Blog Herald doesn’t understand why full-text feeds work

For the past couple of months Blog Herald has been subtly attacking me. I thought it was just one of those suckups trying to bait me to link to them but today I saw the real reason for Duncan’s tone: he thinks I don’t want him or anyone else to make money off of content (that link takes you to his post titled: Steve Rubel doesn’t get it: RSS advertising sucks).

He’s wrong about my views, but he’s not the only one (I was forwarded some email from a private mailing list where some of the participants skewered me in the same way that Blog Herald just did but in a more personal way — all because I want full-text feeds).

Ahh, I see Kent Newsome sees through Duncan’s post.

So, let’s get to it: what are my views?

1) That I won’t subscribe to any feed that isn’t full text. Well, except for my brother’s blog.
2) That treating RSS readers well will get you more Web browser readers.
3) That full-text sites will be more profitable because of this than partial-text sites.

So, let’s look at the world of RSS. First, you MUST separate the world into two buckets:

1) The way they are today.
2) The way we want them to be tomorrow.

Personally I want a world where everyone uses a feed reader and subscribes to their favorite blogs, news sites, etc. But let’s be honest. Such a world is a LONG way from being here. We could go into the reasons, but that’s for another post at another time. Let’s not rathole on this.

Instead, let’s look at how things are TODAY. Today only a very small percentage of people use RSS and RSS News Aggregators. Even if you include the people who don’t have any clue that they are using RSS (like those people who use live.com or MyYahoo to subscribe).

The reason RSS advertising doesn’t work today is:

1) The audiences are too small.
2) The audiences are too geeky and too full of smart people. Hint, those people don’t click on advertisements unless they are very targetted!

Now when I talk with audiences I see two trends: 1) Blog-heavy audiences, like the Northern Voice conference, have about 80% usage of RSS News Aggregators (these audiences do NOT represent the mainstream user). 2) Blog-lite audiences, like Ireland’s IT@Cork conference, only see about 2% RSS usage (these are far more mainstream — in fact, I’d argue that the mainstream user is far less likely to use RSS than that. Heck, if you really want to get mainstream, only about 1/6th of the world’s population even uses a computer).

But, now, how do you get traffic to visit your content? Well, I’ve been studying that too. There are a few ways:

1) Get your content listed on a news site with a lot of flow. Something like Yahoo or Google or MSN’s news page. Not many of us have access to that. With one exception that I’ll note below.
2) Get a journalist with a lot of flow to link to you. When the New York Times links to you you’ll get lots of flow.
3) Get lots of bloggers to link to you. I do get lots of flow when lots of bloggers link to me.
4) Get the memetrackers like Digg, Memeorandum, TailRank, Slashdot etc to link to you.

Yeah, there are probably others, but in terms of buckets of how you get traffic, these are the major ones.

OK, you might be reading my words in an RSS aggregator, right? What happens when you click on a link? It takes you to a Web browser, right?

Ahhh! That’s how you can make money!

Aside, there are at least three ways content owners today make money off of advertising:

1) Show a banner ad when you visit the page (the content owner gets paid everytime you visit that page. For instance, I just went to cnn.com and there’s a banner ad there and they probably got a few cents from my visit.
2) Click-to-pay advertising. You see all those Google ads all over the place? Chris Pirillo’s blog, for instance, has Google ads (so does Blog Herald). These sites only get paid if you actually click on the advertising. For instance, some of the words you click on can be worth up to $60 PER CLICK to Google and other advertising companies (like Mortgages). 
3) Interruptive advertising. News.com uses a lot of these kinds of ads. They are Flash movies that fly over the page, or pop up, or run across the page until you click their close or “skip” buttons. These are also paid by impression, or everytime you load the browser up. 

Anyway, back to traffic. To get it, first you should appease the connectors. Er, the bloggers, the journalists, and the geeks.

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.

Here’s a question: if you were an advertising company, what advertisement would you put into this post? One for diapers? Digital cameras? RSS aggregators?

Most of the algorithms for advertising would just look at the words I typed. So, now you’ll get ads for all the above. Loosely-targetted. This isn’t like going to a search engine and actively searching for, say, digital camera info, and getting a Nikon advertisement. Geeks, connectors, journalists LIKE that kind of advertising. But we don’t like interruptive styles of advertising. Which is what we get in RSS feeds today.

So, how does anyone make any money?

Well, let’s stay in TODAY’S world. In today’s world you get journalists, geeks, bloggers, connectors, to read your content and link to it. That’ll bring a larger audience to visit your Web page. How do you do that? Serve out full-text RSS. Why? Cause by doing that you treat the connector with the most possible respect and give him/her the easiest way to consume your content and link to it.

Then you put advertising on your page. That could be a banner ad. That could be a Google AdSense block (or Yahoo or MSN’s equivilent). Or you could even be really rude and put a Flash ad interstitial (I’ve seen more and more of this kind of “interruptive” advertising). Or, you could get really creative like Honda did and create advertising people will link to as content itself.

Since only a small percentage of your audience will be using RSS (even if you’re a tech blogger, less than half of your audience will be using RSS on the average day) you’ll make money.

Now, the fear is that the model will go away tomorrow thanks to RSS being built into IE 7, Safari, Firefox, Opera and other browsers. Whoa! Alert, alert, if that happens that means the unwashed masses won’t be seeing your interstitial Flash advertisements anymore, or refreshing your banner ads, or seeing your Google AdSense blocks.

OK, in such a world advertising will have to change. But, let’s be honest, what percentage of people will use RSS in such a world? I’d argue that it’ll be a small percentage for a very long time. My mom just doesn’t read enough sites to care about RSS. I doubt she will until she gets into blogging (which is possible, but I don’t expect it anytime soon).

Plus, what makes the usage model of reading a Web page in an aggregator so different from reading it in a browser window? Why couldn’t Google put the same AdSense block into RSS that it puts next to Chris Pirillo’s content, for instance? Oh, wait, Google is already doing that.

But, that’s also ratholing in an argument that really deserves its own post.

What people who say that full-text RSS hurts their advertising possibilities don’t get is that if you treat connectors, bloggers, journalists better, you’ll get MORE audience to your Web pages, which will get you more advertising hits.

Or am I missing something here? Either way, you can call me all the names you want, but I won’t subscribe to partial text feeds. Yes, I’m more likely to link to Web pages that also serve full-text feeds out. But don’t mistake my demand that my content providers treat me better with some theory that I don’t want them to make money. That simply isn’t true and represents the worst of “stick-your-head-in-the-sand” kind of anti-change thinking. If you want to make money in this new world you are far more likely to do so by working with your best customers to find new ways to build audiences and serve better advertising toward them.

The one exception above? The folks who run Yahoo, MSN, and Microsoft’s main pages are heavy users of RSS. Why? Cause they are paid to find the best content. If they aren’t using RSS aggregators today I’d argue they should be fired. Why? Cause they aren’t being as productive as someone else (I can prove that an editor who reads content in an RSS aggregator is far more productive than someone who only uses a Web browser).

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

PS: Dave Winer has an interesting post this morning on why formats like RSS 2.0 work.

247 thoughts on “Blog Herald doesn’t understand why full-text feeds work

  1. I would like to comment on the bandwidth issue of RSS. Like some mentionned previously, there do is a concern regarding RSS (feeds) and their bandwidth usage. Currently only 8% of Internet users know what RSS are, but with all the browser-RSS integration that are coming up (like IE7), this number will increase a lot.

    We have come up with a solution called RSScache. It actually cut down bandwith usage by about 90%. RSScache is targeted at enterprises and webmasters that have low to high RSS traffic. If you have bandwidth concerns (or need an effective RSS caching system to speed up your requests), take a look on our site: http://www.rsscache.com

    Hope this can help some of you!

  2. I would like to comment on the bandwidth issue of RSS. Like some mentionned previously, there do is a concern regarding RSS (feeds) and their bandwidth usage. Currently only 8% of Internet users know what RSS are, but with all the browser-RSS integration that are coming up (like IE7), this number will increase a lot.

    We have come up with a solution called RSScache. It actually cut down bandwith usage by about 90%. RSScache is targeted at enterprises and webmasters that have low to high RSS traffic. If you have bandwidth concerns (or need an effective RSS caching system to speed up your requests), take a look on our site: http://www.rsscache.com

    Hope this can help some of you!

  3. I totally think full feed is the way to go. What’s holding us back is the old mindset. I blog about this here:

    Blog content ownership and control
    http://reblogger.wordpress.com/2006/02/08/blog-content-ownership-and-control/

    FeedFlare – building longevity into blog posts
    http://reblogger.wordpress.com/2006/03/01/feedflare-building-longevity-into-blog-posts/

    In essence the change over will come if we design and change the way we think so that we accept permanent ownership of the post by the creator and earns for the creator for years afterwards (unlike artwork where the item leaves the creator and never earns for the creator again).

    As long as we design for this, by retaining a connection with every copy of the post – no matter where it goes, for how long or how it is used – then we will have resolved the problem people have about giving out full feeds.

  4. I totally think full feed is the way to go. What’s holding us back is the old mindset. I blog about this here:

    Blog content ownership and control
    http://reblogger.wordpress.com/2006/02/08/blog-content-ownership-and-control/

    FeedFlare – building longevity into blog posts
    http://reblogger.wordpress.com/2006/03/01/feedflare-building-longevity-into-blog-posts/

    In essence the change over will come if we design and change the way we think so that we accept permanent ownership of the post by the creator and earns for the creator for years afterwards (unlike artwork where the item leaves the creator and never earns for the creator again).

    As long as we design for this, by retaining a connection with every copy of the post – no matter where it goes, for how long or how it is used – then we will have resolved the problem people have about giving out full feeds.

  5. hi scoble,
    regarding the full text feed, i wonder whether the settings on your wordpress blog has it set….to that. Under options…in the dash board under reading you have the option for full text or summary.

  6. hi scoble,
    regarding the full text feed, i wonder whether the settings on your wordpress blog has it set….to that. Under options…in the dash board under reading you have the option for full text or summary.

  7. Pingback: nan (not a nerd)
  8. Pingback: www.Wadblog.com
  9. One problem with full feeds though is other websites can now reprint your entire article for free on their website and users never have to click through to your website. Its an easy way for competing websites to steal content.

    Imagine if news organizations all published full feeds? Their news would appear on tons of websites and people would never have to click back to the news website. Imagine how much money these news websites would lose in advertising when people no longer have to visit their website to read the news.

    This more applies to non-blog websites publishing RSS feeds, though, but it would still be a concern for blog websites. Full feeds are NOT just used in feed readers by techies, they are also used on third-party websites to provide content from outside sources.

    Although this could be used as an advantage if that was your goal. If your non-blog or blog website published an RSS feed with the entire article, you could encourage non-blog websites to published a automatically changing syndicated column on their website using XML-to-HTML and RSS technologies. You would just have to make sure that there were branding and links in the article itself to insure that most websites would still link back to you. Unscrupulous websites could still scrap your name and link and branding off of it, but most wouldn’t.

    So if you published full feeds, be aware that it might just appear… in full… on someone else’s website. If that’s okay with you, publish a full feed. It could be an advantage if you brand it and provide links to your website.

  10. One problem with full feeds though is other websites can now reprint your entire article for free on their website and users never have to click through to your website. Its an easy way for competing websites to steal content.

    Imagine if news organizations all published full feeds? Their news would appear on tons of websites and people would never have to click back to the news website. Imagine how much money these news websites would lose in advertising when people no longer have to visit their website to read the news.

    This more applies to non-blog websites publishing RSS feeds, though, but it would still be a concern for blog websites. Full feeds are NOT just used in feed readers by techies, they are also used on third-party websites to provide content from outside sources.

    Although this could be used as an advantage if that was your goal. If your non-blog or blog website published an RSS feed with the entire article, you could encourage non-blog websites to published a automatically changing syndicated column on their website using XML-to-HTML and RSS technologies. You would just have to make sure that there were branding and links in the article itself to insure that most websites would still link back to you. Unscrupulous websites could still scrap your name and link and branding off of it, but most wouldn’t.

    So if you published full feeds, be aware that it might just appear… in full… on someone else’s website. If that’s okay with you, publish a full feed. It could be an advantage if you brand it and provide links to your website.

  11. The bigger conversation around clipped feeds of interesting information makes you click through.

    I use RSS to gather information quickly about topics that are business and interest driven. If I have to click thru then I’m wasting time.

    Another thing about full feeds I can tell pretty quickly if I need to read the rest of the post or not.

  12. The bigger conversation around clipped feeds of interesting information makes you click through.

    I use RSS to gather information quickly about topics that are business and interest driven. If I have to click thru then I’m wasting time.

    Another thing about full feeds I can tell pretty quickly if I need to read the rest of the post or not.

  13. Aside from the great reasons you gave why full-text feeds are better, they’re also the *only* type of feeds that can get subscribed to BlogBurst:

    “Blog Requirements:

    * Full text syndication feed in RSS or Atom; most common blogging systems will work fine”

  14. Aside from the great reasons you gave why full-text feeds are better, they’re also the *only* type of feeds that can get subscribed to BlogBurst:

    “Blog Requirements:

    * Full text syndication feed in RSS or Atom; most common blogging systems will work fine”

  15. I’ve been debating the full-feed / partial feed thing myself. On one of my sites, I decided to use partial feeds because quite frankly the feeds on that particular site weren’t targeted at people using newsreaders. What I was aiming for was other websites picking up the feed and displaying my headlines, all of which link back to my website. And with the feed only being there a couple weeks, I already have websites displaying my feed on their websites.

    When you talk about feeds, you seems to assume that the only consumers are people using newreaders. In many cases, the consumers are other websites publishing your feed.

  16. I’ve been debating the full-feed / partial feed thing myself. On one of my sites, I decided to use partial feeds because quite frankly the feeds on that particular site weren’t targeted at people using newsreaders. What I was aiming for was other websites picking up the feed and displaying my headlines, all of which link back to my website. And with the feed only being there a couple weeks, I already have websites displaying my feed on their websites.

    When you talk about feeds, you seems to assume that the only consumers are people using newreaders. In many cases, the consumers are other websites publishing your feed.

  17. Robert,

    I am not going to slog through all 91 comments, but it seems that no one has yet made the observation that distinishing between aggregators and browsers may prove meaningless with time. We already see beginnings of integration in browsers like IE 7 and Firefox.

    There’s also integration coming from the other direction. My current RSS reader of choice is SharpReader, your typical tri-pane MDI app. The lower-right pane is the expected blog web page itself. You are reading this comment written in that pane. In fact, the third pane is simply an instance of IE. I often use it to tweak my own blog after emailing an entry in (MSN is still clueless about what to do with that burst of Word formatting data at the top of each entry). I’ll also link off a blog page to follow up something without leaving the pane.

    I therefore reject the thought that the future of RSS is an either/or proposition. Indeed, I think aggregators and browsers have to merge if we want people like our mothers joining the audience pool.

  18. Robert,

    I am not going to slog through all 91 comments, but it seems that no one has yet made the observation that distinishing between aggregators and browsers may prove meaningless with time. We already see beginnings of integration in browsers like IE 7 and Firefox.

    There’s also integration coming from the other direction. My current RSS reader of choice is SharpReader, your typical tri-pane MDI app. The lower-right pane is the expected blog web page itself. You are reading this comment written in that pane. In fact, the third pane is simply an instance of IE. I often use it to tweak my own blog after emailing an entry in (MSN is still clueless about what to do with that burst of Word formatting data at the top of each entry). I’ll also link off a blog page to follow up something without leaving the pane.

    I therefore reject the thought that the future of RSS is an either/or proposition. Indeed, I think aggregators and browsers have to merge if we want people like our mothers joining the audience pool.

  19. I don’t have time to read all the comments or the entire post but let me just say that using full text over partial feeds gives you a duplicate content penalty in Google if a news aggregator copies your text. This eventually pushes your weenie blog down into supplemental results in the search engines (mainly google) where you suffer, never getting your head above water. If you are not a weenie blogger you have “authority” which allows you to go forth and prosper in the engines. The main reason partial feeds have to be used by the rest of us Robert. I know, most people do not care or notice this stuff…

  20. I don’t have time to read all the comments or the entire post but let me just say that using full text over partial feeds gives you a duplicate content penalty in Google if a news aggregator copies your text. This eventually pushes your weenie blog down into supplemental results in the search engines (mainly google) where you suffer, never getting your head above water. If you are not a weenie blogger you have “authority” which allows you to go forth and prosper in the engines. The main reason partial feeds have to be used by the rest of us Robert. I know, most people do not care or notice this stuff…

  21. Pingback: Book Blog
  22. WOW, The debate is hot and heated.

    I think the one thing that publishers should be aware of is the user experience. As a publisher of content I would want the user to have the best possible experience so I would always recommend publishing full feeds for this reason.

    You have to understand that many publishers have no desire whatsoever to monetize their content in the traditional advertising model form (PPC or ads).

    Perhaps the publisher makes thier money by delivering quality value added content to their user base or target customer base. The readers become evangelist, or extends the WOMM (word of mouth marketing). The customers become more loyal…etc…they increase sales.

    Publish full content and extend the brand and don’t try to make a dime from advertising is a model that works for many businesses. They let everyone syndicate the full content.

    This is why a full RSS Content Delivery Strategy needs to be designed before businesses start blogging to make sure they can deliver what the audience wants.

    My vote is for full feed content.

    Rodney Rumford
    http://leveragedpromotion.com

  23. WOW, The debate is hot and heated.

    I think the one thing that publishers should be aware of is the user experience. As a publisher of content I would want the user to have the best possible experience so I would always recommend publishing full feeds for this reason.

    You have to understand that many publishers have no desire whatsoever to monetize their content in the traditional advertising model form (PPC or ads).

    Perhaps the publisher makes thier money by delivering quality value added content to their user base or target customer base. The readers become evangelist, or extends the WOMM (word of mouth marketing). The customers become more loyal…etc…they increase sales.

    Publish full content and extend the brand and don’t try to make a dime from advertising is a model that works for many businesses. They let everyone syndicate the full content.

    This is why a full RSS Content Delivery Strategy needs to be designed before businesses start blogging to make sure they can deliver what the audience wants.

    My vote is for full feed content.

    Rodney Rumford
    http://leveragedpromotion.com

Comments are closed.