Phil Sim

Web, media, PR and… footy

Why I still think I’m right about partial feeds

This Blog Post is Brought to you by Web 2.0 Corp. Go on, flip us. You know you want to.

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.

We interupt this blog posting to bring you another message from Web 2.0 Corp. Revenue doesn’t matter, we’re changing the world. Let’s flip.

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?)

Thank you for reading this blog post. Web 2.0 Corporation would like to wish you a happy day and remind you that if you have a spare $20m sitting around, we know a good place you can put it.

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.

Filed under: Blogs, Feeds

5 Responses

  1. […] My last post on this issue entitled Blogging Copyright has caught the eye of the victim (heh) and has gotten a bit of a response. I suppose that when you say something stupid on the internet, people notice (yea, I know, look who’s talking…). […]

  2. The ‘ads’ don’t bother me. After all, have you looked at modern commercial Web sites? They’re drowning in Flash ads, Javascript garbage, etc.; compared to that, text ads/links inserted into a feed are nothing.

    You’re also missing a larger point; ultimately, the main consumers of RSS feeds aren’t going to be people, but programs. Structured weblogging, Atom Publishing Protocol, etc. are the building-blocks for automated parsing of content by these ‘agents’ we’ve been hearing about for the last 25 years or more; the metadata infrastructure is finally becoming rich enough to support that kind of thing, and full feeds are key to ensuring that your content is available for these agents to parse and, hopefully, to bring to the attention of their masters, ads and all.

  3. Phil Sim says:

    Roland, I’m actually hearing you on this point and it’s what I was referring to when I said: “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.”

  4. fzelders says:

    My blog post (in Dutch) http://www.fredscapes.nl/categories/weblogWikiWebfeed/2005/12/27.html#a613 was a (rather tricky) experiment to show people the danger of offline reading full content feeds. In the post mentioned I drew (on purpose) a wrong conclusion from reactions given to several posts (I referred to) discussing blog plagiarism and copyright.

  5. Matt says:

    Just thought of something else, even if this post is a little dated. If you were to put an ad at the top of each feed item (you can do it with a CDATA tag in RSS), you are theoretically getting a pageview every time a user clicks on a story that’s interesting. So if you have a feed that puts out ten new items a day and the user clicks on four feed items, they are seeing four times as many ads as the guy that’s only signed up for the newsletter. That’s four times the ad revenue across the RSS basis (or at least the way I see it).

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