Sunday, December 18, 2005

Putting The Orange Button To Work For You

In a previous post, I discussed how RSS feeds are good for aggregating information from your favorite websites. I've decided to follow that with what RSS can do for your band, and why setting one up is a pretty good idea. I'll go through several options of how to set up syndication, and some of the cooler tools that can help a band maximize what the feeds do.

Who Subscribes To Feeds?
Significant numbers of users already utilize feeds, but the technology is so transparent, all but the few, the proud, and the nerdy don't even know / care that they are. However, A punk/ metal/ indie rock band (or label person) absolutely needs to be concerned with the bulk of the active, aware RSS users, as they are also the same people who probably are willing to listen to your music.

According to a November 2005 interview with John Manoogian posted on
"... as many as 27 percent [of U.S. internet users] consume RSS content through My Yahoo! and My MSN. If you extrapolate the number out, 27 percent of the U.S. Internet population is roughly 50 million people ... In the same study, only 4 percent of the Internet population actually knew what RSS was and consciously used it. That's the brilliant part. One of the promises about the Internet is that people can receive the content that they want, when they want it, in a user-friendly framework. RSS fits the bill"
If you're interested in more in-depth analysis, Yahoo! recently published a .pdf white paper on RSS. Some additional commentary can be found here.

Easy Blog It!
Most blog sites and programs provide the easiest and fastest way to set up a feed. Blogger, Typepad, LiveJournal all provide feeds for the user. Even Myspace allows the user to set up a blog with an RSS feed.

If you're interested in setting up a quickie podcast or video podcast, you'll need a place to store and host the media files as the freebie blog sites don't provide any bandwith. Among others, Liberated Syndication and others offer full service blog/podcasting hosting/ RSS solutions, services. A detailed comparison of podcasting services can be found at the Mitchelaneous blog.

If you have your own site, you can download server-based blog software for yourself and customize it to your liking. Six Apart, owners of Typepad and LiveJournal also have the Movabletype program. There's a free version available on their site to try, and then several various other paid individual and commercial license levels.

The highest end way to start a feed is to actually program your website to generate them from within your site. To do so, you'll need to know some advanced html, scripting, and your way around a SQL database. Some of the specs for the most recent RSS format (2.0) can be found at the Harvard Law website.

Burn it!
Switching an email or phone number always represents some problems with disconnects and lost contacts. This is also the case with feeds. So if you're looking at a Blogger page as a temporary solution to your online publishing needs, and think that at some point you may upgrade to another level, you may want to use the Feedburner service.

Why bother re-burning your feed? Think of it as the "permanent" address for your feed. If you move from host to host, your feedburner host will remain constant, enabling an uninterrupted flow of information. In addition, Feedburner offers some amazing tools that (in their words) allow the user to publicize, optimize, analyze, & monetize their feeds.

One of the most important ways that Feedburner helps podcasters is that it properly formats feeds to be compatible with the iTunes music store, by placing graphics and other items a standard feed won't do.

The Bummer Of Redundancy
Even If you set up your feed using a custom Movabletype solution or from your own database-driven site, almost all bands or labels have mulitple pages on multiple sites that perpetually need updating. An easy way to handle the seemingly endless schedule of updating is by using RSS to it's ultimate advantage, to "push" your content where you want it to go. Think of it along the same lines as the video codes that some people use to post videos onto their Myspace pages.

Feedburner offers a quick way to announce your blog headlines through the Feedburner Buzzboost program. It allows the user to drop in a little html/ javascript and have your headlines appear wherever you wish, as long as the site you're working on allows Javascript. (which Myspace doesn't.) The FB folks also offer a non-Java tool called Headline Animator that actually burns an on-the-fly .gif image that you can post virtuallly anywhere.

Not custom or seamless enough for you? I feel your pain. There are some other solutions to display your feeds.

Feedroll and Jawfish are similar to Buzzboost, in that they offers a headline publisher but with customizable look and feel. You just run the page and then just cut n' paste the code! The downside is to get your feed its own page, you'll need to pay for the service and of course the site you want to post the info on will have to be capable for running either java or .php. Those with programming experience can also use the guts of Jawfish, called CaRP.

At the moment, these appear to be the best in user-level RSS display tools, but none of the above solutions really fulfill the needs of the artist/label user. Especially those who are unwilling to deal with the barriers that iframes, java, or dynamic page rendering methods provide. I'll keep diggin' and keep you posted as to developments or simple workarounds that I can find.

1 comment:

Seth Werkheiser said...

Man, I've been trying to talk to bands about doing RSS stuff but most just don't get it. Besides, if more bands (and labels) used RSS, it'd make news gathering (on my part) so much easier.