able to search your destination site for the small orange RSS icon. Clicking this will allow you to access the site's RSS feed name and details. You can link this to your RSS reader app or web-based program.

If neither of these pathways are available, you can try a few other strategies.

Step 1: First, add "/feed/" to the end of the site URL you're trying to input.

Step 2: If this doesn't work, look at the HTML source of the website page you want to add.

Step 3: Right-click a site page and select "page source" to trigger a new window.

Step 4: Use your device's "find" function, and type in "RSS".

Step 5: Look for the feed URL, which should be contained with the quotes that follow "href=".

Step 6: When you locate the RSS feed name, add it to your feed reader.

How do I add a podcast RSS feed to Spotify?

As a podcast creator, an RSS feed is important especially if you want to add your podcast to a directory like Spotify. Adding a podcast RSS feed to Spotify is simple when you understand the process. 

Follow these easy steps to add a podcast RSS feed to Spotify:

Step 1: Create a podcast RSS feed, either by setting up your own or using a podcast hosting service that will set one up for you.

Step 2: Log in to Spotify for podcasters and select ‘Get started’.

Adding a podcast on Spotify using an RSS feed link.

Step 3: Locate your RSS URL from your podcast hosting site and copy and paste it into Spotify in the Link to RSS feed textbox.

Input box for your podcast RSS feed link on Spotify

Step 4: Verify your account ownership by following the "send code" prompts.

Step 5: Fill in the Spotify form with information about your podcast, then hit submit.

Ready to start using RSS feeds to reach broader online audiences?

Start creating new content with, then upload your content, set up your RSS feed, and get ready for digital success! 

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