A few weeks ago, I was speaking to a group about pharmaceutical companies and new media. I have written posts on this blog about the slowness with which the industry has embraced new media – with some putting their news releases out on RSS feeds and others not. I was mentioning this fact in my talk when a very senior communications person from a large pharmaceutical company tapped me on the shoulder and asked "What’s a feed?"
So here is the quick down and dirty tutorial on RSS feeds. RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. If a news source is releasing its news via a feed, you will see a feed icon. When you click on it, you will see a lot of code. When you put that code into an aggregator, then every time the news sources issues a release, it gets picked up by the aggregator.
What’s an aggregator you ask? An aggregator is a resource you can set up to collect all the important news you want to read. In fact, you are in essence, making your own electronic newspaper. So if you are a bio-health investor, and you have twenty or so different pharma stocks, you would probably want to set up an aggregator that would collect their news as it happens and put it in one spot for you (of course the problem there is that most pharmas still aren’t supplying feeds – though the FDA is).
How do you get an aggregator? There are a bunch out there. One very nice example is called Pageflakes. With Pageflakes, you can set up a very nice page for yourself that aggregates all the news you want in a very user-friendly format. There is also Google Reader, which is handy, but the layout is different from Pageflakes. Another service is called Bloglines. You make the aggregator, give it the codes from the feeds and sit back and let your news flow in.
A growing number of people are using feeds. A year ago when I set up the subscription service for Eye on FDA, less than 1/4 of subscribers were using feeds, with the balance subscribing by email. Email is fine, except it stacks up and if you follow two or three blogs, you are getting that many emails. If you set up an aggregator, the news comes to you in one format. Today, the breakdown between email subscribers and feed subscribers is 1/2 to 1/2. I think by next year, it will favor feeds by a large margin.
So go out there and get fed!