RSS To Deliver Ad Revenue For Publishers

    May 18, 2005

Following my post a few days ago on getting more from your RSS feed, in particular on using Feedburner’s new Total Stats Pro service …

… I read a very interesting report on ClickZ about RSS advertising.

In the report, ClickZ managing editor Pamela Parker interviews Feedburner CEO Dick Costolo to discuss his company’s experimentation with advertising in RSS feeds.

But, this isn’t the part of the story that caught my attention.

The part that did is the discussion segment on what the increasing popularity of RSS means:

“If RSS popularity continues to increase, and it becomes less and less a vehicle for driving site traffic but more and more its own content-viewing medium, that presents an interesting situation to publishers,” Dick said.

He admitted, though, the company didn’t look at full-text versus partial-text feeds. It could be readers are becoming more reluctant to click out of the feed reader, but it could also be that more publishers are providing full-text feeds, giving people fewer reasons to click away.

I believe this is precisely what’s happening – RSS aggregation means that you capture content from a wide range of different online resources (blogs or traditional websites) into your preferred RSS reader which, in effect, becomes your web browser and your single view on that aggregated information.

Indeed, if you use a web-based aggregator like Bloglines or NewsGator, you’re already using a browser. Desktop readers like FeedDemon have a built-in browser so, again, you’re already using a browser. To access, view and manipulate the information you want, you don’t really need any other application – for most people, it means you can read and interact with all that content just within your browser.

I also think that Costolo’s comment on RSS feeds becoming less a method for driving traffic to a blog or website and more as a ‘self-contained information experience’ to be an accurate one. I think that’s what is beginning to happen as more people get switched on to RSS, especially in the workplace. That’s certainly how I look at it now.

That’s one of the things that makes yesterday’s news about NewsGator acquiring Bradsoft, the maker of FeedDemon, especially interesting. If NewsGator now has both web-based (cross platform) and desktop (Windows) aggregators, they’re in a pretty good position to shape – if not drive – the development of the means that enable you to have that ‘self-contained information experience.’

Add their Microsoft Outlook aggregation capability to that mix and you have an offering that looks pretty irresistible to organizations – the enterprise customers. Clearly a big opportunity. (Which makes me wonder what moves Microsoft might be considering – maybe at the end of the year or sooner, we’ll be reading an announcement about their acquiring NewsGator so as to integrate everything with Office.)

Which comes back to the overall ClickZ report. What do such developments mean for content publishers and advertisers?

Advertisers in particular will have to figure out new and more effective ways to catch those eyeballs. Already some RSS feeds that carry ads are beginning to look like junk mail, and people don’t like that – see this post in December by Jason Kottke, for instance (and read the comments).

There’s little doubt that RSS as a communication channel is now really taking off. Figuring out the balance between advertising/marketing needs and readers’ needs is the next trick.

As with so many things in this new communication world, the audience (readers) is firmly in charge.

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Neville Hobson is the author of the popular blog which focuses on business communication and technology.

Neville is currentlly the VP of New Marketing at Crayon. Visit Neville Hobson’s blog: