There are a few options for creating outgoing RSS feeds that don't need great technical effort. For instance, your organization's blog software may already have a feature that automatically transforms your posts into RSS feeds your audience can subscribe to. The same is true of many content management systems. Alternatively, there are number of inexpensive Web-based feed-creation services that can generate an RSS feed of almost any page on your Web site.
Blog-Driven News Feeds
In addition to content-publishing tools, most blogging services include features that will serve up your posts as news feed. If you need to add multiple feeds to your site, check to see if your blogging platform supports this functionality.
While many blogging services allow you to create an RSS feed, others instead support Atom, a type of syndicated XML feed that is very similar to RSS. Most of the newer feed-reading applications and services support both syndication formats. If your nonprofit is seeking a Web-based blogging service that supports both Atom and RSS feeds, consider LiveJournal or TypePad. By contrast, Blogger only creates feeds in the Atom format, while WordPress.com only offers support for RSS.
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RSS from Your CMS
Very often, organizations publish their own articles and news stories - they use a Creative Commons license and choose to implement a content management system. The CMS is an application that is designed to organize, store, and publish content and include varied tools for adding RSS feeds to your site. The best examples are Drupal and Plone, two free, open source CMS. Compared to these there are other which require extension to function and some which do not support it all. Given this, it is advisable to consider RSS support if you are installing content-management software.
Online Services for Building Feeds
In the event that an RSS feed using a CMS is not a reasonable solution, you could try using some of the Web-based tools that allow anyone with an Internet connection to build a feed. Most of theses services are offered free of charge. Some do feature advertisements on free feeds supplemented by a monthly fee if you need to create more than one RSS feed or require technical support. It is essential to check the time the staff of your organization can spend maintaining the feed as some online services will ask you to manually add the new headlines, links, and descriptive text you want delivered to your subscribers.
Smaller organizations that are looking for a low-maintenance RSS-creation option might want to check out FeedYes. Though these services are typically for Web surfers to receive updates from sites that lack their own RSS feeds, your nonprofit can also use them to serve up your own headlines and content. Both of these services work by "scraping" the links and text off a given page on your Web site and saving the links and text into an XML document. Both FeedYes and PonyFish are similar to configure and simple to use. First, enter the URL of the page you want to create a feed for. This will display the links on that page; choose the ones you want to include in the feed. Finally, select the button to generate the XML document. You can then add a link to that document from your Web page. That's your RSS feed, available for anyone to access.
Though FeedYes will allow you to create as many RSS feeds as you'd like, you will have to pay a yearly subscription fee to remove the ads. Ponyfish also lets users create an unlimited number of feeds, though if you want the service to refresh the feeds every hour (instead of every four hours) for a minimal fee.
If your nonprofit wants to create a feed that consists of articles and links from several different pages, you can do so by creating a free account at sites like LinkRSS, Publi.sh, HitRSS, and FeedPublish.com. Services such as these will require someone at your organization to manually enter URLs and headlines each time you want to add a new item to your feed. On the plus side, users who subscribe to the feed won't have to take any additional steps to receive the latest articles and news.
While building a feed using a free online site can be cheaper and easy but it does have some disadvantages. A free Web-based service may not offer any kind of tech support. Also, since these types of sites host your organization's feed on their own servers, you could run into trouble in the event that they have technical problems or simply cease to exist. To ensure stability, you could host it on your own servers. Unless you have technically skilled staffers who can build the news feeds themselves, you might need a special software to make the feed-creation process easier.
Nonprofits with little experience in feed-creation software might prefer simpleprograms. Applications such as Alnera FeedWorkshop, ExtraLabs Feed Editor, FeedForAll, and Jitbit RSS Feed Creator all offer step-by-step, interactive guides that walk users through the process of building an unlimited number of feeds. In addition to their user-friendly interfaces, these programs all offer features that attach images to feeds; generate XML code; and upload completed feeds to your Web server via FTP.
Getting That Feed on Your Site
If you created a feed using a blog or a hosted Web service, all you need to do is add a link to its URL in your HTML file for it to appear on the your non-profit's site. With a software package, you will need to upload the file to your server before you link out to it. Either way, visitors to your nonprofit's site can then subscribe to your feed by simply copying and pasting its URL into their news readers. It would help to include some explanatory text to aid your supporters. Besides a link to your feed, you may also want to add a graphical icon that says "RSS" or "XML". Both acronyms are often used interchangeably.
Many site owners also make their news feeds available through Mozilla Firefox's Live Bookmarks feature, which acts as the browser's built-in feed-reading tool. To make sure that visitors are able to subscribe to your RSS from directly within Firefox's address bar, all you have to do is follow the instructions found in the HTMLfixIT.com tutorial. After concluding the tutorial, you will see a feed icon to the far right side of Firefox's address bar when you launch your organization's Web site.
Adding an RSS or Atom feed to your Web site calls creativity and is easy to do. It is cost effective and does not require great technical skills. Most importantly a feed ensure that your supporters are always in tune to the happenings of your organization.