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

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.

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

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

RSS II: Putting his mouth where is money is

: Brad Feld, a VC at Mobius, explains on his blog why he just invested in Newsgator. It’s a very good post but even more important, it’s an example of a new and more transparent world of investment.

RSS III: More on Newsgator

: By the way, regarding Newsgator… I said in an offhand remark when Brad invested in the company that I didn’t use Newsgator because I don’t want anything more cluttering my Outlook (it’s plenty cluttered already!). Brad answers that in detail on his post, explaining that Newsgator also has web and mobile versions. I didn’t mention it in my offhand remark but I’ve already used both. And they’re both very good. In fact, I would absolutely love it if I could sync my reading of RSS feeds across mobile and laptop, as Newsgator offers. The rub remains: I still prefer using a client to using a web service with less functionality (and no offline usage) and Newsgator’s non-web client uses Outlook and so I don’t use Newsgator as my core reader. I do use Newsgator on my Treo.

All of this is just transitional nitpicking on the way to the integration of RSS feeds into most every bit of software we use: It will be part of our browsers (see Safari); it will be on our mobile devices; it will feed the architecture of web sites (I’m working to rearchitect my day-job sites around news feeds); it will feed media of many sorts (it’s already being used to feed ESPN video and rich advertising); it will feed new devices not yet invented.

Feeding me — sending me any kind of content anytime anywhere on any device — is the promise of this medium in an ever-connected world and RSS will be at the core of that. This is just the beginning.