RSS and Newsreaders

Technology Description

Web feeds include a suite of XML standards that allow content providers to push their content out to their users as syndicated feeds. Web feeds can be coded by hand, but tools have also been integrated into many Web publishing platforms to generate Web feeds automatically. Common publishing platforms that include RSS generators include:

Users can then subscribe to these feeds using newsreaders or aggregators, which gather these newly published items for users to review. Web feed newsreaders can take a variety of forms, including:

Web feeds may be used in various ways. Many sites, such as weather and news media outlets, are using Web feeds to push their new content out to their subscribers. Other services, such as photo sharing sites, generate feeds for user-generated content, allowing users to syndicate and distribute information. Many sites also include feed aggregators in their sites, displaying feeds from websites with related content in their own interface.

Archival Applications

Web feeds have been used by archivists as an outreach tool for distributing new Web content to their patrons. Possible uses include:

  • Publicizing events
  • Distributing archives-related news
  • Updating policies or hours
  • Highlighting new or existing collections
  • Publishing date-based content (diaries, calendars)
  • Displaying related news from other archives repositories

Web feeds provide an easy way to keep archives users informed about archives events and should be considered in any Web 2.0 implementation.

Case Studies in Archival Applications

Cory L. Nimer, “RSS at Brigham Young University”


Many individuals and institutions are working with systems that provide Web feeds. Below is a sampling of some of these projects. For an extended list, check our implementation listing at

If you are developing a project with an RSS component and would like to appear in the list, send a bookmark in using the tag for:interactivearchivist.


LeFever, Lee. “RSS in Plain English.” Common Craft. (accessed Feb. 20, 2009).

Wikipedia. “Web feed.” Wikimedia Foundation. (accessed Feb. 20, 2009).