Archived content and RSS feeds: The NewsNow problem

Interesting issue flagged up by Jon Pratty yesterday – publishers need to be careful when running archived pieces on their sites, because of RSS feeds.

As part of a series on Guardian.co.uk, the site published a piece yesterday from February 23 1972 headlined ‘IRA kills 7 in raid on Paras’ English base’.

On the site we can see it’s from the archive and the date it was first published, but sites such as NewsNow.co.uk, which aggregate news headlines from RSS feeds, don’t make the distinction.

There’s no label in the RSS feed to denote this is archive material, so to readers of the news on NewsNow, it appears like so:

Screenshot of NewsNow.co.uk

We’ve seen in other – non-RSS related, but similar – cases, how things can escalate when old news resurfaces such as the United Airlines story.

A flaw with aggregation or the responsibility of a publisher?

One thought on “Archived content and RSS feeds: The NewsNow problem

  1. Jon Pratty

    Thanks for opening this out Laura. It’s a common problem in RSS syndication, especially when agency content is piped through without intervention of any kind. It’s easy to find, for example, US-centric news titles on The Guardian’s outfeed. So you might see a headline about ‘a marine was killed today in Afghanistan,’ and it turns out to be a US Marine, and it was from the Fresno Bee or some such thing, just piped back out by our chums in Kings Cross.

    Other big offenders: The BBC’s ‘On This Day’ archive feed often gets mixed into their fresh and new output, with occasionally hilarious results. I seem to remember last summer they were telling the world that man had just landed on the moon!

    Also at the Beeb, CBBC Newsround regularly spits out ancient archive RSS stories in totally off the wall (and probably not child safe) ways.

    What’s the message? It’s up to the publisher, not the aggregator to sort these issues out. The aggregator has to deal *automatically* with mixed streams of content (usually using some sort of algorythm filter) and present it in a consistent graphic and editorial context.

    For obvious copyright reasons the aggregator, NewsNow for example, can’t go into your titles and make ’em safe and up-to-date if they are old or regionally incorrect.

    It’s the publisher’s job to make sure their outfeeds of RSS are on the button in terms of titling, regionality and keywording/SEO.

    Once you’re on top of that job, you can play around (as a publisher) with regionalised feeds, subject sorted feeds, bespoke feeds mixing region with subjects, etc.

    JP

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