The Pros and Cons of Using RSS Feeds

First, what are RSS feeds?  RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. RSS typically uses XML files that can be read by a user’s feed reader, which converts the files into an easy-to-read format. An RSS feed takes the headlines, summaries, and update notices, and then links back to articles on your favorite website’s page. This content is distributed in real-time so that the top results on the RSS feed are always the latest published content for a website.

RSS Feeds FROM your Station Website

If you own a WordPress website, you can easily find your RSS feed by typing the domain and putting a “/feed” at the end.  This will display all of your latest post updates.  To get specific category feeds, follow your domain with “/category/(slug-of-category)/feed”.

RSS feeds will allow you to insert your radio station website posts in e-mail newsletters, auto post to social media, display posts on sister radio station websites, and more.

The Pros of Using RSS Feeds FROM your Station Website

– Automation: Setting up RSS feeds so that your posts are automatically fed to your social media sites such as Twitter or Facebook saves you time. Most e-newsletter providers have a way to display RSS feed posts inside newsletters.

– Set it and forget it: Once set up, everything happens automatically. You’ll never forget to mention your latest blog post again.

– Cross-Promotion: If you have multiple radio stations, it’s good to display posts that drive traffic between the two.  For example, showing the latest local news from your news station on your music format station and, vice versa, music news on your news talk station.

– Can Increase Backlinks: When an RSS feed is syndicated to other sites and readers, it can increase the number of links back to your website. Additional incoming links will often help a website rank better in organic search rankings.

The Cons of Using RSS Feeds FROM your Station Website

– Automation: Too much automation can backfire. Social media users want to follow real people, not robots that aggregate information. Make sure to use RSS feeds sparingly. While you’re at it, adjust the publication settings so that a maximum of one or two posts can be published in a single day. This way, your social media sites won’t get bombarded with post after post after post.

– Duplication: Consider that your station P1 followers likely get your daily newsletter and follow you on multiple social media channels. If you automatically send your posts to all of those channels, then your followers will likely see those posts two or more times.  They may feel that there’s no point in following you on multiple channels. To avoid this problem, use tags or categories to divert some posts to your newsletter, some to Facebook, some to Twitter, some to Instagram, etc.

Speaking of social, if you have a post that might warrant responses, you may not be online and ready to respond once someone does.  Make sure to set up your automatic RSS feed to occur at specific times when someone will be able to respond.

– Decreased visitors: I know that this seems counter-intuitive to what RSS is used for, but if you include all your post content inside your RSS feed and someone subscribes to that inside an RSS Read of some kind, then they will not visit your website and not increase your page views. And you need to do everything you can to keep those numbers increasing.

RSS Feeds ON your Station Website

You will always want to use caution when thinking about using an external RSS feed on your radio station website. First, it’s important to be aware that RSS feeds were created to benefit the website that they originate from – plain and simple. The reason for any website to provide RSS feed information is the hope that someone will use it so that they gain more traffic.

I’ve seen many stations display the latest posts from CMT.com, MTV.com, Rolling Stone, Fox News, CNN, local tv stations, etc. There are very few or no pros for displaying RSS feeds like this on your website.

The Cons of Using RSS Feeds ON your Station Website

– # Reasons for your Visitors to Leave: I had one station argue that it gives their jocks something to promote on the website, so they at least get that one click. They may be true, but it does very little to establish your website as a source of information. People like to be driven specifically to what they are looking for, so they might not like that they were driven to your site rather than directly to the source.

I like to give the analogy of your morning show promoting the celebrity news segment on your competing station.

Think of displaying these RSS feeds from a client perspective. If I was advertising on your website and the big draw to it was driving your listeners elsewhere, I would take issue what that.

If you are displaying a local TV station’s feed, ensure they are doing something of equal value to reciprocate that traffic back to your website.

– Google does not count displaying RSS feeds as content. You want your website to be found in search engines so that more people can find your station. Your homepage will benefit much more from displaying content that is created by your radio station.  This does not have to be news. It can be local events, sports updates, obituaries, etc.

What about Importing RSS Content?

Now you’re thinking. However, most RSS feeds out there only contain short excerpts with links back to the website to get the “meat” of the story. These are not good for importing. However, some RSS feeds contain full articles. If you can find one of these, then importing that content into your website is the best option. However, there are pros and cons to this also that you must weigh.

The Pros of Importing RSS Content

– Fresh Content on a Regular Basis: When you import RSS feed content, you can ensure that your site has fresh content daily or weekly. Best of all, it’s on automatic.

The Cons of Importing RSS Content

– Copyright: You must ensure that you have the proper permission from the website source before importing their content. Just because it’s available, does not make it ok to use. You can find yourself in a copyright lawsuit very quickly if you do not have proper permissions in place.

– Image Copyright: Just because you have permission to import a website’s written content, that permission may not cover images. You must ensure that the website you are getting information from has the proper copyrights to syndicate the images they use. They may have a license that only covers their domain, but not every domain that imports their feed.

The corporate law firm of Womble Bond Dickinson posted a great article on this back in 2017 that covers every little thing you should consider with regards to staying safe with third-party content: https://www.womblebonddickinson.com/us/insights/articles-and-briefings/best-practices-using-third-party-content-your-companys-website.

– Google/SEO Hit: Google hates websites that display content that can be found on multiple other websites. If you plan to use Adsense banner ads on your site, do not display RSS feeds of any kind. Your Adsense account will eventually be deactivated because your site will violate its terms of service. They will also move your site lower in search results, so even though your site may have more content than your competitor, they will display higher if they have content that can’t be found elsewhere.

– Not local content: The best content is relevant content. Music news might be interesting, but the most relevant content will likely impact what your listener does today or this weekend.  Local news and local events will have a bigger impact on your visitors because it’s more relevant.

The best way to implement imported RSS content is to use it sparingly to increase the value of the local content you are already creating. RSS content should not be the only content you have on your radio station website.

Safe Third-Party Content Providers

Pulse Web Content (United Stations): https://www.pulsewebcontent.com. They also provide the feed in RSS for that includes copyright information, etc.

ABC News: Offers importable web content for most music formats as well as national news, entertainment, health, sports and world news. Contact Mary McCarthy at 201-214-4190 for details.

Conclusion

RSS feeds can be a valuable tool to bring visitors to your website but use them correctly and responsibly. Do your homework before implementing any strategy that puts a third-party feed on your site and weigh if it adds value to your website.

Need help with your radio station website, reach out to us.

Jim Sherwood serves as the chief creative, brand strategist, lead developer, meticulous project manager, and station collaborator for all Skyrocket Radio sites and projects. Jim is a 30+ year radio veteran with a resume spanning several small, medium, and large markets including roles as Digital Content Manager, Program Director, Production Manager, and Morning Show Host.