It's one of the most convenient, time-saving Internet innovations to surface over the past few years: Really Simple Syndication (RSS) is a technology that pools online content that matters to you -- be it sports scores, movie reviews, fashion articles, tech blogs, or political podcasts -- and consolidates these 'feeds' for you in one place to read whenever you like.

For a small-to-midsized business, subscribing to RSS feeds can also help you stay on top of your game by delivering relevant news about your industry to your PC or smartphone.

Best of all, subscribing to an RSS feed is free.

'The value in subscribing to RSS's for a business are the same for consumers -- the key benefit is you don't have to manually check industry blogs and such because all the information is automatically delivered to you,' says Oliver Young, an analyst with Forrester Research, a Cambridge, Mass.-headquartered technology and market research company. 'This is very handy and takes a lot of the guess work out of keeping up to date with your industry.'

For example, a start-up health care company can find out what's going on with new developments in politics, insurance trends, and emerging health care technologies and treatments, as well as subscribe to blogs and articles that deal with local or national health care initiatives.

Keep an eye on competition

Young also says RSS is a great way to stay on top of the competition. 'Many companies, including your competitors, are putting out information, so seeing what they're up to and how they're communicating with clients and customers can be tremendously valuable,' he says.

Brian Kotlyar, an analyst for the Boston, Mass.-based Yankee Group, agrees RSS is a great way to 'get to know the landscape of your competitors.' 'When it comes to industry knowledge and competitive intelligence, RSS takes a lot of the legwork out of what is traditionally a manual endeavor,' says Kotlyar. 'It's like going to the grocery store or having your groceries delivered to you -- and for free -- so which one would you choose?'

Both Young and Kotlyar also suggest using the free 'Google Alerts' service that automatically sends any articles or other information on the Web to your inbox if any keywords are found.

'Instead of spending money on tracking services, Google Alerts are free and work very well,' says Young. 'It's handy if you or your company were mentioned in a press release, article, or blog post -- you can now find out what the wider world thinks of you.'

Starting an RSS feed

Kotlyar says a company may also want their news to be disseminated in a convenient fashion. 'From building your brand and becoming more of a presence in your industry, starting a blog, which can then be part of a RSS feed, is a great way to start for your business,' he says.

It's also good for search engine optimization. 'Every time you post a new blog, you're raising your profile locally and nationally, and you better your chances on being on page one for search results," Kotlyar says, "which is key.'