The Dirty Little Secret About RSS News

    February 21, 2006

There’s a dirty little secret in the newspaper industry. In fact, it’s a secret that might one day cause serious damage to newspaper brands and give further rise to blogs, unless there’s action.

The secret (which really isn’t so hidden) is that a scant few of the top 100 daily newspapers in the United States have RSS feeds that stream the full contents of the print edition. The notable exceptions here are the LA Times and The Boston Globe. Others, like the Philadelphia Inquirer, go part way by offering a front page feed. None, naturally, offer full-text feeds – even to their print subscribers.

This is a lost opportunity in the making; one of historic proportions. RSS is the future of news delivery. When I go to meetings and mention RSS, I don’t get the stares that I did a year ago. The revolution is reaching the masses.

Flash forward 10 years from today. We will look back and laugh how quaint it was that we received our news on dead trees. Yes, I am saying the word “newspaper” will be a misnomer. News will be delivered automatically each day, not by the paper boy, but via wirelessly enabled e-paper devices that are easy to read. All of it will be powered by RSS.

So when are the newspapers going to step up to the plate and experiment with their golden geese? When will we see more ad-subsidized print edition summary feeds or, dare I say, full-text feeds for paid subscribers? I sure hope it’s in my lifetime because if the newspapers don’t give the masses what they want soon, an army of bloggers and citizen journalism networks will surround them to happily fill the gaps.

Steve Rubel is a PR strategist with nearly 16 years of public relations, marketing, journalism and communications experience. He currently serves as a Senior Vice President with Edelman, the largest independent global PR firm.

He authors the Micro Persuasion weblog, which tracks how blogs and participatory journalism are changing the public relations practice.