RSS Feeds

What It Is

RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication (among other things). It is a web content format which, when used with an RSS aggregator, can allow you to alert users to new or exciting content on your website. These news feeds enable users to avoid the conventional methods of browsing or searching for information on websites. Now the content they want is delivered directly to them.

RSS feeds are commonly used on weblogs (blogs), news web sites and other places with frequently updated content. Once users subscribe to an RSS feed, they can gather material from web sites of their choosing. It’s a very convenient format because it allows users to view all the new content from multiple sources in one location on their desktop.

RSS is written in the Internet coding language known as XML, which is why you see RSS buttons labeled that way, commonly with this icon: RSS Image

Why It’s Important

As you can see, there are many benefits to using RSS feeds. However, as with other technology, you need to offer alternative means to view the material if the technology is not widely available or accessible.

Specific Policy, Legal or Other Requirements for Doing This

There are no specific requirements for government agencies to use RSS. It’s an emerging technology that agencies can consider as an alternative way to quickly deliver news and information.

How to Implement

Creating an RSS feed is not very difficult. It’s simply a text file written in a special XML format that you place on your website. Visitors will then add the URL of the XML file to their aggregation software. Once added, the user’s software will notify them whenever you update the feed.

You’ll need some specialized software before you get started. Here are the steps to place an RSS feed on your website:

What an RSS Feed Looks Like to Users

Below is how the RSS feed (mentioned in #2) will look like to a person who has downloaded RSS software on their computer. The RSS Owl software program is shown here as an example only. This is very similar to how most RSS aggregators display feeds.


RSS feeds are typically organized by topic, similar to how files or email messages are categorized on people’s computers. When a user clicks an item title, the item’s description and link is displayed (similar to clicking an e-mail subject in an e-mail program). If a user is interested in the item after reading the description, they can click the link to take them to the corresponding web page.


Screenshot of an RSS reader


Examples of Agencies that Have Implemented RSS Feeds


(See our disclaimer for non-government links)


Page Updated or Reviewed: January 7, 2009