Newspapers 2.0: Homepage RSS information locations

Martin Belam  by Martin Belam, 17 May 2007

As part of my study of how well British newspaper websites are adopting the technologies fuelling the so-called "Web 2.0" boom, I looked at whereabouts on their homepages they provided information about their RSS feeds.

As we have seen, all of the eight newspapers that I surveyed offered content in the RSS format. Seven of them indicated this in some way on the homepage - only The Mirror's site made no reference to the service on their online front page.

The location of these homepage indications can be broadly clumped into three groups - the information is provided in the masthead, in the left-hand navigation, or in the footer of the page.

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Masthead

The Sun and The Daily Express both opt to include RSS information using an RSS logo in their masthead.

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One advantage of this approach is that it ensures that the RSS service is promoted above the fold on every page of the site.

Countering this though is the fact that it means, as part of global navigation, the RSS icons are not context sensitive, and so do not lead to a feed directly relevant for that page.

In both cases the logos go through to a 'help with RSS' page. It is more standard for orange RSS, XML or feed logos to link directly through to the feed itself

Left-hand Navigation

The Daily Mail, The Telegraph and The Guardian opt to provide links to their RSS services as part of the left-hand navigation of their homepages

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Of the three, only The Telegraph places the RSS feeds amongst a group of links without further explanation. Both the Daily Mail and The Guardian add a link through to a page explaining about RSS.

The Guardian is the only paper to additionally include links to their RSS services on the right-hand side of their homepage, in a section marked "News Direct" which also promotes their PDF, desktop alert and branded RSS newsreader services.

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Footer

The Independent and The Times place their RSS or 'Newsfeeds' links at the bottom of their homepages. The Times has a blue logo and 'Newsfeeds' brand, whilst The Independent has two links - one with a graphical RSS logo, and one a text link amongst the copyright and legal notices.

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The Independent repeats this footer placement throughout their site. Rather like the masthead placements of The Sun and The Mirror, it keeps a link on every page, but does mean that the links are not context sensitive.

RSS link placement on story pages

At a story level, The Telegraph continues to list RSS feeds in the left-hand navigation, as does the Daily Mail and The Guardian.

The Sun and the Daily Express do not need to promote their RSS feeds anywhere special on their story pages, since they have the logo embedded in their mastheads. Likewise with The Independent's consistent placement of RSS links in the footer.

The Daily Mirror doesn't have any RSS links on their homepage, so on story pages they are included in the right-hand navigation of the page.

Mirror RSS feeds promo

Since the 'Newsfeeds' link on their homepage is in a specific service promotion area, The Times is another newspaper that also needs to find a new place on a story page to link to their RSS offering. Having clicked around the site a lot, I've not been able to find it, and they seem to be the only newspaper that does not provide any link to their RSS service at an individual story level.

3 Comments

Hmm. The way I know that this page has an RSS feed on it is to look in my browser location bar, where I can see an RSS logo, after all. That's in the same location whatever website I look at, and it's the same icon - no differing graphics, locations, or names.

By all means, have a link to find out more RSS feeds; but machine-readable files like RSS files shouldn't need pointing out to the public - just to the browsers that can make use of them.

(As an aside: Virgin Radio's are in the same area of the page every single time; and auto-discoverable by the browser too. Clearly, I don't practice quite what I preach!)

Yes, I tend to agree with you in some ways - it isn't a service that needs a big badge to be used.

Personally, I tend to just hit my Bloglines bookmarklet on any site I find interesting, and stick it in my "auditions" folder if a feed exists.

I'm not that keen on chicklets, buttons and RSS widgets. That is why for a long time I didn't have any on here - but I've noticed now from the stats that people do use the feed subscription buttons on here.

I'd liken sites advertising their RSS feeds to the red button on interactive TV. People know there are services there, but need prompting to use them. With RSS I think even more that people *don't* know what RSS is or for, and that is why it makes sense for mainstream media sites to shout out "Hello! Look at this thing that we do" with some help and FAQ info around it.

So I reckon Virgin are probably doing it right by having it visible and auto-discoverable.

As for newspaper homepages that don't have an auto-discoverable feed yet offer RSS, well, words just fail me...

There is a good web site that covers all EU country by newspapers feeds. It is www.eufeeds.eu

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