RSS Adoption Not Reaching The Levels It Should

    October 21, 2008
    Chris Crum

RSS feeds are not catching on like some of us thought they would. New data from Forrester Research indicates that only the slim minority of consumers are using it, and furthermore, a great deal of those who don’t have no intention of doing so in the future. When Forrester asked if people currently use an RSS feed:

– 78% said no

– 11% said Yes

– 12% said "I’m not sure."

This is just my own speculation, but I feel like there are still a lot of people who just don’t really understand what RSS feeds are, and how readers can make their lives easier in terms of reading content. On the other hand, there are probably many who use RSS and don’t even realize it. Like Mark Hopkins at Mashable says, "You can’t ask mainstream users whether or not they use RSS in their daily course of Internet usage any more than you can ask the average couch potato whether or not they use Cathode Ray Tubes or Liquid Crystal Displays."

RSS IconA couple months ago Google announced some new features for Blogger that would be rolling out, including a "Follow this blog" feature, which would provide a call-to-action to readers, and theoretically drive them to Google Reader, at which point they would become familiar with RSS feeds almost by accident. In time, this could still prove to be a driving factor for feed adoption, but there are other similar technologies out there that people are already using even if they don’t realize it. Steve Rubel at MicroPersuasion, who considers himself an "RSS evangelist" had this to say about it:

Still, while feed adoption may have crested the idea of online opt-in communications is just getting going. The Facebook newsfeed, Twitter and Friendfeed are perfect examples of opt-in vehicles that bring content you care about to you. In each case, you’re total in control. You can unsubscribe from individuals or groups and tailor the stream so that what you want finds you.

RSS is only one form of opt-in communications. The potential is bigger when you look more broadly to social networking. This larger promise still holds and as the technologies become more invisible the newsfeed could even one day subsume RSS.

There is no doubt that feeds can have numerous benefits from a business standpoint, and can simply provide both a time-saving option for reading content as well as a portal to consuming massive amounts of knowledge in a short amount of time. I’ve always envisioned feeds as the news source of the future. Personally, I turn to them rather than the newspaper with my morning coffee. It’s all about the personalization of the news you are reading. You select your sources. It’s like having a thousand (the number is up to you) newspaper subscriptions, only they are all organized by article the way you want them to be for easy perusal, and you can easily read the ones that catch your interest, but the fact that you can subscribe to as many niche sites/blogs as you want ensures that you are getting the kind of news that you are in fact interested in (as soon as it is published no less). If more people came to this realization, I feel like adoption would increase. What do you think?