What is RSS and Why YOU Need It?

I figured I would include this post in my growing up online series: Workshop Presentation where I give parents and kids a really basic explanation of teens and the Internet from a younger perspective.

If you do not know what RSS is, you are probably irritated that I constantly ask you to sign up for it!

How are you reading my site now?

So hopefully, you like my site. If you do not know what RSS is, or choose not to use it, you are probably bookmarking my website and then checking back often, or you subscribed by email (box on the right). This is great, but then you get a lot of emails or forget to check back to all of your favorite sites.

What is RSS?

(Really Simple Syndication) is a way to read many of your favorite websites in the same place, at anytime. Frequently updated content such as blog entries, news headlines or podcasts usually have an RSS button displayed.

rss-parent-teen.png* the button looks like this.

Once you click this button, you are ‘subscribing to the website’ or subscribing to their ‘feed’ of content, where you will get a summary (or in my case the whole article) of all new posts.

You can find the orange button in the search bar of any site that has the RSS feature…most do:


On my site, you can also click the orange button on the box with my recent stories to the right:


Where do you read your feed?

Once you decide to subscribe to a site, the feed (content) goes to your Feed Reader or a News Aggregator. This is a simple software that organizes all of the RSS feeds you have subscribed to from various sites and easily displays them for you to read and use in one place.

Don’t get discouraged, this is simple and can be really fun once you get going! A lot of teens use RSS to keep up on their favorite music, events and news. Once you click on the RSS button, it will ask you where you want the feed to go (little icons). You can choose anyone you want:

There are many free RSS Readers available. Some popular feed readers include Amphetadesk (Windows, Linux, Mac), FeedReader (Windows), and NewsGator (Windows – integrates with Outlook). I use Google Reader because I have gmail. My Yahoo, Bloglines are also popular web-based feed readers.

Then you will have a subscription list:



You can even organize your subscriptions into different folders (I have a folder for subscriptions about teens and parents, one for subscriptions on entrepreneurs, one for websites about new things to do in Los Angeles etc)

And you have a ‘home page’ with a short summary of all of your new articles. The reader checks the user’s subscribed feeds automatically and regularly for new content, downloading any updates that it finds for you.

Why would I want to RSS?

As a blogger, I prefer when you subscribe by email, but I am writing this post because I often get questions about what RSSing is and I do think for busy parents, or for parents who have lots and lots of websites they want to keep up with, this is the best option.

Whats nice is you can organize them into folders, save and email the articles you like and even tag them with reminders (mine include: “To Do” “Los Angeles Fun” “Current Parent News Summary” when I see something I want to put into a post.)

RSS solves a problem for people who regularly use the web. It allows you to easily stay informed by retrieving the latest content from the sites you are interested in. You save time by not needing to visit each site individually. You ensure your privacy, by not needing to join each site’s email newsletter.

So, if I have convinced you start by clicking the orange button on my site and then organize your feeds from across the web!


2 Responses to “What is RSS and Why YOU Need It?”

  1. Liz
    June 5, 2009 at 2:50 am #

    Blimey! It’s hard to find your RSS feed! I finally clicked on the icon by the “subscribe to our email” link at/ near the top of this page. I’m using a Chrome browser.

  2. Vanessa Van Petten
    June 9, 2009 at 6:47 pm #

    sorry! It should be in your browser bar, but I will add it to the subscribe page, thanks!



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