Telegraph.co.uk is allowing its readers to read material from rival publishers on its own website, after launching a web-based RSS aggregation tool.
The aggregator, dubbed “My News”, is the second plank of the paper’s ongoing My Telegraph development, which has so far given readers the ability to create their own weblog.
Despite being a powerful way to customise reading habits to create a “Daily Me“, RSS (really simple syndication), commonly identified by the familiar orange feed icon, has not caught on with media users to the same extent as static websites, social networking sites or even personalised news facilities like My Yahoo!.
Telegraph.co.uk communities editor Shane Richmond said My News, developed with The Telegraph’s independent web production agency Interesource, was “about bringing news feeds to novices”, but the new tool will initially allow readers to select only from a pre-defined range of feeds.
“Purists will argue that this goes against the spirit of RSS, which is about choosing whatever you want,” Mr Richmond conceded. “By limiting choice, we’ve taken most of the hard work out of setting up an RSS reader.
“The next release of the site will add a customisable category, with 15 empty slots for any feed you like. We’re holding it back to let people get used to the feed-reading concept first.”
While the newspaper industry is traditionally fearful of losing readers to rival titles, in the web world publications are increasingly realising there may be more worth in providing the platform on which readers consume other content – as long as they can keep them on-site.
USA Today last year launched My USA Today, and LA Times opened My LA Times, while an earlier software-based, Guardian-branded RSS reader allowed consumers to add in a mix of feeds from an array of publishers.
“I’m astonished at how many websites don’t provide feeds at all,” Mr Richmond added. “Many of the sites we wanted to include on My News were unavailable because of this. Presumably, these sites either assume that RSS feeds will stop people visiting their site or they just don’t know about feeds.
“Worse, a lot of people offer broken feeds, including a couple of our British competitors who, originally, we wanted to include.”