What Does RSS Have To Do To Reach The Tipping Point?

Bloggers and online marketers are forever trumpeting the wonders of blogs as a business and marketing tool. But blogs will only be able to live up to the dreams of its disciples if they start being read by average Joe from the mass market. Some work still needs to be done if RSS and blogs are to be pushed over the tipping point and become the widely used marketing machine that everybody believes/hopes they will be.

RSS is going to need a charm offensive before people in the street even know what it is, let alone start using it. You only have to look at the makeup of the top 50 most popular blogs (mainly about gadgets, politics and marketing) to know that the mass market have yet to start reading blogs in their great numbers. Or maybe there is just a huge gap for blogs on paying your mortgage and cutting your credit card bills that nobody has spotted?

At a recent ‘Beers and Innovation’ event in London the future of RSS and blogging was discussed and it was universally declared, yet again, how fantastic they are. The speakers also all agreed that their growth amongst the non-web savvy would continue to stall until RSS becomes more accessible and easier to use. Hopefully, when Internet Explorer 7 launches later this year it will go some way to correcting this problem.

Even when the hurdle of accessibility is cleared there are still other problems preventing RSS from becoming a business tool that can be effectively managed.

As any marketer will tell you, “You can’t monetise what you can’t measure,” and this is an issue faced by RSS/web feeds. As outlined by Techcrunch’s recent post: it’s virtually impossible to know exactly how many people are subscribed to your feed, let alone how many are actually reading your posts.

There are so many different aggregators and methods of capturing RSS content that there is currently no way of compiling all your data into a central reporting function, as with email. This makes it tricky for marketers arguing their case for the extra funding needed for this radical new marketing tactic. There is simply currently no way of measuring the ROI of blogging in traditional quantifiable terms (other than organic SEO and increased traffic of course).

RSS will soon be far easier to use, which will help it to start reaching out to the non-web savvy. If you can bookmark a site then you will be able to click on a button to save its feed in your browser. But developing a universal standard of tracking your blog’s subscription and readership – with the level of reporting offered by email – might still hold back its tipping point amongst businesses for a while yet.

3 Comments. Leave new

Hi Matt, you bring up some valid points some of which I agree with you, others not.

1. You are right about “RSS is going to need a charm offensive” and it you look carefully you will notice that the major sites all have a “What is RSS” link… the offensive IS underway.

2. As for software metrics for subscribers – I strongly disagree with you. If you do a search on “RSS metrics” you will see that there is software out there that can do the job. Feedburner comes to mind as a free offering.

3. “developing a universal standard of tracking your blog’s subscription and readership – with the level of reporting offered by email” – no argument here. And you’re right, it could be the tipping point.

However, I belong to the ‘RSS disciple’ camp as you put it and believe that RSS is the way to go. What you have negelected to mention is the amount of online news sites like the NY Times that have experienced a tremendous boost to readership through implementing RSS.

[…] I’ve just read an impassioned blog posting from Matt Ambrose about what RSS needs to do to reach the ‘tipping point’. In it Matt brings up some valid points. I posted my comments on his blog so I will not go into them here. One of the points that he brought up is the lack of awareness by the general public about RSS. I will admit that I couldn’t see the advantages of RSS until I actually started using it earlier on this year; today it has become an indispensable tool in my everyday life. […]

Chris,

Thanks for your comments. Make no mistake, I’m an RSS disciple too – I think the opportunities it presents to businesses are immense.

RSS enables you to develop the sales process over time. By providing info of value you can build trust and confidence, which in turn will help turn more readers into customers. Few people are ready to buy the first time they visit your site, but RSS enables you to maintain a line of communication long after they have left.

I’ve had another look at Feedburner – and your right – it does offer stats on all the different aggregators. I didn’t realise and I think many online marketers dont either. Yet another area in which education of RSS needs to be improved.

Readership of newspapers has been in decline for some time now. Particularly amongst the 18-25 group who are getting all their news off the net. The falling circulation figures, and consequent ad revenue, has meant news organisations have had to be quick to adapt to the changing marketplace. I completely agree that they have been some of the first organisations to properly utilise RSS as they have been astute enough to move with the times.

RSS is definitely the direction content delivery is heading in with it becoming more important than merely its website ‘container’. It might still be a while though until it is properly used as standard by s/m businesses. Its down to us bloggers to educate them and, literally, spread the word on RSS.

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