The RSS Orange Crush

    July 5, 2005

Last week I met with Scott Gatz from Yahoo. He heads up personalization at Yahoo. Scott said something interesting: millions of My Yahoo users are subscribing to RSS feeds, but they don’t even realize it.

They’re simply searching for the content they’re interested in and adding it to their personalized page. They could care less about RSS and they don’t know it from Atom, er I mean Adam. So if that’s the case why do we need the word RSS? Doesn’t “subscribe” nail it?

There are different views here. ZDNet’s David Coursey says he hopes the RSS name will go away and become something even simpler, like a “subscribe” feature. David Pogue from the Times agrees. Meanwhile, Rebecca Leib at ClickZ can’t get enough of RSS. She mentions it 25 times in a single story.

Of course, the tech vendors are all talking up RSS. They love acronyms. Apple has a blue RSS icon right in the Safari browser. Meanwhile, Microsoft was decked out in so much orange and white for Gnomedex that they reminded me of the “Orange Crush” Denver Broncos of the 1970s and 80s.

I am in Coursey’s camp. The aggregators should be pushing the subscribe message rather than saying “hey you can get RSS feeds.” This is where I think Mozilla is getting it right. They deliberately pulled the RSS icon out of beta builds of Firefox in favor of talking about “live bookmarks.”

Both Yahoo and Mozilla have it nailed – make RSS seamless and easy and promote its benefits, not its features. Microsoft appears to be moving in this direction as well, however, it’s early. Their messaging at Gnomedex was really for us geeks. Let’s see what they do when Longhorn actually rolls out.

You don’t hear a lot of folks talking about HTML any more. We do, however, still talk about browsing. That’s where RSS is heading. It will be all about subscribe and less about RSS.

Scott Gatz from Yahoo

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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.