Wake up law firms, RSS is important for publishing

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RSS is the standard for the syndication of published content across the open web. For law firms, RSS is how their content reaches many readers, especially their blog content.

But of late, I am finding many law firms not using RSS in publishing, even in their blogs.

Other firms have their RSS feeds set up incorrectly. All of their blogs in one RSS feed so users receive content they don’t want. RSS feeds kicking out some content, but missing other content – almost like a magazine with blank packages here and there. RSS feeds that don’t work at all so nothing shows in a news aggregator or on publications based on RSS such as LexBlog.

The sad thing is that RSS is simple. Its non-abbreviated name says as much – Real Simple Syndication.

RSS is not something that needs to be set up. RSS comes included in all blog publishing software. RSS is included in the largest content management solution (CMS), WordPress, which is used on 70% of all websites running a CMS, whether it be a blog or other content site.

Even though RSS is a standard include, I had one large firm tell me recently that they needed to pay their website development company to go back and turn on RSS. Another large firm said they needed to pay to get their RSS fixed on their just launched website. It’s sad, sounded like they were saying they bought a car without a standard include – like a functioning steering wheel.

Hey, I’ll confess when I started this blog in 2003, I had no idea what RSS was. In fact, when I hit the RSS button on my site, a page of what seemed like gibberish showed up. Turned out this was the “raw RSS code,” displaying as it should.

I soon found out that what one of things that made blogs special – and in factor superior to static content on websites, was RSS. RSS was  akin to a radio single sending out content from your blog to an audience who wanted to hear from you.

The standard symbol and website button for RSS is, in fact, a radio signal.

Without RSS, your website was like broadcasting from a radio station without an antenna. Everyone in the radio studio could hear you, but beyond that, forget it. Especially those folks with radios who turned into to your station wanting to hear what you had to say, they got nothing.

Imagine a lawyer unknowingly publishing blog posts on a law firm platform that did not have RSS working. Imagine telling the lawyer later that we were making it impossible for many users to read the lawyer’s posts – or that we were letting the world know that we, as a law firm, didn’t know what we’re doing when it came to a widely used and a simply deployed technology.

When I went out and met with law firms about blogs almost fifteen years ago, I explained that one of the great advantages was the RSS feed. I used RSS, one of the key elements of a standard blog, to sell blogs.

I explained that RSS created a web feed (RSS feed) which allowed users (clients, media, prospective clients, other bloggers etc) to access updates to the law firm’s blog at other than the blog itself. Pretty powerful compared to expecting users to come to a law firm’s website or blog to read updates.

Powerful also for automatically displaying blog posts in entirety or by excerpt back at the law firm’s website.

RSS feeds allowed a user to keep track of updates from many different publications or blogs in a user’s single news aggrator, the most popular of which was Google Reader, until Google shut it dowm. Today the most popular is Feedly.

The news aggregator automatically checks the RSS feed for new content, allowing the content to be automatically passed from website to website or from website to user. This passing of content is called web syndication.

Beyond news aggregators, RSS is how many large news service aggregators and syndication sources gets feeds. LexisNexis, is just one of many that has  syndicated blog posts that LexisNexis received by RSS. Other aggregators and syndicators deliver news and commentary to corporations, worldwide.

LexBlog receives all the blogs not published on our platform via RSS. Via that RSS, LexBlog displays and categorizes posts, creates an author/contributor page and a law firm page displaying posts and contributors. We syndicate those posts to third parties such as Fastcase and bar associations.

RSS is the syndication tool of record across the open web. Beyond blogs, publishers and media producers usually use RSS to publish frequently updated information, such news headlines, audio and video.

Don’t get geeked out by RSS, it’ doesn’t have to be any more complicated than email, another content delivery tool. We look at email as pretty simple and don’t get wigged out about the software and web architecture that enables it to work.

Look at RSS just the same as email. You need it. You don’t need to know what it’s all about and how it works.

And don’t let anyone sell you RSS, anymore than you’d let someone sell you a steering wheel as an extra for your car. Or charge to fix your steering wheel that never worked and made it tough to drive.

Kevin O'Keefe
About the Author

Trial lawyer turned legal tech entrepreneur, I am the founder and CEO of LexBlog, a legal blog community of over 30,000 blog publishers, worldwide. LexBlog’s publishing platform is used on a subscription basis by over 18,000 legal professionals, including the largest law firm in each India, China and the United States.

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