Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

RSS Monetization? The Game Has Changed; Same Rules May Not Apply

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Jeff Jarvis reports about the hot issue of RSS "monetization" and business potential sparked off by last Thursday live online event at RSS Weekly.

Photo credit: Constanten Schneider (22)
Kyiv, Ukraine

I must thank Jeff, and probably the other special guests who sparked this conversation online last week, for offering me this little opportunity to speak my mind, a tiny little bit, on this very important topic.

I have been able to express these ideas so far only in private chats, and while I take these issues and my position as granted, I realize that I have not yet made any effort to share and explain how I personally see the marriage of advertisements and RSS as it is being sold to us by some of the major opinion leaders and reporters in this sector.

Jeff Jarvis position is very strong and clear on this front, and I think it generally reflects the view that, many, including major online advertising agencies, have about the convergence of RSS and advertising.

In good substance, Jeff Jarvis, calls for means and ways to make RSS newsfeeds more accountable, more easily audited, in a clear and honest effort to adapt to these content distribution technology, with the same accounting devices and paraphernalia built-in the traditional mass media ad business.

We haven't noticed that the game has changed. Same rules need not apply.

We are not in a mass publishing market anymore.
Mass ads don't work in RSS feeds.

RSS users and readers have expressed need to receive dedicated info on a topic with maximum privacy.

If you start to poison your quality content with stuff that you, as a publisher have not yourself chosen, what kind of service are you really providing that is different from traditional email blasts and newsletters?

How does your feed stand to compete with those that will choose to stay true to RSS information ecology, and that will smartly have feed non-intrusive sponsors or dedicated Adfeeds?

Here are my counterpoints to Jeff specific comments and ideas. I sincerely wish this may serve as a spark for greater and open-sided discussion. There are no witches to be killed.

RSS I: What RSS needs to make money... and grow

: I joined in an RSS webcast the other day and ranted on what RSS needs to grow -- which is also to say what it needs to make money, for if content creators can't make money from it (or at least not lose money because of it), they won't join in... but when they do join in, RSS will grow and become a new standard for delivering content across multiple media, clients, and devices. It goes hand-in-hand, or hand-in-pocket.

Especially since RSS will be read by multiple clients on multiple devices (see the next two posts), we need to set business standards -- or at least establish business needs -- now so that as it proliferates it prospers. But I do not see any means of getting those business needs into standards-setting discussion now. Here are my opening bids for business needs:

1. Unique users. If content creators cannot report unique users they cannot get advertising. Period. So RSS readers must set unique-user cookies. Period.

Disagree. This is not traditional advertising. RSS metrics should be based on who your audience is, based on what kind of specialized content you provide and effective clickthrough, and clickthrough-to-purchase ratios. I know this is not the way you work with ads now, but that is precisely my point.

2. Traffic. RSS readers must allow content creators to count displays -- versus just downloads -- of RSS items.

That would be nice. Again, I am not counting on it nor I feel this is a requirement unless you keep looking at things with old fashioned glasses. Why do I care about the numbers if my goal is to sell. "How much can you make me sell for what I pay" you should be the right question to ask.

3. Advertising. If content creators cannot put advertising on feeds, they will not give full content and will give only headlines to link back to their sites where they have the ads. But partial feeds are a pain, right? So there's the carrot/stick: Give them ads, they will give you content. That's the way the world works.

It doesn't have to be that way. I, as a user, do not like interruptive ads that are paid for by someone with no endorsement from my news source. I want non-intrusive ads, contextual and relevant to the information that is being provided to me, and I want full endorsement from the publisher/author/blogger. Inside RSS feeds there can be space for one or more endorsed and relevant sponsors, or there can be a specific section (if not a dedicated Adfeed) dedicated to the purpose. The times require this. Let's not replicate the old media advertising paradigm in the first new independent territory we have just discovered.

4. Brand. I'm adding this one. As a reader, I find it frustrating that I can't see the brand of a feed unless I scroll up on FeedDemon and read the one line atop the screen. Brand matters to the content creator, of course, but it also can matter to the reader: You want to know what you're reading.

Absolutely right. The creator/author field is displayed in many newsreaders below the title of each story, but yes, you have all my support on this one. Let's hear the geeks and what they suggest.

5. Navigation. I'm adding this one, too. But I know I'm not alone here: Like many RSS fans, I use the feeds to alert me that something is new and if it is of the slightest interest, I prefer to read the post on the web page with full functionality. It's a pain to get to that web page now. The easy solution to Nos. 4 & 5 is to include a brand element that is also clickable to the creator's web page.

Unclear I don't seem to have this pain Jeff (maybe I am not understanding you right). When I click on an RSS news story I am immediately taken to the Web page where that story is. It's fast, immediate and effective. In my newsreader this happens without firing any separate browser or tool. Is it a matter of the newsreader you use, or am I missing something?

Now I know some will accuse me of just turning feeds into HTML and I will agree that this can go too far real fast. But there is also good need to consider this functionality to make RSS prosper.

Didn't see that attempt. Rather I see a too easy and uncritically questioned application of old ways of advertising and promoting products/services that doesn't take advantage of the revolution underneath RSS: the passionate uncontrived and ethical voice of the authors of those feeds. If you miss in taking into account this critical transformation, which forever changes the assumptions and goals of those who make the news and the reasons for which they do so, we are not really making any progress here.

But that maybe the very difference that keeps us apart, for now: I don't want to "monetize". I want to first understand and then leverage the new publishing paradigm in a way that wipes out traditional interruptive and presumptuous advertising as we know it and gives way to ethical, author-endorsed, contextual, unintrusive information for complementary tools and services.

This is what I am looking for.

That's precisely why we need some means of soliciting, discussing, and incorporating business needs into the future of RSS. There are a few ways that can happen. Dave Winer just left the RSS advisory board and they're looking for a replacement; I suggest they get someone (no, not me) with a business outlook to join in. Or someone can put together an RSS business summit. Whatever. If someone does not take this bull by its horns, RSS will grow too slowly.

I don't have this fear. I rather see some independent publisher and some brave new agencies take the lead by experimenting and testing out some really new and effective ways.

Unfortunately, I haven't seen anything worth of mention on this front so far.

Lots of talking but no-one courageous enough to offer some opportunities to test these possible new grounds.

My humble take on this, is that who will get this first will find lots of supporters very soon.

Readers' Comments    
2004-10-14 16:11:10


I think that i like this site and

i get what i need in here .

Thanks alot .

posted by Robin Good on Wednesday, June 30 2004, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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