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3/23/2005
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The Expanding RSS Universe

The RSS universe is relatively small; a recent Pew Internet & American Life Project survey estimates that about 5% of Web content is delivered via RSS, or Really Simple Syndication. But a just-released survey of subscribers of the ultra-techie blog and news site Slashdot shows user

The RSS universe is relatively small; a recent Pew Internet & American Life Project survey estimates that about 5% of Web content is delivered via RSS, or Really Simple Syndication. But a just-released survey of subscribers of the ultra-techie blog and news site Slashdot shows users want more from their RSS feeds.Slashdot was among the first sites to offer subscribers RSS feeds and sees its readers as the archetypes of consumers of high-tech content found on the Web.

In a memo describing the study, taken in February, Slashdot's operators say they were surprised to discover that survey respondents read fewer RSS feeds than they had anticipated. On average, respondents read items from 4.3 Web sites via RSS. But nearly three-quarters of the respondents say they plan to increase the number of sites for which they'll receive content through RSS. Also, a quarter of the survey-takers say they'd like to receive their Slashdot RSS feeds over cell phones.

Asked about the benefits from reading site updates via RSS, three-quarters cite getting headlines, followed by automated updates, 63%, and faster than the Web, 43%.

The biggest complaints: not enough sites with feeds and difficulty setting up each feed.

Who are these respondents? More managers among the 229 survey respondents than the typical Slashdot reader. Nearly seven in 10 had jobs, most of the others were students. Among the employed, 12% categorized themselves as in corporate managers; 31% IT managers; 12% technical staffers; 27% development pros; and 20%, non-tech staffers. And more than half say they're involved in deciding what technology their companies will buy.

Slashdot cofounder Jeff Bates, VP of editorial sites for Open Source Technology Group-an operator of a number of technology Web sites including Slashdot, sees RSS as a technology to grow its audience and attract advertisers. "As we rely on RSS to streamline our content more efficiently for our users," he says, "we are also examining new ways to enable marketers to tap into RSS as a vehicle for audience outreach and acquisition."

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