January 4, 2010
As social media grows as a traffic driver to blogs and news sites, will 2010 be the end of the full public RSS feed?Nearly a decade ago I (along with many others) hoped we would move away from the pageview as the metric used for revenue creation for media sites. At that time "portals" were the hot ticket and pageview-driven revenue was the name of the game. Sadly a decade later we are still living in a pageview-driven economy. I will leave my thoughts on the reasons why we've never moved away from the pageview for another day.
RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication and is a way for content sites to allow readers to read content outside of the typical website. Dave Winer created the format years ago and the popularity of RSS has grown along with tools like Google Reader that let you read the content on a variety of devices. Over the past few months I've noticed more media sites (e.g. blogs, news sites, etc.) moving to partial RSS feeds. The New York Times only offers partial RSS feeds. InformationWeek runs partial RSS feeds. However most blogs are still offering full RSS feeds. As Twitter, Facebook, Friendfeed and other social services have grown, so has the ability for these services to send good quality, monetizable traffic to media sites. Users who complained for years that they would only read content in a full RSS feed are clicking links inside social streams like never before. Many media sites post all of their links inside their social media streams. And once a user reaches the media site, they are more likely to interact with the site which drives even more pageviews and in turn, revenue. Content sites live and die by the pageview. As advertising dollars continue to dry up, a move to partial feeds will provide content sites with additional revenue. Users will gripe about the change for about two weeks. That's the typical "gripe time" for any change on the Internet. Then users will just visit the content sites to read and interact with the content. This would be a moot point had RSS advertising taken off. Most publishers I talk to are making pennies a day offering ads in their feeds. And from my research, many of the sites offering only partial feeds are still displaying ads in the partial feeds. Two years ago I proposed the idea of paying for full content feeds. Once all sites move to partial feeds for mass consumption, perhaps my concept can move forward. The basic idea is that a reader would pay a media site $1/month to receive a full, free of advertising RSS feed. Even two years later I still believe the model could work and would get content sites away from the advertising-only revenue model. If the big media publishers either have moved or might move away from full RSS feeds, will blogs follow? I am interested in your thoughts - leave them in the comments and let's debate where RSS will head in 2010.
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