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Alerts are notifications, through email or a variety of other delivery systems, when materials of interest to you have been published or added to a database, websites, new publications within parameters of previous successful searches, etc.
Really Simply Syndication (RSS) is a standard web format that allows you to subscribe to web content when new content is available. RSS allows content to come to you, rather than you visiting a particular web site. There are many research-related web sites that provide an RSS feed to their content, such as professional organization sites, publisher sites, newspapers, library sites, and blogs. RSS feeds can include text-based information as well as podcasts (for example, lectures) and vodcasts (for example, YouTube videos).
Unlike email alerts, RSS feeders do not notify you when new content has been added. You need to visit your news reader to keep up-to-date once you have set up your RSS feeds. The advantage is that instead of visiting each webpage individually, you only need to visit your news reader page which pulls together new information from all your feeds in one handy place.
You'll need a news reader before you can subscribe to RSS Feeds. Some news readers can be downloaded to your computer, and others are web-based.
You can download readers throughGoogle, Feedly (both operating systems), Newsify (iOS only) and many news site and other organizations.