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Confused in New York About RSS


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August 04, 2005

Confused in New York About RSS

Heather Green

I just read this commentary at CNET by Bill Flitter, co-founder of Pheedo and am left confused. Would love to get some input.

So, Flitter says that traditional publishers don't get RSS. Or he kind of says that. He writes that they have quickly adopted it (I frankly am surprised by how quickly).

But then he says they don't really understand it. I want an example though, to justify that idea. He seems to be saying that they aren't using it enough for advertising. Since he's in advertising, I guess it makes sense that he would put that perspective on it.

I thought that RSS advertising was still in its early stages and that traditional publishers that are trying this out, like the Washington Post, are right up there with the rest of the experimenters. Is my perception wrong?

10:01 AM

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On the Blogspotting blog, Heather Green questions the potentials of RSS advertising. Her brief posts has generated a lot of interesting comments on the role RSS for publishers.... [Read More]

Tracked on August 8, 2005 04:27 PM

RSS feeds are growing in use (reading and publishing) by many, but like many technologies it's still a "closed" community. The "average" use is not into RSS feeds yet..heck blogging is still new by many.

Now to Bill's post - although many "media" (including myself) are publishing RSS feeds there is SO much MORE power that they could use via advertising. There's two things though a) tracking the traffic and b) people get RSS to not be spammed and to better organize their data putting ads in their has to be done SMARTLY.

Posted by: Ramon Ray at August 4, 2005 12:13 PM

Heather, I am honored you read my article on CNET. Thank you. I am a regular reader of your content.

Now onto your questions. The point I was convening in the CNET piece was media companies do not yet understand the impact (positive and negative) that RSS is having on their Web site traffic. The message was not intended to read as publisher don't 'get' RSS. They definitely do and are embracing it as witnessed with all the orange RSS buttons peppered throughout media websites.

However, what publishers will soon require are analytics on their feed including subscriber counts, views on content, clicks on content, time of day etc - the same type of information they are used to receiving from their website. This information will be beneficial in understanding how users are consuming/interacting with their content - how many items should I feed per day and what time of day should I feed those items. They will also need to understand the impact RSS is having on their website visits. Are subscribers visiting my site less or more, do RSS readers buy more compared to other forms of online delivery vehicles?

The answers to these questions are something we are figuring out. RSS is early and we have a lot of work to do.

Posted by: Bill Flitter at August 4, 2005 03:59 PM

Hello Bill,

Thanks for the insight. I think I was hoping more for an example of a company that isn't doing this, analyzing its RSS data to make the case, because you would think that it would make sense that they would. Are there examples of other companies that are doing that and do have a handle on their RSS traffic?

Thanks.

Posted by: Heather Green at August 4, 2005 04:17 PM

I thought he was basically saying that the publishers are embracing and using RSS, but they do not realize that they could be digging their own grave. I think the argument is that if RSS ever catches on, people would no longer need to go visit as many sites seperately in order to keep up thus these sites would get less traffic. Less traffic in turn would hurt ad sales. I don't totally agree with that view, but I do see where he's coming from. By using RSS readers such as bloglines I no longer visit certain sites daily because I read the summaries on bloglines and often that's enough.

Posted by: dave park at August 4, 2005 04:23 PM

Heather, if most publishers were monitoring their RSS feeds, I would be out of business! We've talked to many of the major online publications (including the one you write for) in the last 2 years. I don't think that

it's fair for me to name any of the major publishers that aren't tracking their RSS feeds, but most publishers we speak with do two things only, track clicks on RSS articles and look at the number of feed pulls. They are leaving much more rich data on the table. Data if they were mining it it could help them make better editorial decisions and provide a better customer experience.

Pheedo's position is that it isn't enough to know simply know how many click-throughs are happening via RSS. The simplicity of RSS on the

user side makes analyzing what happens at the feed level quite complex. For example, there are quite a lot of news aggregators or readers out there that pull stories from the publishers' servers in different ways, and it takes an RSS expert to help publishers figure this out.

Posted by: Bill Flitter at August 5, 2005 02:17 AM

Forbes.com published a few weeks ago stating that 91% of internet users didn't know what RSS was. RSS is still a hard sell in my opinion, something I wrote about in my blog:

http://jasonbell.blog-city.com/not_everyone_will_buy_into_the_idea_of_rss.htm

When you are asking the public to download another piece of software to see something then there is a barrier and it's one that won't go away quickly. Until the RSS is embedded into the likes of Outlook and Outlook Express straight out of the box, no plugins required, RSS will always be a hard sell.

It's all very well having the tools to create the feeds but it will take a lot more to influence public opinion to actually use them.

Posted by: Jason Bell at August 5, 2005 09:10 AM

Bill,

Thanks very much, the detail really helps me understand this issue better. I appreciate that you took the time to chime in.

Posted by: Heather Green at August 5, 2005 11:52 AM

Jason,

I agree, RSS is a hard sell. It's one of those things that people have to do and try out for a while before they really seem to understand it. But fundamentally, I think think it's just too hard for the average rest of us to do it. It make sense, but we're all not techies and so there still is a big hurdle to overcome. I read your post, which shows how in the trenches you have been with this. I wonder what you think will get more people to adopt it?

Posted by: Heather Green at August 5, 2005 12:00 PM

I don't think that it is necessary for end-users to understand RSS in order to use it or benefit from it. I don't expect broad conscious adoption of RSS. However, most of the interesting new applications from Google, Yahoo, AOL, Microsoft, and thousands of smaller innovators use RSS (and similar formats) under the hood. End-users are benefitting from increased timeliness, precision, and personalization mostly without the need to learn silly new acronyms.

And, Jason is sort of correct. Not all publishers will use these new forms of distribution, but those that don't will lose market share and profits. The dominant Internet publishers of 2008 and 2009 will be those that learn out to put their information when and where users want it -- while making enough money to remain profitable. Pheedo, Feedster, and others are taking the lead in showing marketers how to be successful in RSS advertising so that aggressive and competitive publishers have new business models from which to profit.

Posted by: Scott Rafer at August 9, 2005 10:02 PM


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