Two great agencies have become one! Henry Russell Bruce (HRB) and ME&V Advertising have merged to create a combined company of more than 50 people with offices in Cedar Falls, Cedar Rapids, Des Moines and Quad Cities. The combined agency represents more than 200 clients across 10 states and offers branding, marketing, public relations, and advertising services in healthcare, higher education and banking, corporate communications and nonprofit fundraising. Take a look around →
We have just announced on the Official Google Blog that we will soon retire Google Reader (the actual date is July 1, 2013). We know Reader has a devoted following who will be very sad to see it go. We’re sad too.
I use feed readers every day as an essential part of how I consume the latest content on the sites I frequent/follow. I also use a variety of apps on a variety of devices. Google Reader was the one thing that I used to keep everything together & synchronized. Come July 1st, this service will be taken offline.
It isn’t all bad. This recent news has lead to Reeder and Feedly announcing that they’re not going away. There are also other apps like Pulp that already have the ability to import your Google Reader subscriptions & work independently of the service itself.
FeedBurner before and after the update (just look at those statistics!)
The concept of subscribing to Web content first started to take off with the widespread adoption of the RSS Feed in 2005 and 2006. These feeds were capable of containing text, images, audio, videos, assorted files and information describing each entry (even GPS coordinates).
This new found technology lead to people wanting to accomplish many different things. As a result, website designers had to adhere to numerous different types of logic and naming schemes just to get their content available to those that wanted it. Unsurprisingly, everyone rejoiced when FeedBurner opened to the public to alleviate these headaches and more.
FeedBurner made it possible for websites to provide a single feed that’s programmed and maintained in the way that they prefer that’s then automatically published out to the world in a way that universally available and fully accessible. This single service was great in it’s own right, but people wanted more and wanted to know more about how people are accessing their content.
FeedBurner proceeded to add features that allowed users to easily save, share, and subscribe to their favorite sites. For the publishers, they added analytics and instantaneous distribution of their content. The high level of activity and large user-base caught Google’s attention, and they ended up acquiring FeedBurner for $100 million. This was exciting news at the time, but Google seemed to have put them on the back burner. That is, until this latest update.
So what did they change?
They're serious when they claim that it's real-time data.
In traditional Google fashion, they focused on improving speed, granularity of information, and providing real-time data. Here’s a quote from their announcement:
“You can for the first time get stats on how much traffic your feed items are receiving from Twitter, as well as feed reading platforms like Google Reader in one place. Again, all within seconds of posting your content. Ping? Pong! Yep. That fast.”
I must admit, the novelty of seeing the graph update continuously right in front of my face with the latest information hasn’t worn off yet. The visual aesthetic has also been revamped to fit in with Google’s other services. You can opt-in to access the beta by clicking on the “Try out the NEW (beta) version!” at the top of the FeedBurner page, but it isn’t all good for early adopters.
This is still a beta, and unlike many of Google’s services that are in beta for years at a time, this one actually seems to deserve the title. A link to access to original design replaces the link that you click to try out the beta, and this is a key feature due to the fact that many essential features are not present in the new beta. You will have to switch back-and-forth to access any kind of feed and/or service management. This beta only addresses the analytics portion of FeedBurner. With that in mind, it’s probably worth checking out to see where they’re taking the service.
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.
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.
"Times" is an RSS reader for Mac by Acrylic Software
RSS feeds haven’t actively gained mainstream adoption, but have provided a great service to the people that don’t want to have the potential of missing something that they wanted to see. Essentially, an RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feed is a file on a Web site that only contains the content, and separates each update into an individual post with a timestamp of when the update was made. The website design completely removed from the content if the user is really only interested in the content. People can then subscribe to that one URL using an RSS reader (I will go into more detail about this below) and they will be notified when there’s been an update made to your site and how many updates that have yet to read.
If a user stumbles across an RSS feed, it might be something that they haven’t used before and don’t really understand the benefits of subscribing to it. There’s a few things that are making this adoption process easier for the user. Most modern web browsers are including RSS readers so that the content is displayed the way a user can understand when you visit an RSS feed. For the publishers out there, you might look into using a service like Feedburner to enhance your feed. The services that Feedburner include a user-friendly interface, analytics, sharing functionality, promoting your feed to news hubs, email subscriptions, and more. You can visit our feed that’s been sent through feedburner at http://feeds.feedburner.com/HRB and check out what would show up without feedburner here. The next post I’ll write will address the concerns you may have of possible lost traffic to your website resulting in lower ad revenue or leads, because people are using RSS feeds to bypass directly visiting your site.
The beauty of the RSS feed isn’t the fact that it’s once place to go for all of your content, but rather the nearly endless options of how you want to go about reading it. The RSS readers out there allow you to put all of your RSS feeds in one place. At that point you can choose how you want to be notified when there’s a new post on any of the feeds you’re subscribed to so you never need to visit a website just to find out that they haven’t updated anything on it. The range of RSS readers offer a variety of ways to interact with your feeds. Google Reader is a powerful feed reader that is simple to use, has unique community features with other people who use it, and keeps track of your reading patterns to show you the stuff you’re more interested first based on your past behaviors. There’s also applications for both Mac and Windows that you might choose to use also. There’s one that caught my eye, called Times (Mac only), that styled your feeds as if you were reading a newspaper, and when you click on the headline it shows the full article either as a new page in the “newspaper” or as the actual site where the article is located. This might be an interesting way to go if people start using tablet computers (such as the iPad) where this is provides a newspaper-like experience that shows you what you want to read and nothing that you don’t while also including high-resolution photos and videos.
RSS is a very basic and universal capability that sites can take advantage of. In fact, podcasts became popular once people started utilizing RSS feeds to take care of distributing the new episodes to the subscribers as soon as it’s available. If you’ve never tried using RSS feeds to go about reading the blogs or news sites that you frequent, I recommend that you first find an RSS reader that appeals to you (considering that’s what you’re going to be using to read everything), add the feeds of a few websites, and give it a try for a short while. You might find it’s not for you, but you might also find it a great time-saver or a nicer way to go about staying up-to-date with the sites you frequent.