Display RSS Feeds with WordPress  Shortcodes

RSS Newspaper on a Bench IconWordPress has built-in the SimplePie RSS parsing engine, making it very easy to display the content of an RSS feed in your theme.

The fetch_feed() function provides access to SimplePie in WordPress, but it’s not that re-usable. I frequently used this handy function for parsing RSS feeds within WordPress themes (or plugins).

A Re-usable RSS Parsing function for WordPress

Place this function in your functions.php file.

*	Re-usable RSS feed reader with shortcode
if ( !function_exists('base_rss_feed') ) {
	function base_rss_feed($size = 5, $feed = 'https://wordpress.org/news/feed/', $date = false, $cache_time = 1800)
		// Include SimplePie RSS parsing engine
		include_once ABSPATH . WPINC . '/feed.php';
		// Set the cache time for SimplePie
		add_filter( 'wp_feed_cache_transient_lifetime', create_function( '$a', "return $cache_time;" ) );
		// Build the SimplePie object
		$rss = fetch_feed($feed);
		// Check for errors in the RSS XML
		if ( !is_wp_error( $rss ) ) {
			// Set a limit for the number of items to parse
			$maxitems = $rss->get_item_quantity($size);
			$rss_items = $rss->get_items(0, $maxitems);
			// Store the total number of items found in the feed
			$i = 0;
			$total_entries = count($rss_items);
			// Output HTML
			$html = "
    "; foreach ($rss_items as $item) { $i++; // Add a class of "last" to the last item in the list if( $total_entries == $i ) { $last = " class='last'"; } else { $last = ""; } // Store the data we need from the feed $title = $item->get_title(); $link = $item->get_permalink(); $desc = $item->get_description(); $date_posted = $item->get_date('F j, Y'); // Output $html .= "
  • "; $html .= "


    "; if( $date == true ) $html .= "$date_posted"; $html .= "
    "; $html .= "
  • "; } $html .= "
"; } else { $html = "An error occurred while parsing your RSS feed. Check that it's a valid XML file."; } return $html; } } /** Define [rss] shortcode */ if( function_exists('base_rss_feed') && !function_exists('base_rss_shortcode') ) { function base_rss_shortcode($atts) { extract(shortcode_atts(array( 'size' => '10', 'feed' => 'https://wordpress.org/news/feed/', 'date' => false, ), $atts)); $content = base_rss_feed($size, $feed, $date); return $content; } add_shortcode("rss", "base_rss_shortcode"); }


Once you’ve added the functions to your functions.php file, you can use the following in your theme wherever you would like to output a list of RSS entries as an unordered list.

Parameters & Settings

  1. $size — How many entries you want to parse and display. Default value is 5.
  2. $feed — The location of the RSS XML file. Default value is https://wordpress.org/news/feed/.
  3. $date — Display the date for each RSS entry. Default value is false.
  4. $cache_timeOptional. The number of seconds between each time WordPress checks for new items in the feed. Default is 1800, or 30 minutes.

As a Function in a Theme

if( function_exists('base_rss_feed') ) echo base_rss_feed(10, 'https://wordpress.org/news/feed/', true);

As a Shortcode in the WYSIWYG Editor

[rss size="10" feed="https://wordpress.org/news/feed/" date="true"]

The end result of this would look something like:

The HTML Output

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Give it some style!

/** RSS Feedlist */
.feedlist {
	margin:0 0 1.6em;
.feedlist li {
	padding:0 0 10px;
	border-bottom:1px solid #efefef;
	margin:0 0 10px;
.feedlist li:last-child,
.feedlist li.last {
.feedlist h3 {
.feedlist .date {

As a bonus, the last LI in the list has a class of last. I’ve found that this little bonus is handy for many CSS circumstances until we get full browser support for the :last-child selector.


Meet the Author

Kevin Leary, WordPress Consultant

I'm a freelance web developer and WordPress consultant in Boston, MA with 16 years of experience building websites and applications. View a portfolio of my work or request an estimate for your next project.