November 25, 2006

RSS Eliminates Need for Frequently Repeated Searches

For years, at the office, I've led the pack in finding information on the Web about our company or its competitors. Part of this comes from being focused to the point of obsession on making sure I know how our company and the marketplace is being portrayed, and part is due to utilizing the latest technology available - including a raft of saved bookmarks designed for this task. This technique, which has served me well for nearly six years, has now been nearly obsoleted by the advent of RSS.

Regardless of the company you work for, there are a limited number of trade publications that frequently cover you and your competition. Many companies pay big bucks to PR firms to track coverage, anticipated or otherwise, commonly done through searching for the company, its products and executives, on those publications that serve your market. Early on, I found I could scoop the PR firm, simply by saving these search terms as a bookmark in my browser.

Over time, I made a new folder in Safari (and Firefox) called "searches" that had the keyword searches all teed up. As part of the morning's work, I would click one by one and see if the search result counts had changed. If they did, we very likely had coverage. Later, Safari debuted a tool where I could open all items in the folder at once, in tabs in the browser. Now, with one pull down and click of the mouse, I could open twenty-some-odd windows in major media, all searching for my company and its products, and simply by hitting Command-W to close the foreground window, I could navigate one by one to see if we'd struck PR paydirt. Now, the PR team knows not to send me coverage, because more than 95 times out of 100, I've already seen it.

But now, even this advanced method is antiquated. With the debut and reach of Google News, I can be alerted on any number of keywords debuting in the media, all day long. If the keyword is particularly important, I can get an instant e-mail if Google News finds it. If it's less important, or too frequently found, I can get an e-mail at the end of the day, instead. But now, every Google News search and Google Blogs search delivers an RSS feed I can subscribe to. Now, instead of manually crawling media sites, all I've done is subscribed to these RSS feeds on my company and the competition, on media and on blogs, so that Google Reader delivers me the article, in full or headline form, immediately, saving me the step.

It's a very rare thing for Google News to miss a tracked item, and much more common that it will find it before I've even begun to look. This saves me time, and saves the company money. Maybe RSS wasn't initially intended for this use, but I've found it an invaluable tool.

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