OPML files expand reach, measurement of RSS feeds

As if you weren't burdened with enough acronyms, here comes OPML (Outline Processor Markup Language), a somewhat zip file of RSS feeds. Using OPML, one person can easily aggregate all of his or her RSS feeds and distribute them to the world.

As if you weren't burdened with enough acronyms, here comes OPML (Outline Processor Markup Language), a somewhat zip file of RSS feeds. Using OPML, one person can easily aggregate all of his or her RSS feeds and distribute them to the world.

OPML essentially does to RSS feeds what the digital music revolution does to sharing music: Within a few short steps, a user who has collected hundreds of RSS feeds can easily populate the computer of a RSS neophyte user within minutes.

David Winer, oft credited with the creation of RSS in conjunction with Netscape, launched share.opml.org, where users can upload their OPML files. The Web site then sorts the RSS feeds located within, thus enabling it to serve as a good barometer of what the early adopters are reading: TechCrunch leads currently (with 908 feeds read), followed by Microsoft employee Robert Scoble's blog and Google's blog.

"It gives us aggregate data on who is reading what feeds among a tech-savvy group," says Steve Rubel, SVP in Edelman's Me2 Revolution practice. "It's an emerging technology that is worth watching... if you're doing tech PR, you want to reach these influencers."

Rubel says that with PR pros often not having the ability to get their hands on definitive blog readership numbers, something like share.opml.org can support claims to clients that influencers are indeed reading the blogs they are targeting.

But Andy Lark, CMO at LogLogic, says that many of the OPML opportunities for companies and their PR pros transcend mere influencer outreach.

"If you win a new account, [OPML] provides the ability to distribute feeds across the entire team," Lark says.

He says that it's a great resource for a company to interact with its customers.

"I'm about to get onto a plane to Tokyo, it would be great if the airline gave me an OPML of 10 or 15 feeds I need, like cool restaurants, flight information, and weather details," Lark says. "We're suddenly getting into the ability to dynamically share information with our constituents."


Key points:

OPML files allow companies to easily distribute an aggregate of their RSS feeds to all constituents

OPML can help prove to clients that key influencers read the blogs they target

The number of feeds shown at share.opml.org represents only a small percentage of readership

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