Is there a difference between subscribing to a web site’s email
mailing list and subscribing to the same site’s RSS feed?
Yes, they’re two completely different things, and what they each
contain is up to the site’s owner.
I’ll show you what I mean with examples from my own email and RSS
EMail mailing lists are exactly that, content that is periodically delivered to your inbox by your having subscribed to the mailing.
What’s in that email is, as I said, up to the creator of that list.
In my case, my weekly newsletter is crafted to contain intros to the articles published the prior week, an article from the archives, my comments for the week and a few other things.
So, basically what you get in email is whatever I happen to choose to put in email each week. I happened to have a fairly standard format so you know what you’re getting, and can pretty much count on that each week.
There’s no requirement that it be related to anything else at all.
But of course in my case, it is.
When each issue is emailed out, I happen to also post a copy of that email on the web site as an archive.
The newsletter I publish on the site is actually very slightly different than the one emailed out. For example, the “Hello” doesn’t include the recipient’s name.
You can always see the most recent issue here, and all the previous email newsletters are archived here as well. That, once again, is my choice – other email newsletter providers often choose not to provide an online archive at all.
As a side effect of how my site is constructed, the act of posting the newsletter as an online archive also makes it available via RSS. That means that using an RSS reader you can retrieve and read the newsletter at your convenience.
In this case the newsletter feed includes the same newsletter that was posted on the website. This is actually fairly typical for many web sites – RSS feeds represent the content that was posted on the site. It’s not necessarily so, once again it’s up to the owner of the site what to place in an RSS feed.
But, as the commercials say, wait! There’s more!
I actually have several RSS feeds in addition to the one that contains only the weekly newsletter. The site “All Items” feed contains just that – all the items published on the site, as they’re published.
When you subscribe to the individual items feed, that’s exactly what you’ll get. The first part of each item, with a link back to the site for the entire article. (I chose this design over full-content so as to reduce some of the rampant content theft that pervades the internet.)
It’s all about choices
So the bottom line is that not only are RSS and EMail completely different delivery mechanisms, they’re frequently completely different content.
The site owner who provides email and RSS has total control over what goes into each. They may be similar, they may be partly related, or they may have nothing to do with each other whatsoever.
And you, as well, have choices to make. After examining what content is made in which form, you’ll then also want to choose which you want, and in what format you’re most comfortable receiving it.