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RSS Strategies

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There are two news stories in today’s MarketingVOX|Publishing Digest about the business of RSS syndication. Gawker’s Nick Denton recently released Kinja, a Web-based tool that is being billed as a news reader for every day people. Yahoo recently added an RSS reader and search to their My Yahoo portal. At least two companies are working on ways to turn RSS feeds into revenue-generating content.

Is XML syndication part of your publishing strategy? Or do you consider it a tool for blogs and geeks? While it seems that RSS is gaining some corporate traction, it isn’t yet widely used by everyday Internet users. My mom doesn’t even know what RSS is, never mind why or how you’d use it.

Google has email alerts that let you save Web and news searches and have new matching items emailed to you. I mentioned recently that they don’t have RSS feeds for it, and someone commented that RSS as a delivery mechanism isn’t yet mature enough. The commenter speculated that Google probably doesn’t want millions of people requesting an RSS feed at the default update interval of their news reader.

I know from looking at my own server logs that my syndication feeds are by far the most requested resource on my site. They consume considerable bandwidth and I have gone to great lengths to optimize my feeds to reduce their bandwidth needs.

While it could be argued that these problems exist with any content format you publish, they are aggravated by the nature of RSS. When someone visits my home page, they don’t refresh the browser every 15 minutes to see if it has changed. And if they did, browsers are designed to check with the server and to not download it again if there’s no change. Most news readers don’t do this. They grab the entire feed with each update regardless of whether there has been any change. There have been many efforts to design a way that allows feed publishers to tell a news reader how often to request updates, but those features are not widely implemented by readers.

So my question to you is are you using RSS, are you using it for non-blog content, and are you getting anything out of your investment in the extra bandwidth?

This is a cross post of something I posted to MarketingVOX|Publishing. I thought that my readers here might have some things to say about the subject. Comment on this at MV|Publishing.

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