Thursday, November 11, 2004

Syndicating Marketing Bites

"The deeper I get into this blog thing, the more I realize how much I don't know." I think Socrates said that, or perhaps it was the oracle at Delphi.

Yesterday I decided to try to get my blog "feed" to show up on a couple of other websites. You can see the result at Like most web programming chores, getting this to work was not as straightforward as I think it should be.

Step One. Figuring out what a "feed" is

First, it requires understanding what a blog "feed" is. It turns out that your serious blogging software -- like which I use for "Marketing Bites", and also b2evolution which I use for -- these automatically create a "feed" that other people can tap into and access.

Step 2. How do people access your feed?

If your blog has been automatically "syndicated" (i.e., turned into an xml file) by your blogging software -- as, I discovered, is the case with mine -- that feed will have a special address. For instance, the address for the RSS feed for my blog called "Trade Show Buzz" is "". Enter this address into your browser and you will see the xml version of the blog, as interpreted by the browser.

Of course these feeds are not really meant to be viewed in browsers -- you can just go look at the blog itself if you want to use your browser. Rather, they are meant to be viewed in a special "feed reader" like FeedDemon. A feed reader lets you create "Channels" for each of your favourite blog feeds, and lets you easily view the current contents of those blog feeds. This is much quicker and more efficient than using a browser. There are also versions of feed readers that will run on portable devices such as pdas and connected cell phones.

Step 3. Making Your Feed Easy to Find

OK. You've got a feed. And you know how to access it with a browser and with a "feed reader". The next step -- possibly optional, but I am not yet sure -- is to fine tune your feed so a) it is universally accessible, and b) looks the way you want it to look. One way to accomplish both these objectives -- and many more I am told -- is to route your feed through an "aggregator" or feed publisher.

After an extensive 5 minute search I decided to use You punch your feed address into their system, and it routes it through their own server, formatting it according to various parameters you enter. It also "universalizes" the feed making it compatible with the maximum number of browsers and feed readers out there.

This was important in my case, because blogspot (Marketing Bites) creates an "Atom" formatted feed, but the software I decided to use to post my feed on my websites (see Step 4, following) can only accept RSS format. Feedburner turns the Atom feed into a RSS feed. And then it gives me a new feed address: This is a bit easier to remember, and therefore also a bit easier to promote.

This also lets me "aggregate" my feeds all in one place, even if they are located at different addresses. So in other words, if you have five different blog feeds they could be:

...rather than a variety of different addresses. also monitors the traffic to your feed. So you can see how many people are actually viewing it. It also creates cool promotional buttons like this:

which you can stick on websites and in email signatures.

Step 4. Putting your feed on your static website(s)

Now that you have a feed with an easily remembered address, a universal format, and some formatting control, you can "feed" it to your own website(s). My preliminary research led me to CARP, an inexpensive script for integrating feeds with websites. I downloaded and installed Carp in about 5 minutes. Configuring it took a bit longer -- possibly an hour or two before I figured out how to control the way the feed looks on your page.

In order to get this to work I created a .php page with the feed instructions and configuration details, and then added it to my home page as an "include" file. That way it is not part of the actual code of my web page. That allows me to add the same .php file to any other pages (within the same site) using the same techniqe. No need to create a new feed file every time I want to use it.

I will report on this further as time goes by.

-- Rick