I shared on Twitter last month that six of the top ten largest bar associations lack RSS feeds on their publications.

I get it. These bar associations may not care, or for that matter know what a RSS feed is. Or maybe the folks who built their websites or blogs didn’t know or care.

RSS (or Really Simple Syndication) is a web feed which allows users to access updates to online content in a standardized, computer-readable format. Rather than returning to a website, blog or news site to see if their have been updates, RSS feeds deliver constant updates to a recipient’s news aggregator.

Users subscribe by clicking on the universal RSS icon, the orange which appears to be spending out a radio signal and copying that url into their news aggregator. Many news aggregators will have a search that enables users to search for titles of publications.

Who gets their updates in a news aggregator via RSS? Some of the busiest people in the country. The people who don’t have the time, or even the memory, to return to news sites or blogs for news and information.

As one senior lawyer and blogger at Bryan Cave screamed out to a conference room full of the firm’s lawyers and marketing professionals, “The money people use RSS — people like the general counsel I work with.”

One news aggregator alone, perhaps the most popular, Feedly, has 14 million users getting daily feeds of news and information via RSS.

Newspapers, as news sites all have RSS feeds. Look at the list of individual RSS feeds at The New York Times and Washington Post for sections of their papers.

Law firm blogs all have RSS feeds – or at least they should.

RSS is included by default in the largest website content management system (CMS) in the world, that being WordPress. WordPress is running 70% of the websites using a CMS in the world. RSS is not expensive to have on your website, it’s possible that a site owner would even be charged for work to deactivate RSS feeds.

You have to almost have to go out of your way not be kicking out an RSS feed from your publication.

Why should a bar association care?

  •  Ease of use for readers. Yes, they may subscribe by email, but millions of people prefer the use of a news aggregator on their desktop, tablet or smartphone. You go where your audience is, even if that’s more than one place.
  • Influencers. Those regularly blogging, reporting and using social media are likely to be using news aggregators. They share news and information, with commentary, onto Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn directly from their news aggregator. Bloggers and reporters reference and cite stories they picked up in their news aggregator. Lack RSS and these influencers don’t deliver your news and information.
  • Look behind the curve from a technology and innovation standpoint. Bar associations are under plenty of pressure to be relevant to their members. Bar associations are preaching technology and innovation as a means of arguing their relevance. Having your employees spend time publishing stories or your pr professionals sending out news releases when some of your members and your influencers cannot see them, because you are not using something as simple as RSS, can scream luddite to some folks.
  • Build relationships with influencers. Bar associations need all the love and support they can get. Getting this love from people with strong online presences is good stuff. Your bar association team will meet, online, and later face to face, the people using news aggregators to share your news and information on social media.

I have a folder in my news aggregator, Feedly, for news feeds from bar associations. When I am not traveling I see my feeds a couple times a day. This afternoon I tweeted a couple bar association news items in my RSS feeds. One, a CLE program and another regarding a legal services program in their state. I’d have seen neither without an RSS feed on the bar sites.

I did this, one, as a courtesy to the bar associations as I have a fair amount of Twitter followers and two, I want to strengthen the relationship I have with those bars.

RSS, as its middle initial reads, is simple. It’s not expensive. And it’s common sense for publishers like bar associations.