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Whether you’ve heard of RSS (Really Simple Syndication) or not, it’s quickly becoming one of the most useful Internet tools available. In fact, industry analysts predict that RSS will soon rival email's popularity as a content delivery method. With such high expectations for this nascent technology, we thought it would be useful to find out more.

What can RSS do for you?
For busy operators who use the Internet to track down contract opportunities, keep up with industry information or changes to rules and regulations, RSS can be a big help. RSS feeds automatically send out news releases, blog posts and other information from specific websites to subscribers. These feeds can be viewed in a "reader" (a.k.a. "aggregator"), which constantly updates as new information is posted at targeted websites. So now instead of having to surf out to multiple websites just to check if new information has been posted, RSS feeds can do that work for you by building a tailored list of headlines and summaries directly in your RSS reader. RSS will allow you to:

  • Easily locate information
  • Read condensed information (or "sound bytes" ) with clearly marked and dated topic material
  • Classify and categorize information for a quick and easy overview
  • Maximize your time without having to deal with spam

Benefits of RSS
RSS provides a host of benefits to users — at no charge. You choose the feeds you wish to see, and if you aren't completely thrilled with the content appearing in a feed, you simply remove it from the RSS reader. But the real beauty of RSS is that you can quickly scan headlines and read articles of interest. Because the information is condensed and consolidated in a single location, you can generally review more information in a shorter time frame, and additional information is only a click away.

Best of all, when you subscribe to a feed you don't disclose your email address, so you can get the news and information you want without increasing your exposure to threats associated with email: spam, viruses, phishing, and identity theft. And if you want to stop receiving news from a particular website, you don't have to send an "unsubscribe" request and hope that the emails will stop eventually. You simply remove the feed from your RSS reader, and it stops instantly.

Getting Started
You'll need two things to start receiving RSS feeds: an RSS feed reader, and a keen interest in one or more topics. Most RSS readers are free and easy to find, and we’ve put together a short list of some of the more popular feed readers in our sidebar. Just click on the images to find out more about each reader, and sign up for the one with the features that you like best.

Once you have a feed reader set up, it's time to start cruising the web to sign up for some feeds you'd like to follow. The best place to start is with your favorite information websites, which could include:

  • Local and regional newspapers
  • Government weather and forestry websites
  • Helicopter associations and organizations
  • Agency bid notification websites
  • Aviation blogs

Just look for the orange RSS feed icon (it's the picture at the top of this story) and click on it—it will automatically add the feed to your reader. It's that easy. If you're looking for some sites to try out, we've included a short list in the sidebar. Most websites will display the link on their "news" pages, so you may want to start with that area first, if you don't see the RSS symbol on the front page of the website.

What if a website doesn't offer an RSS feed?
RSS is a fairly new technology, so don't be surprised if some of your favorite information websites don't have one... yet. But odds are high that sooner or later, most sites that publish news and information on a regular basis will offer RSS feeds at some point, so don't let it end there!

RSS feeds are an easy and inexpensive feature for webmasters to add to their websites, so if you don't see the RSS feed symbol on a website, be sure to click the "Contact Us" link and send a note to the website owners suggesting that they add an RSS feed. Many organizations aren't aware of the technology yet, but if they get a few requests for RSS feeds they just might add it sooner rather than later.

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