Well, you’re here to answer the question, what is RSS? so let’s get to it.

What is RSS?

RSS stands for really simple syndication, and it’s a type of web feed that allows both people and applications to detect updates (like when new blog posts or podcast episodes are published to a site) in a standardized format that computers can make quick sense of.

An RSS feed therefore, is a syndication feed that blog followers can subscribe to—and get immediate updates delivered via email—when a new piece of content is published to the feed.

RSS is written in the Internet coding language known as XML (Extensible Markup Language). While some web browsers like the current versions of Firefox and Safari still have built-in RSS readers, if you use Chrome or another browser—you’ll only be able to view RSS feeds by using a dedicated (free) RSS reader/aggregator like Feedly.

These RSS readers can allow you to keep track of many different websites in a single news aggregator like Feedly. The aggregator will automatically check the RSS feeds you’re subscribed to for new content, allowing the content to automatically pass from that site into your feed. This process is known as web syndication.

Blogs usually use RSS feeds to publish frequently updated information—like new blog posts, news headlines, or episodes of an audio or video series after they go live.

Let’s talk aggregators. RSS aggregators like Feedly allow you to subscribe to as many RSS feeds from around the web as you’d like, and view them in one organized application like this:

Feedly RSS Reader Application Screenshot

Despite how visually appealing RSS readers like Feedly can be though, more and more RSS-related companies have been going out of business in recent years. Google even shut down its own RSS reader back in 2013.

Why? Because not many people use RSS feeds to get blog updates anymore.

In fact, the popularity of using RSS feeds actually peaked well over a decade ago (around 2005) when blogging was still relatively new, and has since gone way down, nearing obscurity.

What is an RSS Feed? Google Trends Analysis Screenshot

Back in the early 2000s though, these types of feeds were truly the best way to stay up-to-date with new articles that your favorites bloggers were publishing.

That being said, RSS feeds have largely been replaced by simply joining the email list of the bloggers, brands or publications you want to hear from.

And the email service providers that cater specifically to bloggers (like ConvertKit, AWeber and Mailchimp), have done an incredible job of creating tight integrations between their services and WordPress, which the vast majority of bloggers use to power their websites—including me. This makes it super easy to embed sign up forms anywhere you want on your blog.

Here’s an example of an email sign up widget I can create in less than 2 minutes and embed directly into any page or blog post:

Want My Best Content Delivered Straight to Your Inbox?

Sign up today and you’ll join 122,843 other smart bloggers getting my best blogging advice.


After someone joins my email list, I can then send them regular updates about more than just new blog posts that get automatically delivered to subscribers. I get to control what I send my subscribers, when I deliver those emails and how I want to message that content.

This is the real reason why RSS feeds have lost popularity in the past decade as blogging has matured.

Having an email list that I personally own and manage, creates nearly unlimited opportunities to make money from my blog—through sponsored content, advertisements, affiliate promotions, the sale of my own digital products (like courses and eBooks), podcast sponsors, consulting packages and more.

If all you have is an RSS feed for subscribers to get updates from you, the options for monetizing your blog are drastically reduced.

So, in a world where RSS feeds are now more or less dead... what's your best move to get blog subscribers?

How to collect blog subscribers (in a world without RSS)

It's more simple than ever before, actually. Build your own email list!

Since I started my blog back in 2014, I've grown my email list to more than 122,435+ subscribers that receive my weekly content updates and special offers when I launch new products or roll out new service offerings.

RSS Alternative Build an Email List Ryan Robinson ConvertKit Example

My email list is directly responsible for the $400,000/yr business I've been able to create around my blog.

What is an email list?

Your email list refers to the community of email subscribers you’re collecting from the pool of readers who come to your blog. Your email subscribers are the people who've opted in (by submitting their email addresses in a form embedded on your blog) to receive regular updates, new content notifications, recommendations and/or offers from you—directly to their email inboxes.

While writing great blog content is without a doubt the best way to start driving traffic to your blog, collecting subscribers on your email list is the only way you'll be able to personally connect with your audience over the long-term.

Unlike with social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter that can change their algorithms or go out of business one day, nothing can prevent you from reaching the people on your email list.

Your email list is powerful because it's a direct channel between you and your readers that you control.

Blogging and smart email marketing are one of the most powerful combinations to both driving regular traffic to your content and making money from your blog.

So, while the RSS feed slowly rides off into the sunset... a new age of email marketing is evolving right in front of us with endless possibilities.

For more on how to nail your blog email marketing, check out my guide: Email Marketing for Bloggers: 7 Smart Ways I’ve Generated 116,596+ Email Subscribers


Ryan Robinson
Ryan Robinson

Full-time blogger, podcaster and side project aficionado. Join me here, on ryrob.com to learn how to start a blog, make money blogging and grow a profitable side business. I also write for publications like Fast Company, Forbes, Entrepreneur, Inc, Business Insider and more. Let’s chat on Twitter about business and side projects.

    6 replies to "What is RSS? The Best Alternative to an RSS Feed (For Bloggers) in 2020"

    • Carl

      At last, someone who can explain RSS really simple syndication!

      You know what? I was in Web Dev for years and I’ve been in affiliate marketing for some years now, and I have NEVER considered RSS to be a “really simple syndication”.

      I guess whoever cooked this stuff up was a super brainiac, or had a very wide streak of irony in mind….

      Anyways, kudos for laying this subject out for the Joe Blogs of this world. :o)

      • Ryan Robinson

        Haha! Right?

        RSS is one of those things I also never found to be *simple* by any stretch of the imagination. The minute I started taking blogging seriously, I realized how much more impactful it’d be to have people subscribe to my blog by joining my email list rather than an RSS feed… so I never really pursued getting RSS subscribers 🤷‍♂️

    • aslam khan

      Really helpful explanation, thank you

    • Carl

      Hi again Ryan,

      Yeah, think it’s time to consider this myself, but as we say here in Spain, poco poco, little by little.

      Have a good day :o)

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