Should I use RSS or avoid it for my concert listing?
December 10, 2005 3:01 PM   Subscribe

RSSFilter: I run a website that promotes independent music [link inside] and has become the authoritative source for concert listings and a variety of other info in my local area... How do I best utilize RSS for our shows list without negating the need to come to my site? Or should I not bother?

I want to provide a link to the site to give an idea of how robust the shows list is. Most of you don't live in Central Illinois so I hope this doesn't really constitute an "ad" (though I do intend to expand it to Chicago where I live now, and maybe elsewhere). The shows list on my site,, has a very extensive database of concerts and bands, and everything is nicely linked together so that when people enter shows, the band and venue websites/profile information are automatically linked up.

Local newspapers pretty much either "steal" our shows list at this point, or tell us flat out they want to use our site as a reference, and are nice enough to make mention that the listings came from us.

My dilemma is.. well it's a few things:

1) If I create an RSS feed of the concert listings, will it even be used by a lot of people?

2) If it is - how should I craft it so that it's useful, but that people still come read our site? We have magazine style articles and an active community forum and I'd hate to see traffic drop as a result of RSS.

3) How complicated do I want to get with the RSS? I'm not at all new to web programming, but I've avoided learning RSS so I'm totally new to it. I've figured I'll want each show to be an RSS "item" - but do I need venues and bands to be "sub items" or should I just print all the show content in the show item description?
posted by twiggy to Computers & Internet (10 answers total)
There's no such thing as a sub-item in RSS. How much information you include in the RSS will determine how many people subscribe, and conversely, how many click through rather than just reading the RSS. You need to decide how important it is to you to get users to the website vs. inconveniencing them and potentially losing them altogether by withholding information from the RSS feeds.

If your only concern is that they won't see the forums and articles, put those in RSS also. But if you want to keep them on the website for some other reason, such as your Google ads, then give them just enough info (e.g. band name and date, but not location or time) in the RSS feed that they will be interested to click through to the website.
posted by scottreynen at 3:36 PM on December 10, 2005

Sorry, but Scottreynen is wrong. There is such a thing as sub-item RSS feeds. For example, my site is run via Wordpress, with topics organized by categories, and as a built-in function, Wordpress automatically creates feeds for the entire site and each individual category. There is also an independent feed just for comments, so people can subscribe to what they want to read as opposed to the whole site.

As an avid internet user (I'm a stay-at-home wife who spends most of each day online), you can take my advice from the point of view of a customer. There are about 10 websites I check religiously on a daily basis. These sites are listed in my favorites bar and each morning after I check my e-mail I check each of these sites.

In addition, I also subscribe to something like 40 different sites via RSS. Many of these sites are updated sporadically, or only occasionally cover topics that interest me, so they don't merit the effort of daily checks, but I like to know when they are updated. (It is my opinion that RSS is one of the best things about the "new" internet — I love it).

However, many of these sites only publish exerpts of their articles in the RSS feeds. Nine times out of 10, I do not bother to make the "jump" to the website if I can not read the full article in the feed. Not worth my time.

(As an aside, I have a degree and have worked many years in the journalism field, which leads me to two points — I am an excellent and quick researcher, and if I don't find the information I am looking for in roughly 10 seconds, I will move on to another source. Secondly, newspaper studies have shown that readers will read a front-page story all the way to the bottom, but only 10 percent of them will actually turn the page to find out how the story ends).

So, in other words, if you bother to make an RSS feed, include the whole listing, not just the excerpt.

Now I don't understand why you are so interested in "traffic" to your site, when RSS traffic is basically the same thing. Just because it doesn't show up in your stat logs doesn't mean people aren't reading. If you need to have stats for your feed, I think running the feed either through Bloglines or Feedburner will provide you with that feature.

If it is ad revenue you are worried about, Yahoo Publisher Network and another company called Pheedo will allow you to embed Adsense-style ads in your feed (I'm sure other companies do too).

If you are worried about people missing out on articles and whatever, then, as stated above, add those to your feed too.

However, one point about your site itself — it's kind of boring and hard to read. (Please don't take offense, this is meant to be constructive). The sidebars are too small text-wise and there is very little white space or images to break up the text and give the eye a rest. You should spice it up with pictures of the bands you are featuring. After all, a website that covers the hip local bands in your area should also look and feel hip itself.

Think of how music magazines are laid out. The design doesn't have to be in-your-face or outlandish, but a clean, simple design with some interesting images and fonts will get you very far. Right now, it just looks like a bulletin board.
posted by Brittanie at 4:35 PM on December 10, 2005

As well, if you're concerned about a traffic drop, I'd assume you're concerned about a loss in ad revenue. In that case, head over to BoingBoing and look at the solutions they've come up with for ads in RSS, which appear to be pretty effective.
posted by Kickstart70 at 6:14 PM on December 10, 2005

Ads in RSS are a fact of life with a lot of feeds, but even easier to avoid than normal spam, for anyone with a decent feed reader.

Excerpts and withholding critical information are your best shots here. I agree With scottreynen—band name and date, no venue or time unless they click through. You can also do a shows feed, a shows & articles feed or an articles feed. Actually, you could probably skip the articles feed, but it could be used by some...

For articles, summarize them briefly and give us the first 20 words. People will click through.

Embed in the RSS link a variable flag that let's you know the clickthrough came from your feed. Customize it for each type of feed if you're crazy enough to dice up the figures that way. Then, you'll be able to track traffic increase on account of your feeds.

Also, is your link broken? The site sounded interesting enough for us to not pounce on you for self-linking, but alas, it's not responding for me. Feel free to AIM/email me (check profile) with more info, since I'm rather interested. And would like to talk to you about it.
posted by disillusioned at 6:34 PM on December 10, 2005

Brittanie, what you're talking about are separate feeds, not sub-items. An RSS feed is not an outline; it is a simple list, one level deep.
posted by scottreynen at 6:35 PM on December 10, 2005

One interesting aspect of this is that an RSS feed is normally for something happening now. Version 1.1 released one hour ago! CEO makes statement today! New widget available now!

I don't quite know how you run an RSS feed for things which are all in the future.

I guess it's either "concert announced today" or "band list confirmed today" or to a lesser extent "concert cancelled/lineup of bands changed/venue, price etc., changed"?

So it will be a situation where the RSS items will link to every new concert announced, or to a previous item which has changed?
posted by AmbroseChapel at 6:48 PM on December 10, 2005

Oh, and as far as audience is concerned, I think it's undeniable that there's an RSS-only audience who won't want to get your information any other way. How much of an audience that is would be debatable, but it's there for sure.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 6:49 PM on December 10, 2005

Response by poster: Apparently my domain name provider,, is having issues and people can't get DNS lookups for my domains to work. They may work from some of you if someone in your neck of the internet-woods has the IP addresses for my domains cached already...

For those who wanted to see the site to give me specific suggestions:

here's just the ip address...
posted by twiggy at 8:31 PM on December 10, 2005

Add it to using their api. Then you'll automatically have an RSS feed and an iCal feed for your users. Plus some people may find out about your website on Upcoming.

The iCal feed is the answer to AmbroseChapel's concern.

When you include the event description, venue and time you run the risk of reducing your user's reliance on your web site but I don't think there's much point to having the feed without all that information. Current users will still come to the website for the message boards if the discussion is lively. And you'll have a whole new audience of people who are strictly interested in the information and simply wouldn't have maintained any connection with your site at all if it weren't for the convenience of the feeds. When they see interesting items in their readers and calendars they'll be reminded of your site and you'll convert many of them.
posted by stuart_s at 8:58 PM on December 10, 2005

A few thoughts.

1. Allow people to create search feeds that query for the names of specific acts. Maybe something like your search form on the front page, but without the date range option. Ideally you use a cookie or If Modified Since header on the request to give them gigs that have been added or modified since they last requested the feed.

2. I tend to agree about giving out just the basic information in the feed and making people click through for details like venue, time, and price.

3. For each item put links to other relevant information on your site, like links to recent relevant articles, the rideshare, etc, links to relevant discussion areas.

4. I don't know what your editorial calendar is for your features, but you should inject an item into your shows-feed occasionally (probably not more than once or twice a week) that has links and a short summary to the features that have been added since the last such update. You can also include summaries and links to the hottest topics in your forums. Or, you could just mix these editorial updates in with the stream of concert announcements.

5. Make it easy for people to subscribe to feeds. MSN, Yahoo, Google and others are making it possible for people to integrate 3rd party RSS feeds into their personalized homepages.

I would not rely on for your RSS feeds. You should endeavor to maintain a direct connection to your current userbase, which means having your own feeds that link people to your site. could help you reach a larger number of users, but it sounds like you are the source for concert information in your area, whereas Upcoming seems to have little or no presence for any type of event in Illinois, so you'd be helping them out big-time without getting much in return. In addition, from what I can see, Upcoming isn't set up very well for dealing with other intermediaries/partners (ie you).
posted by Good Brain at 1:13 AM on December 11, 2005

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