Limited advertising will save RSS, not kill it.
Interesting debate emerging over RSS advertising with the latest from Wired with Andy Baio of Waxy.org making the rather bizarre statement
“RSS is a syndication format. It’s not well-suited to carrying ads…It’s designed for syndicating content, and content only. No navigation, no design, no advertisements.”
And its designed to suck up bandwidth and cost money too, Mr Baio.
RSS can, is, and will support advertising.
Whilst there is little doubt that heavy advertising would severely damage RSS (after all who wants there RSS feed dominated by large advertising banners or advertising larger than the post they are reading), limited advertising, such as one or two line text links done tastefully so as to not overpower the content (unlike that proposed by Overture) not only is a legitimate form of advertising, but will complement the format and assure the ongoing viability and success of RSS.
The alternative of no advertising in the medium to long term would see sites realise that their RSS feed is cannibalising viewers from their main, advertising supported pages, resulting in a decline in advertising revenue, costing large amounts of money in bandwidth and considering ROI (return over investment), they will limit or shut their RSS feeds, resulting in an end to the current RSS boom and a decline in the market.
Wow, I will be the first to leave comment here.
RSS will have advertising (of course), because there are always those stupid enough or desperate enough to try it. However, blogging allows for a new handshaking or a whole new level of dealing in an economic or business sense. In short it’s got a built in trust matrix that most social software creators would kill for. It’s simplicity is such that if I trust you I will subscribe to your RSS feed, if I am interested in a post I might reblog it. Likewise I might blogroll you or leave a comment. Inversely the complexity of this trust mechanism is such that google spends millions trying to understand it. It’s brilliant, because it’s not contrived, it’s natural, it’s simple and yet provides many rich forms of “dealing” just like the way real world relationships work.
So, if you put ads in your RSS feed I can just as simply unsubscribe. You loose my trust. Traffic can easily route itself around any static in such an open and fluid system. What content is of value on a blog would be rapidly rebloged by others and the subscriber can easily access that information elsewhere. Already I likely will see the various topics of interest to me as many as eight or more times in a day on various blogs I read. The duplication is easily overlooked, valued as emphasis or observed for its own insight or bias. If I was to come across an obvious attempt to insert static into my information space that I have created, control and gaurd jealously I could easily drop any feed without missing a beat and would likely find others that would fill the void better as I’m naturally doing anyway. There is very little lock-in. Very low boundaries.
In such a scenario you would think I’d miss boingboing or slashdot at the very least. Ironically the bigger the fish the more expendable it is to my information space (specifically in my RSS reader). There are literally thousands of blog posts about the daily goings on at popular sources. In fact I have already unsubscribed to boingboing and slashdot in my RSS reader (Shrook) and instead monitor references in other blogs to BoingBoing and slashdot. Sure I catch up on them every now and again to see if I’ve missed something but rarely do I find that my other blog sources betray me by missing something of relevance. Mine is a constantly evolving and creative information ecosystem full of highly efficient redundant systems. In the day to day if there’s something of relevance the chances are at least one of the RSS feeds to which I subscribe (or blogs that I read) will pick up on it.
It occurs to me that this threshold for static which a participant might put up with might be plotted, graphed and studied across multiple mediums for comparison medium to medium and to study trends over time. For example TV obviously has a higher threshold. People put up with way more advertising static on TV, but over time I’m sure that threshold for advertising is decreasing. Ironically the threshold for advertising decreases as stations add more and more advertisements to make up for lost viewers, so goes the slow cycle of death. A cycle of death we’re contemplating here. Such things never really die, they just become marginalized.
BTW, there may be other factors that affect the threshold for static or advertising that would pop up in such a study such as the visual richness of the medium. For example people have a tremendous capacity to put up with static in traditional paper newspapers where advertising may exceed 50% of the average page space. However RSS is so stripped down there is nary a place for ads to hide. Is this do to linearity, a more complex visual language, resolution, issues of interactivity, the engagement or lack of engagement with multiple senses? The possibilities are as endless as the possible mediums information travels through.
So, go a head, be the first to put ads in your RSS feed. See how quickly your traffic disappears. I see mainstream companies like Yahoo egroups make stupid mistakes with their communications channels all the time such as inserting intentional static in the form of advertising in emails and/or severely truncated posts in their RSS feeds. These have the immediate effect of killing off subscribers. There is very little wiggle room for the untrustworthy. As a subscriber to your RSS feed you either have my trust or you don’t. Go a head and pop that ad in your RSS feed. I dare you to. Punk. ;)