Commercialization of RSS

The varied approach of publications to RSS is remarkable. The Financial Times and The Economist have only just launched their feeds, and even then both only offer a taster of the content they provide. Both miss the opportunity which BusinessWeek is taking in allowing some content to be accessed for free as a showcase for full subscription.

The online sites of broadcasters such as CNN and Sky News offer feeds, but with a frustrating ‘No description’ or ‘Read full story for latest details’ sub-deck. Presumably this is done in order to expose the reader to the banner ads on the main sites, but from a consumer’s perspective, I’m more likely to find the story elsewhere, having tuned-in to the headline.

More innovative sites are starting to see RSS as an advertising channel in itself. InfoWorld now includes clearly-labeled ‘Advertisement’ text into its news items. Boing Boing has been doing the same for the last month or so.

Clearly, RSS presents revenue opportunities. I was asked recently by Matthew Schwartz, editor of PR News, whether RSS will create a whole new industry. I don’t think its impact will be that far reaching, it’s more likely to transform existing industries, as we are seeing with its impact on publishing. That said, there are companies, such as, the provider of RSS-feeds for communicators, which see an opportunity for an entire business model around RSS.

What we’ve seen so far are just the first tentative steps into RSS commercialization. Once it is possible to make it more secure (in terms of authentication/authorization and therefore identification of the recipient) and to deliver more interactive content into the feed (such as Flash or streaming video), it will really come into its own.