Are Branded feed readers the answer?

Freshness Warning
This article is over 14 years old. It's possible that the information you read below isn't current.

Brand Autopsy seems to be advocating branded RSS readers. Perhaps you remember the branded browsers circa 1997? Those worked out well.

While I agree that RSS is hard for the average user to get, having every company offer their own reader download isn’t going to fly. Seth Godin’s having trouble getting people to read his feed through Bloglines, NewsGator and other easy web-based readers — how much trouble do you think he’d have trying to get people to download and install software to read his site?

Readers need to be ubiquitous and feed subscriptions need to be simple in order for feeds to take off in the mainstream. When I click a feed, my reader should ask me if I want to subscribe to it. Instead I get a bunch of XML code, or at best a “browser friendly” feed that looks just like a web page. What the heck is the average user going to do with that? Unfortunately RSS didn’t have any capabilities for one-click subscriptions, so different RSS vendors came up with their own. As a result there’s a number of competing methods and you end up with sites saying,

To subscribe with the feed:// protocol, do this…
To subscribe with USM, do this…
To subscribe in reader X do this.…
To subscribe in reader Y do this…

That’s no better than the page full of XML.

The only way RSS will be interesting to the masses is if it’s not RSS. I don’t mean we shouldn’t use the format, but that consumers shouldn’t need to be aware of the format. No one says they get their daily horoscope via HTML. They get it on a web page. Some of those pages are in HTML, some in text, some in Flash, and some in validating XHTML. The images on the page are a combination of GIF, Jpeg and PNG. Do you think the consumer cares? They open their browser and grab their stock quotes. To many, the browser and their email client is the internet. They don’t think about what they’re doing, how they get there, or which program to use.

That’s how RSS needs to be viewed. Publishers don’t need to provide the cup, and consumers don’t need to bring their own cup. We need to make sure that there is no cup.

Neil T.
November 18, 2005 3:03 AM

You're right about the RSS name. I've tended to name my feeds as 'web feeds', mainly because I use Atom instead of RSS and I don't think the format really matters to the end user. Microsoft seems to be looking to adopt this moniker for its RSS/Atom support in Internet Explorer 7.

November 18, 2005 6:04 AM

I think you're right. RSS needs a real marketing plan. I don't know the whole history, but I'm going to guess the original concept never envisioned a future where everybody would be using it. Without browsers handling RSS gracefully (display or passing off to a reader), it's not going to go mainstream. Firefox and Safari both try to do something along these lines, but again they're minority browsers.

November 18, 2005 7:57 PM

I agree that branded rss is not the answer.I think it would be nice if firefox offered an easily usable plug in to handle it well, and I will bucks that IE will have a microsofty way of handing into the new office or outlook that should be out soon. In the meantime I reccomend to everyone to hit up rss in their my yahoo page or via, of course these don't really do what I envision a good rss reader will do one day, auto-downloadin pod video casts and such. I look forward to the readers getting better soon!

Your comments:

Text only, no HTML. URLs will automatically be converted to links. Your email address is required, but it will not be displayed on the site.


Not your company or your SEO link. Comments without a real name will be deleted as spam.

Email: (not displayed)

If you don't feel comfortable giving me your real email address, don't expect me to feel comfortable publishing your comment.

Website (optional):

Follow me on Twitter

Best Of

  • Lock-in is bad T-Mobile thinks they'll get new Hotspot customers with exclusive content and locked-in devices.
  • The importance of being good Starbucks is pulling CD burning stations from their stores. That says something interesting about their brand.
  • Comment Spam Manifesto Spammers are hereby put on notice. Your comments are not welcome. If the purpose behind your comment is to advertise yourself, your Web site, or a product that you are affiliated with, that comment is spam and will not be tolerated. We will hit you where it hurts by attacking your source of income.
  • Where do the RSS ad startups fit in? Yahoo's RSS advertising service could spell trouble for pure-play RSS advertising services unless they adapt their business model.
  • Simplified Form Errors One of the most frustrating experiences on the Web is filling out forms. When mistakes are made, the user is often left guessing what they need to correct. We've taken an approach that shows the user in no uncertain terms what needs to be fixed.
  • More of the best »

Recently Read

Get More

Subscribe | Archives


Dysfunctions of output-oriented software teams (Sep 17)
Whatever you call it, the symptom is that you're measuring your progress by how much you build and deliver instead of measuring success by the amount of customer value you create.
Evaluative and generative product development (Aug 30)
Customers never even talk to the companies that don't fit their needs at all. If the only product ideas you're considering are those that meet the needs of your current customers, then you're only going to find new customers that look exactly like your current customers.
Product Manager Career Ladder (Aug 19)
What are the steps along the product management career path?
Building the Customer-Informed Product (Aug 15)
Strong products aren't composed of a list of features dictated by customers. They are guided by strong visions, and the execution of that vision is the primary focus of product development.
Assumptions and project planning (Feb 18)
When your assumptions change, it's reasonable that your project plans and needs change as well. But too many managers are afraid to go back and re-work a plan that they've already agreed to.
Feature voting is harmful to your product (Feb 7)
There's a lot of problems with using feature voting to drive your product.
Encouraging 1:1s from other managers in your organization (Jan 4)
If you’re managing other managers, encourage them to hold their own 1:1s. It’s such an important tool for managing and leading that everyone needs to be holding them.
One on One Meetings - a collection of posts about 1:1s (Jan 2)
A collection of all my writing on 1:1s

Subscribe to this site's feed.


Adam Kalsey

Mobile: 916.600.2497

Email: adam AT

Twitter, etc: akalsey



©1999-2019 Adam Kalsey.