KM Component 42 – Syndication, Aggregation, and Subscription Management Systems

Stan Garfield

Stan Garfield

January 27, 2022
Syndication is a way of using feeds available from a website or other content source to provide an updated list of its content in the form of a subscription, an embedded portion of a website, or a collection of disparate content on a particular topic.

Aggregation is collecting content like articles, social media posts, images, videos, music, and more from a variety of sources around the web and making them accessible in one place. Usually, these websites are set up in a way to automatically aggregate content through RSS feeds.

Syndication and aggregation typically use RSS or Atom syndication and .rss, .xml, or .rdf files for the feeds. Aggregation can also use open API and open data sources. (RSS stands for Really Simply Syndication or Rich Site Summary. XML stands for Extensible Markup Language. RDF stands for Resource Description Framework. API stands for Application Programming Interface.)

Syndication is a way of providing content such that it can be subscribed to using a feed reader, integrated into a website as a subset of that site, or aggregated with similar content. Aggregation is a way of collecting multiple syndicated feeds into a single feed or as part of a unified website.

You can use syndication and aggregation in a variety of ways. Blogs can be aggregated into a common site showing the latest entries from all blog sources. Subscriptions to blogs and podcasts can be offered. The latest updates made to a wiki can be provided as a feed. The ongoing results of predefined searches can be displayed. Threaded discussions can be tracked through a feed reader, and the latest posts can be displayed as news items on a community website.

Syndicated content can be used in many ways, including being fed to standalone readers, embedded in web browsers or email clients, integrated with personalized aggregators like Netvibes or Feedly, and delivered as email messages using tools like Blogtrottr. It can also be aggregated on websites, e.g., Flipboard for blogs.

A specific kind of aggregation is a mashup: a web application that uses content from more than one source to create a single new service displayed in a single graphical interface. For example, combining address data with Google map data. The term implies easy, fast integration, frequently using open API and data sources to produce enriched results that were not necessarily the original reason for producing the raw source data.

Subscription management systems are tools that allow content providers to reach subscribers on an opt-in basis, and subscribers to sign up to receive periodicals and other communications based on their interests.

In addition to RSS feeds for subscribing to syndicated content such as blogs and podcasts, there is still a need for allowing people to subscribe to traditional newsletters. Users do not appreciate receiving email they did not request, and if they continue to receive unwanted distributions, they will most likely delete them unread, or set mailbox rules to do so automatically.

To avoid having your newsletter regarded as spam, provide a tool which allows those who do wish to receive it to voluntarily subscribe. By automating this process, you can reduce the time spent manually adding and deleting names from a distribution list, automatically handle bounced messages, and quickly determine how many subscribers you have.

When a newsletter is first created, you can send out a one-time announcement to a broad distribution list of everyone in the organization offering a sample issue, inviting them to subscribe, and telling them how to do so easily. But after doing this once, avoid doing it again to avoid annoying the recipients. Provide prominent links to the subscription page from your key websites. Include clear instructions in each issue on how to subscribe and unsubscribe. If an issue is forwarded from a current subscriber to a colleague, it should be obvious to that colleague how to subscribe. And if a subscriber decides they no longer want to receive your newsletter, don’t make it hard to unsubscribe.

In addition to the ability to subscribe to specific periodicals, you may wish to allow subscription to topics. In that way, if additional newsletters are created for an existing topic, they can be sent to those people who have already expressed an interest in the subject.

Other forms of subscription include notifications and alerts, provided via email, mobile notification, or online visual indicator. These can be used for enterprise social networks, threaded discussions, or new content updates for users of team spaces, portals, repositories, or intranets. Remind your users of all of these subscription options and help them to take advantage of each method for their specific needs.

Here are two examples of providing links for subscribing to blogs via email:

Stan Garfield

Stan Garfield

Please enjoy Stan’s additional blog posts offering advice and insights drawn from many years as a KM practitioner. You may also want to download a copy of his book, Proven Practices for Implementing a Knowledge Management Program, from Lucidea Press.  And learn about Lucidea’s  Inmagic Presto and SydneyEnterprise with KM capabilities to support successful knowledge curation and sharing. 

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