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RSS and Mainstream News Outlets

Recently posted on the FP Passport blog, The truth about RSS gives an overview of the results of a recent RSS study that looks at the RSS feeds produced by 19 major news outlets. The complete study (and its results) can be found here: International News and Problems with the News Media’s RSS Feeds.

If you are interested in my part in all this, read the Study Methodology section (which describes my role down under the heading ‘How the Research Team Operated’) and the What is RSS? page (which I authored, and describes both the basics of RSS as well as some other web based tools we used in the study – YahooPipes and Google Docs).

Why should you care about RSS? RSS feeds are becoming more common on archives websites. It should be treated as just another tool in the outreach toolbox for making sure that your archives maintains or improves its visibility online. To get an idea of how they are being used, consider the example of the UK National Archives. They currently publish three RSS feeds:

  • Latest news Get the latest news and events for The National Archives.
  • New document releases Highlights of new document releases from The National Archives.
  • Podcasts Listen to talks, lectures and other events presented by The National Archives.

The results of the RSS study I link to above shed light on the kinds of choices that are made by content providers who publish feeds – and on the expectations of those who use them. If you don’t know what RSS is – this is a great intro. If you use and love (or hate) RSS already – I would love to know your thoughts on the study’s conclusions.

Posted in journalism, outreach, RSS, software


  1. jordon

    wow, this is very interesting! i just wrote a post on my personal blog the other day in which i claimed that RSS is a way to democratize the way you see information. meaning, if you visit a website like the new york times, a story that the times’ editors do not deem important may be buried in the site, akin to all those stories questioning the bush administration’s case for war that appeared on A14 and in the metro section of the print edition.

    but RSS seemingly ranks stories based on when they are published, which determines when they are retrieved by the reader. i argued that, in addition to the convenience of one-stop retrieval, RSS a virtually “bias-free” way of getting the news.

    but the results of this study complicate my argument. i guess i have two questions. the first regards the claim that RSS is only dependable if you read entertainment news. is the claim that entertainment news feeds are built better than news feeds, or is it making a qualified judgment that the stakes are lower if you miss an entertainment story than a hard news story? as an avid reader of hard news and entertainment (i supposed this encompasses movies, music, and art) news, i would disagree.

    second, what if you subscribe to the “send me everything you publish” feed, as i do for the new york times website? does that mitigate the problems with selective retrieval? for example, i know i’ve seen AP stories in my new york times feed.

    i also wonder if the retrieval has to do with the RSS reader you use, too. i recently tried out the online reader feedshow, and i found that it was actually not pulling stories into the reader that google reader was pulling in, so i switched back to google reader.

    very interesting. my breathless praise of RSS has been downgraded to simple admiration!

  2. Jeanne


    My question back to you is where did you find a ‘send me everything you publish’ feed for the nytimes? Looking at their list of RSS feeds I don’t see that option… and that is one of the points that the study is making. Given so many choices, how do you know if you have picked enough feeds to get *everything*?


  3. jordon

    actually, on investigation, i misspoke. i subscribe to the “home page” feed, with the assumption that the new york times homepage is constantly refreshed. i’d say i get about 100 stories a day from the home page feed (this includes Reuters and AP wire stories), far more than i would get from just reading the front page of the print edition, and they are displayed in my feed reader that is less selective than on the web-based home page. but you’re right; i wish they would have that option.

    you make a good point about the quest to get “all the news that’s fit to print,” so to speak. but, realistically speaking, that’s a quixotic quest. i see RSS improvements on an asymptotal curve; RSS can–and should–definitely continue to fine tune itself, but RSS will never be perfect. that said, i feel much more informed since i started using RSS than ever before.

    perhaps a way to mitigate one’s chance of missing an important story, short of governmental regulation of RSS technology, is to subscribe to a bunch of feeds from a range of news outlets. (i find the huffington post’s “raw feed” to be a good source of AP reports i don’t catch in the times.) i think this study has convinced me that RSS is an improvement on surfing (and certainly better than print reading), but it’s not the panacea for an uniformed public.

    i still wonder about the claim about entertainment news, though…

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