For those who have yet to hop on to the RSS
(Really Simple Syndication) bandwagon, the effort can seem more like a
confusing leap than a few easy mouse clicks.

Easy-to-grasp definition of RSS

Here is an easy-to-grasp definition of RSS, courtesy of Anil Dash, a VP of SixApart which makes MovableType and TypePad (popular blogging software). He calls RSS:

“The technology built into blogs to notify you of updates. You can get these
updates on a Web page, in your email inbox or on your PDA.”

Another non-techie definition of RSS is that it’s a new online channel to both publish and receive news updates – without using email. Both content  publishers and information seekers are excited about the fact that RSS sidesteps spam.

Again, RSS is not email. So no worries about spam filters – whether you’re sending or receiving information via RSS.

You need an RSS newsreader

The first step to get on the RSS bandwagon is to download – or sign up for – an RSS newsreader. This is a simple piece of software that is as easy to use as a Web-based email program like Yahoo or Google’s Gmail.

Which RSS reader should you choose?

There are at least a dozen different RSS newsreaders. Some are mini applets that you download to your desktop. NewsGator is a popular desktop choice; it integrates seamlessly with Outlook. So yes, you get the RSS feed in your inbox. But it’s not delivered through email.

Other RSS readers are Web-based. All seem to work slightly differently.

Try Web-based Bloglines

I want to make this RSS tutorial platform-neutral (Windows or Mac compatible) and as easy as possible. So here is a, er, “really simple” 5-step guide to get you started with RSS through Bloglines, my favorite Web-based RSS reader. Yes, it’s free.

RSS 101: 5-step tutorial


Step1. Browse to

Step 2.  In the middle of the page, click on “Click here to sign up.”
You’ll be taken to a page where you enter your email address and a password. Choose your time zone. Click “register.” Then check your email and click the link inside the “Bloglines Validation Email.”

Step 3. Key tip: the URL of a blog is NOT the same as the URL of its RSS feed
You’re ready to roll. You can now add RSS feeds to your Bloglines account. But first… a key tip: the URL for the RSS feed of a blog is NOT the same as the URL you type into your browser.

For example, to read this blog you type the following URL into your browser window:

To add the RSS feed for this blog to your Bloglines account (or to any RSS newsreader), you use the following URL:

Click on the link above. You may get a page of gobbledy-gook? Not to worry. That’s what the RSS feed looks like. It’s XML code (just like Web pages have HTML code behind them).

Step 4. So… how in heck do I find the URL of an RSS feed I want to subscribe to?
Most RSS newsreaders can “sniff out” the URL of the feed automatically. Bloglines is no exception. Here’s what you do: go back into your Bloglines account with your new username (email address) and password.

Subbutton_1Browse to the Easy Subscription Bookmarklet page.  Follow instructions according to which browser you use (Internet Explorer, Firefox, etc.). Install the “bookmarklet” in your Favorites browser bar or Bookmarks Toolbar.

Now… browse to a blog you’d like to subscribe to via RSS.

Here’s a suggestion: Business Week’s new blog.

Once you’re on this page: click on your “Add to Bloglines” bookmarklet in your browser bar or drop-down menu of Favorites.


Up will come a page (click image above) that may seem confusing. It will offer you multiple options for subscribing to the RSS feed for Business Week’s new blog. My advice, choose the option that ends in “rdf” or “rss” and click the box that says “Subscribe to This Feed.” In this case:

THEN… scroll to the bottom of the page and click the Subscribe button. (Don’t forget to do this or you won’t have completed the subscription process for this blog feed.)

Forget about the other “options.” RSS is still so new that it comes in different flavors (atom is one) as well as versions. Don’t worry about that.

Step 5. Read your feed by clicking on the My Feeds tab in your Bloglines interface. Here’s what you’ll see after signing up for


When you click the links on the right-hand side of this page they will take you to the actual blog Web site where you can read the whole entry.

That’s it. You’re done! You’re on the RSS bandwagon. Now browse to dozens of other blogs you’d like to keep tabs on. With a couple of clicks, you can subscribe via RSS using your new Bloglines account.

Want suggestions for blogs to read? See the blogs listed on the right-hand side of this page.

Useful Links