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AOL Adds Feeds

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NEW YORK AOL introduced a personalized feed reader to its new free Internet portal, allowing users to select Web content to have piped to their home page.

The Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feature is part of My AOL, the personalized home page option for the AOL portal. Users can also choose to have AOL's Video Hub as their home page. Feedster, a San Francisco firm that aggregates 11 million blog, news and e-commerce feeds, is providing the feed search feature to AOL.

Used mostly now by blogs and news sites, RSS allows Internet users to receive feeds of headlines directly to their computers. Sometimes compared to TiVo, RSS gives consumers control of which Internet content they receive, doing away with the need to visit several Web venues or go to sites' home pages to find content.

Like Yahoo and Google, AOL's feature for capturing Really Simple Syndication feeds plays down the term RSS in order to make regular users comfortable with the feature. My Yahoo does not use the term; neither does Google's new personalized home page, which began allowing users to add feeds earlier this week.

Despite much attention paid to RSS, few consumers actually receive feeds. According to a survey released separately by Forrester Research, just 2 percent of U.S. households said they were using RSS. Forrester cautioned that number might be low because My Yahoo, the most popular RSS aggregator, allows users to add feeds without explicitly calling them RSS.

Despite the low adoption figures, RSS is poised to become more common in the near future. Microsoft said earlier this month that its new Vista operating system due out next year would display an illuminated icon to indicate an available RSS feed while users are browsing the Internet, allowing them to subscribe with a single click.

Publishers like Washingtonpost.com and NYTimes.com have begun adding ads to their RSS feeds, and Google and other ad networks, including Feedster, offer publishers ad-insertion services. Some marketers have begun creating feeds for customers. For example, Delta Air Lines and Continental Airlines offer travel-offers feeds customers can opt to receive.