Gimme an R, Gimme an S, Gimme another S – RSS!

Go team RSS go!

Some of you know what we’re cheering about – others are sitting there scratching their heads wondering what RSS is all about. Well, I’m going to show you how easy and beneficial RSS is to your comic, and in another post I’ll show you how to effectively set up some tracking for your RSS and some simple monetization and traffic building strategies related to it. First – let’s begin with a primer.

What is RSS?

RSS was originally known as RDF Site Summary; used in the early days of Internet content syndication for publishers to send their submissions through feeds as simply as possible. Netscape (shown above) was one of the first to adopt this style of displaying content in the late 90s.  Eventually the RDF format was replaced, but the acronym still stuck. Due to its simplicity in displaying published content, the acronym eventually became Really Simple Syndication.

RSS files are basically XML files formatted in plain text. The file is then parsed by reading software to display the information to the reader. (XML is a programming language that allows for creating content that is readable to humans and machines/software.)

What do you use RSS for?

As a reader, RSS is used as a method to subscribe to the syndicated content of a particular website. You can receive syndicated music, images, stories, video, etc. by subscribing to a feed, which deposits the latest content for you to view. In order to indulge in this content, you need a reader that will allow you to receive and transmit the feed information in a format you can read – most browsers and e-mail software have the capability to do this. In some cases, specific software is needed in order to aggregate or mass the content you have chosen.

There are a wide variety of online RSS readers and RSS reading software available. Choose the one that works best for you. Some browsers, such as Mozilla Firefox, allow you to save RSS feeds as bookmarks and will display the content titles as clickable list links for you to check out. These feeds are constantly updated throughout the week and will always present the latest content when you start up your browser.

Instead of running around to the visit each individual site to view the content, the RSS feed allows the reader the ease of receiving content in one location at one time.

For creators, RSS is one of the easiest and most effective ways of sending out your content for people to receive as it is released. RSS has been used by many comic creators, bloggers and news outlets who produce new content over a short period of time. But it is also handy to have for creators who update on an infrequent basis, allowing readers to receive notification for new updates, sort of like a reminder to check in on new content.

The benefits for comic creators.

RSS feeds work best for all types of comic creators. By default, ComicPress offers a link to your feed (which you can use to direct the link to your exact feed if different from your blog). This acts as an additional entry point to your website. But, there have been several potential drawbacks to submitting your comic for viewing in RSS.

  • traffic to the website will be reduced
  • CPM revenues could be limited due to this reduced traffic
  • proliferation of content and images without proper credit

There is no surefire way of getting people to remain engaged while subscribing to an RSS feed. Remember, this is more for the convenience of the reader than the creator. Therefore, many creators opt to modify the way their content is displayed. Some use partial descriptions, some use reduced sized images with a partial description, others use a simple link back to the site in order to force the reader to the website, and others are fine to display all of the content within the feed with no limits.

It is up to you to experiment and find the best approach for your webcomic and how you want your readers to access it. If you’re looking to maintain traffic to your site, perhaps a simple link and partial text from the post is all that is submitted in the feed. Perhaps you don’t care about traffic and would prefer to give all of the content to readers in subscription. Whatever your choice may be, make sure you always have your work clearly credited, in order to avoid potential theft.

With FeedBurner, you could integrate ads into your feeds if there is a concern over CPM and other ad revenues based on eyeballs seeing the ads. A notable comic that uses this method is Questionable Content by Jeph Jacques. Subscribe to his RSS feed and you’ll see what I mean.

Takeaway

That’s basically it, folks. There’s no witchcraft involved in RSS – just really simple syndicated content. In the followup episode to this post, I’ll show you all how to tweak your FeedBurner to get the most out of your feeds and the people who subscribe to them. Before the article comes out, why not read up on setting yourself up with FeedBurner, and check out this great article by Dawn to get started!

 

Andrés ‘ Drezz ‘ Rodriguez is the author of the ultra-violent modern noir Online Graphic Novel El Cuervo. In his spare time he trains his newborn daughter how to punch sides of raw beef into hamburger and smash insects with hammers. Don’t be afraid – feel free to connect with him on Google+ or you can follow him on Twitter at @DrezzRodriguez

it follows on the Twitter or it gets the hammer again…

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6 Comments

  1. Excited to read your follow-up on FeedBurner tweaking! I still haven’t wrapped my head around it. Caveman Robin fear fire. Why burn food? No understand you, FeedBurner. No understand.

  2. If there’s one thing I need to figure out for my comic (And believe me, there’s a lot more than just one) it’s RSS. Thanks for the article!

    • It’s super easy. Just get hooked up using Feedburner! Follow the link I posted to Dawn’s article. That’s enough to get you well on your way!

    • I think that’s pretty common. The jury is out on trying to find a happy medium for delivering content in a feed. For those who want the traffic, they force you to click on the excerpt to obtain the comic. For those who just care about overall eyeballs, displaying all in the reader is fine.

      It may be the author’s comfort level at play here.

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