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My most recent post, particularly the part about partial feeds attracted a bit of flack.We’re talking these comments, this blog, this blog, this blog and this blog. There may have been another spray at this blog but it was in Dutch, so I’m not quite sure whether it was a criticism or not. But considering, I’ve received SFA support for my point of view, I’m choosing to believe it was a vehement defence of my hypothesis.
Now I’ve been blogging for about two weeks, so I’m the first to admit, I’m hardly the most experienced authority when it comes to a bunch of this stuff, but I’ve spent my entire career working in or writing about Big Media, so I come from an entirely different perspective to most in the blogosphere. A large slab of you folk have been using RSS in one form or another, long, long, long before anyone in Big Media cottoned onto its potential. A lot of you are power users, who churn through an amazing amount of material and almost certainly couldn’t get through all that chaff, without an RSS reader.
And, yes you’re probably more influential than the average reader, but fact is, you’re in the overwhelming minority. And when I say overwhelming, I mean OVERWHELMING. This Yahoo research conducted in October shows that just 4 per cent of users are aware that they use RSS and of that 4 per cent about 5 per cent use dedicated news readers. Now, I’m anything but a math geek, but I can do enough of my sums to conclude that’s bugger all. And with the increased absorption of RSS into personalised home pages, browsers and email packages as well as the rise of better, more efficient content aggregators I can’t see those sums changing.
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So let’s look at this situation from a publisher’s view for just a minute. One of Australia’s biggest tech publishers has only just reluctantly started publishing RSS feeds, something they have been loathe to do because they are worried it will cannibalise the quite substantial revenue that they earn from advertising placed in their email shots. They’ve finally accepted that RSS is the real thing and that if they ignore that vehicle they risk losing altogether the growing amount of people using RSS feeds as their gateway to content. Now, who’s going to be the person to tell these publishers that not only do they have to put at risk their email revenues, but now they’re expected to jeopardise the other part of their business that is booming right now, which is online advertising revenue?
Yes, you can use Feedburner to put advertising into RSS feeds, but if someone wants to show me the publisher making big dollars from AdSense ads stuck to the bottom of a blog feed, then I’m more than happy to hear it.
So while RSS junkies right now form a very, vocal segment of the blogosphere, if I’m a publisher there’s no way I’m going full feed until someone can start showing me the dollars. And I’m sorry if that upsets many people’s ideological sensitivities but let’s get real and accept the fact that as the blogosphere becomes more and more commercial, and hopefully becomes a real, sustainable publishing movement, then that’s going to be the commercial reality.
The only thing I will say, is that if feeds do start to generate real revenue, and they will probably need to have big intrusive advertising like the wonderful ads in this post from our very, generous, altruistic sponsor Web 2.0 Corporation, then that does have the possibility to be a game changer for media and publishers.
(BTW, if someone uses an RSS reader because they feel that’s the only way they can get through all the material they find valuable, but a lot of the valuable content comes only as a partial feed because of publishing realities doesn’t that defeat the point?)
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P.S. If Feedburner isn’t acquired by Google this year, I’ll be very surprised. But then that’s a whole ‘nother blog and a whole ‘nother opportunity to bring you more riveting messages from Web 2.0 Corporation.