Journalists and web experts in the US are predicting that news feeds will re-shape the way online news is published, despite several European court rulings outlawing the practice of deep-linking.

There are now hundreds of news feed, or RSS (Rich Site Summary) software packages available to download free. Using XML, they search for stories under a list of topics and publications chosen by the user, then feed a selection of headlines and story summaries back to them.

They also offer the option of linking direct to the story's page within another site. Some operate through a web browser - in a similar way to the outlawed Newsbooster service - while others are downloaded on to the user's computer.

According to JD Lasica, senior editor of Online Journalism Review: "News feeds give news organisations another way to reach that most elusive of creatures: the wired, tech-savvy professional. And you can bet that within a year or so, students will be latching on to RSS subscriptions in a big way."

One large US publication promoting the practice is The Christian Science Monitor (CSM). It sees RSS as a way for it to instantly syndicate its content for free, and offers its own RSS summary service to cover its news, technology, books and commentary sections.

Publisher Stephen Gray says: "I look at the web as an opportunity to have a million doorways to the CSM. I think of it as a progression from one end, where it's free, to the other end, where it's paid for. The pipeline has to be really big at the out end to bring in lots of beginners if you want to maximise the number of subscribers at the other end."

The paper's print edition circulation has grown by 10 per cent in the past year and a half, while its site traffic has quadrupled to 2.3 million monthly visitors in the same period.

Some of the other large sites now either offering their own news feeds, or employing journalists who do, include The New York Times,, MSNBC, BBC, ESPN, CNET, Wired News, Salon, Slate, The FeedRoom, IndyMedia, and Google News.

"News aggregators may yet have unforeseen effects on web publishing," said Mr Lasica. "Userland Radio, for example, contains a little button that lets you snag a news item and republish it on your weblog. Bloggers say they've learned to craft their weblog entries to write blurbs in the inverted pyramid style and to craft straightforward headlines. Clever, elliptical treatments, or heads that depend on other visual elements on a web page, don't work when viewed in a news reader.

"But perhaps the biggest potential impact of news readers is the prospect that they will further level the playing field between Big Media and individual content creators... For news providers, it's useful to remember that information stripped to its bare essentials - that is to say, text - is what a great many readers come for."


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