Keeping it simple: RSS technology consolidates the Web for users

NewsGator is an RSS (Real Simple Syndication) news reader software that installs into the Microsoft Outlook email program and enables users to receive and read RSS news feeds from web logs and many online content sites all over the Internet. NewsGator is also one of the most popular news reader online.

While software such as NewsGator has been known for providing access to Web site text, its most exciting aspect is the ability to support audio-video distribution and greater graphic and commercial presentations. Indeed, we may be seeing the dawn of a new form of Internet content syndication and distribution.

Greg Reinacker, founder and chief technology officer for spent a few minutes talking about his NewsGator baby.

Q: Please explain what NewsGator does and how it all works.

Reinacker: It all comes back to our RSS feeds. The whole idea of an RSS is it’s another way to publish your content on your Web site. Most Web sites publish in HTML. That’s where you have to go to your Web browser and read the content there.

A lot of sites are now publishing in parallel in the format called RSS. It’s an XML data format that essentially syndicates that content to another tool or Web site that can pick up that content. NewsGator is actually one of those tools that can pick up the syndicated news feeds and do interesting things with it.

For example, we can load its contents into your Outlook, we can send it to your mobile device or even send it to your TV if you’re running the Windows Media Center edition.

Q: Why is RSS so popular now? Is it because people don’t want to go to Web sites anymore and prefer to have information delivered to them?

Reinacker: You know, I think it’s a really big trend. Imagine for a second — suppose you have 100 different Web sites that you’re interested in. You could go visit those every day just to see if things changed, but I don’t have time to do that. What RSS feeds can do for you is they can actually notify you when things have been changed and you can just look at those.
Imagine even further if, instead of those notifying you when something changed, imagine if they sent you the content that’s new on the Web site so you didn’t actually have to go back and look through the Web site. Very handy — it lets you keep up with hundreds of Web sites very, very quickly because you’re only looking at the content that’s changed since you last saw it and it’s all coming to you in one place, such as Outlook, for example, where you can sort and group for content in the same way you are used to doing it for e-mail.

Q: Where does NewsGator fit in with the development of RSS?

Reinacker: RSS has really been around for several years. It was co-developed by UserLand and Netscape. NewsGator just came out the beginning of last year and that was just after the time where Web logs were really starting to get popular. Web logs were slowly starting to break out of the tech world into mainstream. RSS was really starting to come into its own at that time. Since then it’s seen a dramatic growth. Not a week goes by when some major publisher isn’t announcing that they’re supporting RSS in some form. For example, some recent ones are Time magazine and Reuters. It’s so popular that mainstream publishers are starting to support it right now.

Q: Are you seeing any stats about how many users are using RSS?

Reinacker: I think there are 6-7 million Web logs, growing by somewhere around 10,000 per day.

Q: But what percentage of those are teenage girls blogging about high school?

Reinacker: You have to wonder, but there are also executives of companies and the break out of the political bloggers

Q: Is NewsGator seeing their software being used for specific needs?

Reinacker: You know what we’re seeing a lot of which is actually little bit surprising because it took us off guard is the amazing enterprise demand for this stuff. Companies are using RSS and feeds like NewsGator for Outlook for internal uses: internal Web logs, generating RSS feeds directly out of their businesses systems, replacing internal mailing lists. With RSS working in Outlook, it’s an application that is already on everybody’s desk and everyone already knows how to use it. They’re seeing this huge productivity gain.

Q: What’s your vision of what NewsGator can become in the next few years?
Reinacker: One area we’re moving into that I personally find very, very interesting is the whole idea of audio and video inside of the feeds. We’ve gotten great feedback from users. The whole Windows Media Center edition for our RSS make so much sense. We love it. We just need more content. That’s the thing. There isn’t a ton of video content published in RSS today. It’s interesting – we had a customer who had a video camera and was putting video stuff in his feeds and he posted on his blog saying, “I kind of feel like this is my own personal TV channel.” We had never thought about it that way but from that perspective, it’s really true.

For more conversation with Greg Reinacker, his full interview is online Saturday at or can be heard on KLAY Radio 1180 AM Saturday at 11 a.m.

Dana Greenlee is co-host/producer of the WebTalkGuys Radio Show, a Tacoma-based nationally syndicated radio and Webcast show featuring technology news and interviews.