Do RSS aggregators offer a true opportunity for news discovery, significant time savings and even for money-oriented RSS business opportunities?
Photo credit: Loic Hay
Kathleen Gilroy, CEO of the Otter Group, is right now putting the final touches on a new product that consists of a day-long boot camp introducing people to a new paradigm for working in the networked information economy. The workshop to be launched this fall is combined with blog and podcast hosting and a year-long membership in a professional social network made up of all boot camp participants.
As part of your registration for the Boot Camp, the Otter Group will set up for you, your own blog site, modeled on the Otter Group web site. Once you are set up, you will be able to modify and update your content without the need for programmers or designers. And because your new site is built on a blog, it will enable you to build a set of outgoing links and to classify your own content with easy-to-use tags that will improve your visibility and exposure through major search engines while giving you correct first start into effectively leveraging popular contextual advertising and related monetization opportunities.
During the boot camp, individuals will learn how to build their online profile and how to publish articles, photos, and podcasts to their blog sites.
One of they sections of the boot camp is entitled, "The Feed You Need," and Kathleen has reached out to me to get some first-hand feedback on my personal take on business RSS use, my experiences, its key benefits and advantages. According to Kathleen, this is the boot camp section in which she "will be talking about RSS and setting up filters and people in their RSS aggregator to capture and re-publish critical information."
Here is my original unedited feedback to Kathleen request for supplying this section of the workshop with the testimonial of someone who has explored, tested and used RSS not just for personal consumption but also to create and verify new business opportunities.
Photo credit: Kosso
How do you manage RSS feeds?
To manage all of my RSS feeds I have been using multiple tools for a long time: Bloglines.com to aggregate and read my favourite feeds; Technorati.com to search them and their related “folksonomy tags”; RSSMix, Blogdigger Groups, PubSub, Carp, Feedroll, FeedDigest and many others to create effective news radars on specific themes.
Today I have greatly reduced the number of these tools, as time available has decreased, and new web services and technologies are available to me. For feed discovery, gathering, aggregation, filtering and even publication I now use MySyndicaat, a great new web-based service, which while still in early Beta (Aug 2006) is nonetheless showing many uniquely valuable features for the newsmastering type of work I do.
On the other hand there are now a good number of sites that do the filtering and selection for me on specific topics (e.g.: TechMeme.com), and I therefore use them as my reference sources instead of scanning the hundreds of individual sources that trhey themselves tap into.
How many feeds do you have in your aggregator?
There are about 250 feeds inside my aggregator, and these include both original authors as well as persistent searches on specific search engines which are RSS-friendly. But what should be noted, is that while the overall number of feeds I subscribe to keeps increasing steadily, the number of actual aggregated newsfeeds I look at every day is unchanged. What this means is that thanks to the ability of these RSS aggregators to aggregate into one news-stream my selection of specific sources and persistent searches, I only expand the sources that I tap into, but my topic-channels to follow remain the same.
And for those of you worrying that each new additional sources adds more time to read it, I reply with the following:
a) not all sources publish everyday.
b) filtering techniques allow me now to eliminate duplicates, posts on the same topic, and to exclude any news post that doesn't fit very specific criteria I have set.
Thus, the news-stream gets gradually better without becoming proportionally richer in number of news items to read.
How do you manage your RSS feeds in terms of persistent search and adding new material, finding good material?
Persistent searches are the bread and butter of talented newsmasters (those who select, aggregate, filter and edit such RSS-based aggregated news-streams) and using them makes for a major difference in the quality of results you can get. The basic secret I have discovered is NOT to use broad searches, but to multiple, very fine, specific search queries as to limit as much as possible non-relevant stuff. Good queries are always at least two-words long, and focusing on the title or very first paragraph certainly increases the relevance of what you may find.
In terms of finding new material, new sources and valuable new additions to my RSS feeds collection, all you need to do is to look in the fine net that your persistent searches invisibly create and to find in there any and all of the new news sources or blog sites that have started posting content on that selected topic.
How much time do you spend each day reading?
My scanning of the news headlines on all the topics that I follow (please consider that I am no normal user in this respect – as I manage directly three web sites and over 25 different topic themes within them) takes about one hour and half each day. This is now a lot more efficient and less time consuming than it used to be before where not only I had to navigate out to several different web sites but I also had to gradually cut and paste out each item worth of interest or comment. Now everything happens in one place and while I browse and select my preferred news stories I can also save, bookmark, edit, annotate and even republish any of them.
How do you save good links?
Yes, I use delicious, and I find it a truly valuable too for archiving, referencing, resource discovery and even for syndicating and republishing stuff that is of interest to me.
I would recommend everyone to learn and use delicious and would make it a required topic in any new media, online journalism class.
Can you quantify how much time/money this saves you and how much business it has yielded?
RSS has positively saved me thousands of hours of manual work, and it has given me opportunities that I had not even imagined possible a few years ago. The RSS benefits that I appreciate the most and which have given most return for my investment are:
a) Reach: Extension of my reach, visibility and exposure online – thanks to the number of popular RSS aggregators and the many RSS search engines and directories out there it is now much easier for many to find out about me and become my readers.
b) Accessibility: loyal readers can get all my breaking news without needing to come to my site each time
c) Syndication: republishing my content on other sites, hubs and portals it is now very easy. Partners, international editions and supporters can easily syndicate any and all of my news headlines on other web sites.
d) Information Discovery: finding highly relevant breaking news on the topics I research and work on it is now much more manageable and less time consuming thanks to RSS and the new technologies that allow me to aggregate only what I am interested in.
e) New Business Opportunities: RSS newsmastering, or the ability to aggregate, filter and compile topic-specific news digests, has opened up several interesting opportunities to create quality new services while extracting good revenue from them. The same goes for feed sponsorship and ads integration. While I am not particularly in favour of this last one, there are specific instances and formats of RSS ad integration that will yield certainly good results.
Can you share your total time savings and earnings generated by having adopted RSS?
Of course this is a difficult question to answer as it is one in which making reliable and publishable calculations is always source of debate. But, since there is no gain or understanding unless we share abit mor eof what we all know, here are the numbers and unpretending calculations I gave to Kathleen:
Time savings: 2 hrs per day @ $ 50/hr for at least two consecutive years = 50*2*6 (workdays a week) = $ 600*52 (weeks in a year) = $ 31.200*2 (years) = $ 62.400 or 1152 saved hours of my time (144 days!).
Earnings: Since I utilize RSS only in a very limited way for direct revenue, it is much more difficult to calculate this one.
Sponsorships of RSS feeds: $ 2-3.500 / year
Indirect earnings due to extra visibility, exposure and consequent increased relevant traffic are more difficult to calculate. What I can estimate is all based on my present web and RSS traffic stats. Today's official stats count gives me well above10,000 unique web visitors per day across my three main sites, and about 8-9,000 RSS readers across the same online properties (on an average day). Let's assume that of those 8-9,000 RSS readers only 10% or less will click through to see a full story on my web sites (though I think that percentage is much higher). How much would these influence my site earnings. Given that standard web readers on my sites have an average clickthrough rate of about 12% (very high) I could assume that about 80 to 100 RSS readers are directly clicking and influencing my contextual advertising based earnings on a daily basis. How much would that account for? $ 15-20/day or $ 100 week. That is about $5000/year or $10,000 in the last two years. Considering I have yet no advertising manager or anyone dedicated to monetize and promote the several monetization opportunities I could extract from RSS sponsorship of news feeds and in particular of thematic newsradars this could be very easily doubled or tripled with little extra effort.
Total RSS-related earnings: $ 8000/year.
Photo credit: ejk
What's your take?