A handy tool for the Latvian newshound

For the dedicated online newshound, keeping up with events in Latvia is getting to be more and more of a chore. Although still not used by many Web sites in Latvia, a relatively new communication format called RSS might help.

Depending on the source, RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication or RDF Site Summary. Either way, it’s a means for easily distributing the content of Web sites to users who don’t want to visit each Web site separately to learn what’s new. Instead of having to plow through all the bookmarks in your Web browser, you use a RSS news feed reader to receive a list of headlines from the sites to whose news feeds you have “subscribed.” See something interesting and, click, you’re taken to the appropriate Web page.

Download any of a number of freeware or shareware news feed readers and you’re sure to get several prefigured subscriptions. For example, when I first download NetNewsWire Lite for my Macintosh computer, I was treated to headlines from sources such as the BBC in London, the American daily newspaper Christian Science Monitor, the British daily The Guardian and the French daily Le Monde.

That sent me on a search for RSS news feeds from Latvia. I visited a few of my usual suspects: the Rīga-based dailies Diena and Neatkarīgā Rīta Avīze, the news agency LETA, as well as the Web portals Delfi and TV-NET. But none had RSS feeds.

Then I happened to look at the Web page for Latvian state television’s evening news show, “Panorāma.” To my delight, I found a news feed! I copied the RSS feed address to my news reader and seconds later was presented with a list of headlines and summaries from the most recent broadcast.

Ingus Rūķis, the Webmaster for “Panorāma,” told Latvians Online that the RSS feed was introduced in August along with a redesign of the show’s Web site.

“At first RSS was added only because it was interesting and a way to try out a new technology, Rūķis said. “Seeing in the statistics that visitors were interested in it, we automatically added RSS as a necessary part of the new design.”

The “Panorāma” Web site receives about 200,000 page views per month, he added. About 10,000 of those, or five percent, are for news via RSS, which is a notable figure.

A search on Google led me to only a few more RSS feeds from Latvia. I was bit surprised to see that a regional newspaper, the daily Zemgales Ziņas in Jelgava, was one of them.

The feed was added last summer, explained Sergejs Bižāns, the newspaper’s Webmaster.

“We use it purely for our own needs and don’t have information about whether others use it,” Bižāns said. Because creation of Web pages for Zemgales Ziņas is automated, it doesn’t take much extra to run a news feed and could in fact come in handy, he added.

Two Web sites in Liepāja, the portal Virtual Liepaja and the politically ultraconservative news and commentary site Latvians.lv, also have RSS feeds.

RSS feeds are perhaps most popular among bloggers, those individuals who post frequent comments on their Weblogs. Several Latvian blogs are among those, including laacz.lv, created by programmer Kaspars Foigts, and roze.lv, a blog focused on Japanese anime art.

I’ve heard some in the online news business say that RSS is the next big thing. Perhaps, but from the looks of it in Latvia the technology still has a way to go.

Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000–2012 he was editor of the website.

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