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Kurt Zenisek Kurt Zenisek wrote:March 25th, 2010

Publishers Shouldn’t Be Afraid of Using RSS Feeds

RSS Feed Reader on iPad

Preview of Instapaper on an iPad

As a preface, I recommend that you check out my previous post about RSS feeds so I can jump right into the questions that publishers have to ask before distributing an RSS feed. The first major concern is that an RSS feed takes away visitors from your actual site. This means that those people don’t see the offers and forms that are on your site, and not the RSS feed. Turns out that the subscribers are people that have been to the site often enough to know that they like the content and would like to stay up to date with the articles. That means that they have already been exposed to the offers you have made available and would have participated already if they were truly interested. If you have a new offer that the people viewing via RSS wouldn’t know about, I highly recommend that you make an article about it. The readers will accept/appreciate any article that brings their attention to changes made to the Web site. There’s also going to be a group of people that choose to get a large amount of their web content via RSS feeds. If your site doesn’t have an RSS feed, then you’re turning down that potential audience.

There are ways to draw the people using RSS feeds back to your Web site. One way is to build an active community where the user could potentially be interested in what other people have to say about a certain article. That’s one feature RSS feeds aren’t able to serve up so the user would have to go to the site. That’s just one example of something you could make sure that is only available to those that visit the actual site. Another way people have been trying to get people to visit their site is to make it so that the RSS feed is only a tease of the article and you have to go to the site to read it in it’s entirety. There’s a really great Daring Fireball article on this topic that I can only butcher if I were to summarize, but I’ll try for the heck of it. Publishers hope that truncating RSS feeds will drive people to go to their site and increase ad revenue. In practice there’s people that realize that the Internet is a large place and that they can get very comparable content in the fashion that they prefer at a different Web site. Publishers are trying to stick with the model that has been working, and aren’t sure of the right way to get this new model to work (we’ve all come across this before). The fact of the matter is that there’s a way to satisfy both, but it takes some thought so that it works for that specific site.

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So how do you provide an RSS feed, and know that that audience is almost never going to go to the site and click on an ad? There’s a few things to try, and these might not work for your specific case. You can always embed ads into each RSS feed article as you would on a Web site. This usually isn’t the most effective method as the ads are traditionally very distinguishable from the actual article. One other way is to have an article that is a promotion for one of your advertisers. That way it shows up like any other article in the RSS reader. The user knows it will be quick to skim the article over. The traditional method here is to mention somewhere in the article that it is an ad as to not mislead the user. At the very least the ad has captured the user’s attention and they will pursue it further if it interests them. There’s still more ways to give the audience what they came to your site for and make sure you benefit for your work, but you will have to consider your specific website design / audience to be able to determine what will be best.

Kurt Zenisek
Web Developer
800-728-2656 ext. 123

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