Cookies in RSS

Cookies in RSS

: I talked about this with Fred Wilson yesterday and Dave Morgan today — and Fred beat me to blogging it:

We need to get RSS readers to take cookies if we are ever going to make RSS work as a successful medium.

Oh, I know that consumers will want to read RSS; I’m convinced. But unless publishers can make money off content transported that way, they will handicap feeds, giving readers only headlines and excerpts and working too hard to make them come to their sites when they should look at RSS as just another way to feed content to consumers.

Dave, head of Tacoda and one of the smartest people I know in this biz, agrees that setting cookies is essential for advertisers and thus for publisher revenue but he’s not worried because he thinks that browsers will take on RSS functionality. I think he’s right. But Dave also said it’s going to take Microsoft time to add RSS into its next versions of IE and Outlook. In the meantime, there is an opportunity for others to blaze the trail.

So let’s take this one step further…

It’s time for some creative thinking about the creative potential of RSS and content and advertising. Look at what ESPN has done using RSS as a transport mechanism for video and video advertising (when you come to the ESPN home page, you’ll find video already downloaded and ready to serve because it was sent you in the background as an RSS feed… and you won’t even know you’re using RSS).

RSS has the potential to serve better content and advertising. Reuters started using it to send a feed of video links. Hell, it could send the video clips, too (if Reuters weren’t worried about just streaming). Content and ads with video and other rich media could be downloaded to your machine in the background and served up immediately. And if this comes in feeds to which you subscribe and if it doesn’t slow down your machine and if the content is compelling then you won’t object — and the content and advertising will be more targeted as well.

Adam Curry has been playing around with RSS and audio. Ernie Miller is shouting the wonders of RSS + BitTorrent from every mountaintop.

OK, now it’s time for content producers — TV, online, print — and marketers — from big creative agencies — to wake up and smell the potential of RSS. It’s another way to deliver content; in many ways, it’s a better way. So what all can it do? Now is the time to try.

: See also Staci Kramer’s OJR story on RSS.

: UPDATE: Scott in the comments says advertising will break RSS as it broke email. My reply:


I disagree. Advertising will support RSS, as it supports Web content. Advertising did indeed break email because you have no control over what is sent to you. In RSS, you do. Of course, a publisher could mess up the RSS feed with intrusive advertising but if it gets too bad people will unsubscribe to that publisher’s feed. On the other hand, if the publisher can’t make money from the RSS feed — and if that feed cannibalizes its Web business — then they won’t put up RSS and THAT is what will break RSS. So I’d put it the other way: No having advertising is what will break RSS.

: UPDATE: Seyad in the comments quite properly corrects my slopping wording above: Of course, RSS supports cookies in that it can send out cookies just as HTML does. What I’m really asking for, of course, is that RSS aggregators and readers support cookies consistently. Thanks for the correction, Seyad. (I am, I’ll remind everyone, the poster boy for the A Little Knowledge Is A Dangerous Thing Foundation.)