Creating an RSS Feed


I’ve had several people ask me lately and have seen questions on Office Online about how to create an RSS feed. For those of you who don’t know what an RSS feed is, it’s something that people can use to keep up to date with the content on a site. Generally, sites that frequently publish content, like news sites or magazines, offer RSS feeds to which visitors can subscribe. Then when they publish content, they update the RSS feed and people who have subscribed to the feed will get a list of newly published content. (This is probably a somewhat simplistic explanation, but that’s it, in a nutshell.)

If you have a site that contains content, such as articles or stories, and you frequently update the site, then you may want an RSS feed to help your customers keep up with your updates.

What is RSS?

RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication (although I’ve seen some sites refer to it as Rich Site Summary, also). RSS is basically an XML document that conforms to a specified XML schema. Short of regurgitating all the information that is available to explain RSS, I’ll let you review the following resources. The all contain great information about what RSS is.

What is RSS?
Introduction to RSS (from webreference.com)
RSS Tutorial for Content Publishers and Webmasters

These are just a few. There are a hundred and one more resources for RSS; do an Internet search for “RSS”, and you will likely come up with your own list of resources.

There are several different versions of RSS schemas, many created by various organizations. (The first link in the above list (What is RSS?) provides a table that briefly describes each version.) I’m sure there are experts in RSS who have an opinion about which one is the best to use. I’m not an expert, so I’m not making any recommendation. The schemas can vary some minimally, others hugely.

RSS 2.0

To help you understand how the schemas work and how to create your own RSS feed, the following XML code shows the basic XML for RSS 2.0, which is the version MSDN uses.

<rss version="2.0" xmlns:dc="http://purl.org/dc/elements/1.1/">

  <channel>
    <title></title>
    <link></link>
    <description></description>

    <item>
      <title></title>
      <link></link>
      <description></description>
    </item>

  </channel>
 </rss>

Before I get too far, I should explain that this is not a schema reference. Technology at Harvard Law has a great RSS 2.0 Specification schema reference that you should use if you need specific information about the elements. Plus I stripped down the XML above (for example, I removed the comments sections) so that you could see the XML without all the added text.

Briefly, each RSS feed that adheres to the 2.0 version contains one channel element. Some of the child elements for the channel element are optional, but the title, link, and description are required. The channel element may contain one or more item elements. Many of the child elements for the item element are optional, but the title, link, and description are required. The above example provides the required elements for both the channel and item elements.

If you think of an RSS feed like a newspaper, the channel element contains the name of the newspaper, a link to the newspaper’s Web site, and a description of the newspaper; then each item element is a different story in the newspaper, each containing the title of the story, a link to where the story can be found online, and a description of the story, which in some cases may be the full story.

Publishing your RSS file

Now that you’ve been introduced to one RSS schema, and you’ve likely read a bit more about the different versions, you should be ready to create your own RSS file for your Web site. You can create and edit your RSS file in FrontPage, Visual Studio, Notepad, or another XML or text editor. Once you’ve created it, you need to save it as an XML file (with a .xml extension) and upload it to your Web site.

Then you need to create a link so that people who want to can subscribe to it. Generally, you will want to use the little orange XML graphic and link the image to the XML file. I’ve noticed that most sites that have RSS feeds use the little orange XML graphic or a slight variation, but not all. I’m not sure if there are any rules about using the orange graphic, but it’s very easy to identify so that those who are looking for an RSS feed on your site can easily find it. To get a copy of the image, just right-click on the image and save it locally, and then upload it to your Web site.

After you’ve created your first RSS file and provided the link to it on your Web site, all you need to do is update the file when you publish new content — daily, weekly, monthly, or whatever works for you. I suggest that you don’t save the same RSS file multiple times with different filenames. If you do, those who have subscribed to your RSS feed won’t be able to keep their news aggregators updated without pulling the URL to the new file. Just update the file and reuse the same filename.

The RSS files that I reviewed had the most recent content at the top of the file. This allows subscribers to easily find the new content and move on. Again, I’m not sure if there are any rules to this, but if you want to know how subscribers will view your feeds, I would suggest either buying an RSS news aggregator or downloading a free trial version. I use Newsgator in Outlook, but there are many different news aggregators, so do some research to see which one works. In addition, different news aggregators may display the RSS feeds differently, so you may want to install more than one to see what the differences are.

Well, that’s it. About the only thing I’ve done here is provide just basic information. There are many many many more resources online that will provide more detailed information about RSS and how to create your own feed. If you’re new to XML, I highly suggest becoming more familiar before starting to create your own RSS feed. Once you have a basic understanding of XML and RSS, you should be able to create the RSS feeds you need for your own Web site.

Comments (44)

  1. Just implemented an RSS feed on http://www.futuremovies.co.uk and a rss reader <a href="http://www.eurr.co.uk/eurr_rss_reader.asp">www.eurr.co.uk/eurr_rss_reader.asp</a&gt;

    p.s. its a shame people would want to spam this site.

  2. Peter says:

    I just created and uploaded an RSS feed to my site. What do I do if I have another article I want to add to that list? Do I simply add it to the top of the current list? Second question, when I have a completely new list of articles, do I delete the current listing and replace it with the new list, but always use the same file name or do I add the new articles above the old articles in the same XML file?

  3. Lisa Wollin says:

    Hi, Peter,

    I don’t know if there are any hard and fast rules, but the RSS feeds I’ve reviewed generally add new items at the top of the same XML file.

    If you have a completely new list, I guess it depends on whether the new list is related to the old list. If they’re related, I would probably just add the new list above the old list in the same XML file, as I mentioned above. If they’re unrelated, I would probably create a new list in a new file.

    I don’t believe it is unusual for a web site to have multiple RSS feeds. For example, my blog has an RSS feed for all posts and separate feeds for different categories.

    I hope this helps. If you have any more questions, please let me know.

    Lisa

  4. Tom says:

    You said that… "The RSS files that I reviewed had the most recent content at the top of the file." How necessary is this ? I’m using a stand-alone program to create my feed and verify syntax, etc. It includes a publish date in the XML file. You can see my RSS feed file here: http://www.parentingwithdignity.com/rss/parenting_advice.xml

    Does this publish date override the top-down scheme, or should I rearrange my XML data?

    Many thanks, Tom

  5. Jamie says:

    Lisa,

    I am trying to create a rss feed for my web site, why are these folks all talking about stand alone feed creation software? Shouldn’t I be able to do this with a tool (XML)in Frontpage 2003…I would think such a tool, as well as a blog creation tool, should be a feature in a Frontpage Service Pack upgrade! If not the next version of Frontpage?!?! PLease! Why promote Longhorn RSS if Frontpage dosen’t help those of us with a web page create a feed? I know this is a long note (tome) my email address is jamie5560@aol.com

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  7. Vaughn says:

    Is it possible to add an XML feed to my website with FrontPage? I’m not interested in generating a feed for my site; I just want to be able to view XML content on my website’s homepage.

    Thanks.

  8. George says:

    Hi, I own a PSP. I was wondering if this structure is the same for the one the PSP uses (RSS Channel)

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  11. Monk says:

    You can always automatically create a RSS Feed of your FrontPage-based site using a service like <a href="http://www.mySiteFeed.com">http://www.mySiteFeed.com</a&gt;

  12. Nevermind MySiteFeed.com, I added a feed just to try, and there’s no way to remove it now. ALso, they add their own spam crap to your feeds. NO THANKS.

  13. I followed your instructions in Office Developer on how to creat an RSS Feed for Your FrontPage Web Site.  I had problems.  When I preview the .xml page in IE 6 and Firefox I have problems.

    IE 6 says:

    The XML page cannot be displayed

    Cannot view XML input using XSL style sheet. Please correct the error and then click the Refresh button, or try again later.

    ——————————————————————————–

    An invalid character was found in text content. Error processing resource ‘http://www.tldm.org/rss.xml‘. Line 48, Position…

      <description>

    Firefox said:

    Error loading stylesheet: A network error occured loading an XSLT stylesheet:

    http://www.tldm.org/rss.xsl

    Please help!!!

  14. I figured out how to get the RSS feed to show in the browsers.  Now I need more help.  When I pulled up RSS feed in a reader, the links are for a local drive.  How do I get it so that the links go to our website?

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  27. tony eason says:

    Hi there forum,

    Can anyone tell me "how to add rss feed content to a Frontpage Extensions Based Website?"  

    I’ver been browsing the web for days.  I’ve already got my rss feed info.  Yet, I don’t know (and can’t find) how to add other people’s rss feeds (and content) to my website.  I know that java scripts will not add "content" to your website.  I’ve heard that I need to add php files etc.

    Any help would be gratefully appreciated.

    You can emal me directly at: tonysride@juno.com

    ciao, tony

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