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Editor's Note: This article was originally published in the CONTENTIOUS blog. It is republished with permission.

Several readers have asked me by email and via blog comments, "Amy, what is this RSS stuff you keep talking about? What's so cool or important about it"

Here are the basics.

RSS stands for Rich Site Summary (or Really Simple Syndication, take your pick). In a nutshell, RSS is a new way for people who publish content online to notify people interested in that content whenever fresh content is made available online.

By notifying people interested in your content, as well as Web sites that collect and package content announcements (called aggregators), you are "feeding" them your content—hence the term "RSS feed."

Why RSS Is Better Than Email Announcements

Just about everyone who publishes content online has some sort of email announcement list. I do, too. Still, RSS is a great complement to email announcements because it doesn't clutter people's inboxes, it's easier to manage for recipients who get a lot of news online, it's spam-proof and it's easier to manage than an email list.

While not a lot of people know about RSS right now, it's getting popular quickly. I wouldn't be surprised if in the next couple of years RSS becomes as widely known and used as the Web and email.

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Amy Gahran is an editorial consultant, journalist and writing trainer/coach based in Boulder, Colorado. She helps people and organizations communicate effectively online and in print. For more info, see gahran.com. She also publishes the CONTENTIOUS blog, which offers news and musings on how we communicate in the online age.