RSS in Action

Perhaps one of the most valuable commodities in the 21st Century is our ability to acquire information at our finger tips and virtually for free. Gaining access to a variety of credible information sources is a luxury that we, the users and readers, have gained in the information age. As information providers, libraries and media such as television and print news can increase their readership by providing the right kinds of information based on interest and demand of users. By using a 'news reader' such as NewsGator , Net Vibes or Google Reader and utilizing RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds it is possible to attain summarized and personalized information from a variety of sources. In short, rather than searching for information that we are interested in on particular websites, we can reverse the process and have the information directed toward us instead via an RSS feed.

A good example of an information service that provides feeds for those wanting specific topics or interests is the online version of the New York Times newspaper. The New York Times RSS feed provides information ranging from daily news to art to technology and everthing in-between. By providing online readers with RSS feeds, the New York Times delivers specific information to individuals on a personal basis. What it is also delivers are advertisements, provided by companies like Google's Adsense. So, yes, 'virtually' the information gathered in RSS feeds is free although the reader is still subjected to advertising. In general, ads are suited to the sites content or in some cases advertising spots are sold to the highest bidder. In the case of the NYT, 'Chloe' a major fashion label, holds a prominent position in most feed pages, regardless of the content. Clearly, marketing research would have indicated that the NYT readership was the right demographic for this company and their marketing strategy.

Meeting the needs of users is nothing new for libraries. The State Library of South Australia provides free RSS feeds for their readers that range from free family history resources to ebooks as well as General Reference resources. These resources are updated on a regular basis from 14 to 30 days which means as new resources become available in the library, we will find out immediately rather than eventually stumbling across them in one of our searches.

Subscribing to RSS feeds is a quick and easy way to gain relevant information without having to weed through extraneous and irrelevant pages and websites.

Sadly, the creator, Aaron Swartz, of this incredible online tool that allows information to be freely shared over the internet, tragically, took his own life a few days ago. He will be remembered as an advocate for public access to information, an innovator and an exceptional person who tested the boundaries of free speech. You can read more about Aaron at