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What is RSS?

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What is RSS?

  • RSS stands for "Really Simple Syndication" and is a technology for sharing and distributing web content that can help you to keep up-to-date in a given subject area. Rather than manually checking a website for new content or having alerts clutter your email inbox, RSS feeds offer an alternative way for you to receive and manage information from a variety of sources. RSS is essentially a subscription service where you subscribe to automatic updates (aka feeds) which are read using a news reader.

    Although not every site offers RSS data feeds, they are now available from a variety of sites, including databases (PubMed), news services (CNN, BBC), journals (Nature, NEJM), websites (CDC, WHO), and blogs. Sites that offer feeds typically promote them using one of the following icons:

How do I subscribe to a RSS feed?

  • Get a RSS reader - RSS feeds are read through RSS reader software. Bloglines ( is a freely available online RSS reader. The advantage of an online reader is that it can be accessed from any computer with an Internet connection. There are many other RSS readers and a comprehensive list is available at the RSS Compendium - RSS Readers web site.
  • Grab the URL - Once you have the reader, you are ready to subscribe to a feed. The key to subscribing is grabbing the url under the feed icon you wish to subscribe to and pasting it into your reader. To copy the feed url, click on the feed icon. This will take you to another page that may look like a web page or may just be code - disregard this page. Simply copy the url that you are taken to (or right click on the RSS icon and click Copy or Copy Link Location) and paste it into your reader.

    The Resource Guide RSS feed url is

  • Step-by-step instructions for adding a feed to Bloglines:
    • Go to Bloglines and set up an account.
    • Login to Bloglines with the user id and password you created.
    • Click on the "My Feeds" tab. Located on the upper left-hand side of Bloglines.
    • Click on "Add" under "My Feeds."
    • On the right-hand side of Bloglines is the word "Subscribe." Type or paste a RSS feed URL into the "Blog or Feed URL" box, and click "Subscribe."
    • To read your feed just click on the name of the feed.

This page was adapted from The University of Manitoba Health Science Libraries' What is RSS? page.

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Copyright by New York Academy of Medicine, 2003
Updated October 13, 2008