Phil Sim

Web, media, PR and… footy

Scoble: Let me tell you a bit about journalists…

You can always tell a really, strong argument when it’s based on the premise “A lot of the people I talk to”…

A couple of days ago, Robert Scoble posted this argument, arguing in favour of full-feeds and against a post made by fellow-Australian Duncan Riley, who has consistently argued in The Blog Herald that you can’t build a blog business using RSS feeds.

Firsly, it was nice to see Scoble actually post something of significance on his blog! It was actually a pretty well-argued and thoughtful piece, despite being fundamentall flawed.

To quickly paraphrase, Scoble admits that RSS advertising sucks right now, but it will get better and that some time in the future, a commercial model based on RSS advertising will eventually arise and the world will be a shiny, happy place. However, he’s managed to formulate an argument as to why you should use full-feeds today and it’s based on this line:

“You see, when I get together with journalists their RSS usage is WAY WAY WAY higher than the rest of the population. Journalists are like me. They sift through lots of information looking for the gems for their readers. That’s how they build audiences. RSS lets people read about 10 times the amount of content than if you just use a Web browser. That’s why journalists, connectors, bloggers, geeks who care about productivity, etc use RSS. It’s also why advertising in RSS isn’t yet working. These people aren’t good targets for loosely-targetted advertising.”

My business makes coin by providing information services to journalists and providing information about journalists to the marketing communications industry, so for once I can actually claim to know what I’m talking about here. And let me tell you, Robert, the first thing about journalists is that, unlike yourself, they’re not about to blackban a blogger simply because they don’t provide full-feeds. Journo’s don’t have the luxury of being precious about their information sources, like Scoble.

I can just see the scenario:
EDITOR: “How the f*ck, did you miss this story, Sim, you’re supposed to be all over this beat. What the f*ck am I paying you for”.
SIM: “Sorry boss, the story originated from a blog that only offered partial feeds, so I refuse to read it anymore. No links for them, I say!”.

Have a look at most journalists reading lists. Fifty bucks they’re all sources of authority (I’m sorry but journalists don’t read 855 blogs from people who in the end amount to Nigel Nobodies). RSS feeds are great for very quickly checking out what your competitors do or if people in positions of authority are saying anything interest. And you can work that out with one paragraph and even a headline if need be. Journalists very quickly develop an ability to sum up whether a piece of information is going to be of any use within about 3 seconds of opening it.

And let’s face it, how many people are going to get a story picked up by traditional press, anyway. If you do have a story on your blog that’s worthy of note in the New York Times, I’d highly suggest rather than posting a full-feed and hoping that one of their journalists has plugged you into the RSS feeder, that you send them an email and let them know why it’s important. I can guarantee you have a ten thousand percent better chance of having your little gem picked up because you know for certainty that each and every journalist reads their inbox.

Scoble signs off:

But, what do you think? Are content providers going to gain anything to tell connectors, journalists, bloggers to screw off?

What does Squash think? A really, good connector is someone who can connect you to people, places, ideas that you’d not have come across otherwise. Like a journalist, a really, good connector shouldn’t be precious about their information sources.

P.S. Any by the way, if you’re a blogger and you can’t get the primary gist of your article across with a headline and the first couple of pars, then go out and buy a Journalism 101 book. Tell me any professional media site that doesn’t rely on those two elements to let readers decide whether content is relevent or not. 

Filed under: Blogs, Feeds, XML/RSS/Atom

“Most people are morons”

My ‘old media’ mates think I’m a raving, lunatic radical. My ‘new media’ mates thing I’m a closed-minded dinosaur. For our part, how anyone can not understand that Squash is clearly the voice of reason, is quite simply beyond us.

However, the torrent of comments that my recent post Why RSS will never “break through”, showed me once again that people who have worked in the mass media and those who work in ‘new media’ are generally worlds apart.

A bunch of you, the new media one’s reckon I’m a goose or as Chuck Houghton put it in his blog “[Squash]’s taking a pretty good beating in the comments”.

Kevin Leversee, of Web 2.0 consulting company Pandora2 said:

Phil, man what an arrogant statement, bro. Get out of the stoneage. RSS and other technologies that support the remixing of information to that user’s selection and relevance is exactly the whole meme behind what we are all doing…

Of course, Kevin would say that.

Kai Turner made an interesting point..

Whether or not people ‘get’ the technology is a moot point. The technology will be integrated behind the scenes and people won’t notice the difference… I think your assertion that ordinary people don’t need media filtering is a bit short-sighted. You’re speaking in terms of the text/blog space. When downloading television programmes and movies becomes commonplace, people will want to tweak their feeds as part of the discovery of “what’s on tonight”

While ‘drx’ argued:

RSS has already broken through in this field, even people who don’t use a newsreader read information edited by people who do so.

Meanwhile, all the people I know who work in the mainstream media and who dropped by with comments agreed.

For example, Simon Sharwood commented:

The problem with so much of this debate is that we assume Everyone is Like Us.
But not everyone is… Tabloids and “current affairs” shows… that’s where the audiences are in truly significant numbers. There’s little evidence [average consumers] are interested in trawling the blogosphere to find weight loss technqiues or tales of plucky kiddies beating the odds. Until online media meets their needs, most of Web 2.0 will remain avant garde.

Indeed, as David Flynn noted:

Interestingly, I believe it’s journalists like Phil (and Simon and myself) who have enough experience in dealing with the ‘real’ world (rather than a more closed-circuit community of peers) that we can balance our own RSS rapture against the reality that for most people, rabid world-changing RSS consumpion just ain’t gonna happen.

I think the ‘real world’ experience David is talking about, relates to the reality that it is almost always harder than anyone ever expects to effect change. How many entrepreneurs actually hit those numbers they put in their business plan. How many editors manage to grow circulation by the numbers they originally forecast. Dot Com Episode I surely showed us that.

At the moment, a revolutionary is happening – down in this corner of the world. One day, the rest of the world may catch up. I just won’t be holding my breath for it to happen – I value my oxygen far too much.

All, of which can be summarised by Matthew Ingram’s brilliant comment:

True, Phil. But that’s because most people are morons


Filed under: Big Media, Feeds, New Media, XML/RSS/Atom

When will Google acquire Feedburner?

TechCrunch has an article asking “When will Yahoo acquire Technorati?” and it makes a good argument as to why it should, and probably could, happen.

I reckon the same thing goes for Google and Feedburner, a move I’ve suggested here before. Look at what Google is doing with GoogleBase, which as explained here is really about building out the world’s biggest XML database. That’s got to be complementary to Feedburner’s business. Then consider if you put Feedburner and Google’s RSS ad programs together, you’ve got a pretty massive headstart on any other competitor at a time when MS and Yahoo are both coming into the market. After all, if RSS does take off this year as everyone is predicting thats going to be a big growth market in Google’s core online advertising space (and let’s face it Google hasn’t really done anything of note in the RSS space yet and would get some much needed RSS cred along with this acquisition as well).

The nice thing going in Feedburner’s favour is that once you’ve published your feed at a particular address it’s an absolute bitch to move it anywhere else. So Feedburner’s critical mass is absolutely valuable as are the deals it has done with big publishers like Reuters. I just can’t see Google letting such a key asset in the online advertising market end up in the hands of Yahoo! and Microsoft.

Filed under: Feeds

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

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