RSS (or atom) Feeds are a really powerful tool to either stay in touch with information you value, get updates real quick and spend less time on getting information you want. About every blog, online gallery or news site has its own feed. Here a quick sum up how to use this efficiently, both as reader and as a publisher (artist, blogger, or if you run a community).
Rss, atom feed = a stream of information divided into different parts like headline, content, attachment.
Aggregator = a synonym for feedreader, program that handles feeds
subscribe = you start reading a newsfeed, like signing up for a newsletter
Why use this technique in the first place?
Because it saves you time and makes managing your inputs of information easily. You don’t want to visit every site you like, where there could be new content daily. You have a chance that there is no new content and you leave again, without any gain. Further, you don’t have to remember all the places for valuable information around the internet, you just subscribe to the feeds and will be noticed when there is new content to see or read.
How do I use it then?
Many programs support feeds, browsers (like IE, Firefox, Opera, Chrome) mail clients (like Thunderbird or Windows Live Mail) or dedicated feed readers (like Shrook for Mac, Liferea and Akregator for Linux or Feedreader for Windows). There are also online services that collect your feeds in your browser window, accessible from everywhere (example: bloglines, google reader, netvibes).
Just look out for this icon: it will support you with information or the feed URL from that site. For this blog it is: http://geronimo89.dk/feed/
Example how to subscribe to a website with Firefox:
Why you should run a website or use a service (countless, like deviantART, flickr, blogger, blogspot, livejournal, wordpress) that supports feeds is because you reach your readers fast and you have a better chance that people that like what you do will come back or stay in touch through this feed. They might want to subscribe to your feed, but not visit your website manually every day to check if there are updates. If you post content (like photos, poems, blogposts) irregularly it will increase the number of your readers.
How will I know if people use this feature?
Simple: if your sites views go up, minutes after you have submitted new content, people have very probably subscribed to your feed. I see it myself, when I promote new content through links with bit.ly I have more readers online than clicked the link that lead to the article. These are readers that have subscribed. Another option is to use a service like Feedburner to monitor readers. Also there are plugins for most content management systems that show referrers or count hits on your feed-url.
But I want people to visit the website!
No problem, you can distribute a short summary of the article and not the whole content through the feed, which only gives the user a headline and the summary, if they want to read the whole article, they have to go to that article, by clicking the link. If you are not depending on advertisement on your website, I recommend you distribute all the content though. Below a screenshot of the wordpress rss settings.