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Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Online News Sites Struggle With RSS Challenge

MediaPost Publications Home of MediaDailyNews, MEDIA and OMMA Magazines
Online News Sites Struggle With RSS Challenge
by Gavin O'Malley, Monday, Feb 14, 2005 8:00 AM EST
AS INTERNET USERS DISCOVER CONTENT aggregation's merit, advertisers and publishers fear a loss of control over their content and how users experience it. Now, several newspapers have launched their own customized RSS readers, in an effort to solidify their relationships with online readers.
In the last several weeks, the Los Angeles Times, Britain's Guardian, and CNET each have acknowledged plans to offer free, branded RSS readers. The Los Angeles Times, part of Tribune Co., and the Guardian, owned by the non-profit Scott Trust, said they were putting their own brands on a reader called NewsPoint. Designed by Swiss-American software firm Consenda, NewsPoint currently is limited to a small trial phase.

For now, less than 5 percent of Internet users currently employ RSS readers. That minority consists mainly of media and tech professionals, and bloggers who contend with information overload on a daily basis.

But analysts say that RSS could quickly shed its niche status if consumers realize they no longer have to surf from Web site to Web site, scrolling their favorites menu for content. Instead, RSS readers pull in headlines and text continually, allowing users to create customized content from publishers, blogs, and search engines. Most offer alerts, which bring everything from product releases, sports scores, and natural disasters to users' immediate attention.

Each RSS reader comes pre-loaded with a list of feeds from its respective content site, but users can add additional feeds at will. By offering branded software, each company hopes to retain beleaguered readers and advertisers as the popularity of RSS increases.

CNET's Newsburst reader, now available as a preview release, is not a typical RSS reader because it adds an "editorial touch," said John Roberts, vice president of product development at CNET. The service is essentially an edited version of the Internet's entire daily news offerings. "I expect all or most publishers to do this in order to try and hang on to readers and control the environment," Roberts added.

Other Internet companies, are also establishing RSS footholds. Yahoo! relaunched its free My Yahoo! service in late September around its RSS reader. And search engine Ask Jeeves acquired Trustic Inc. and Bloglines last week, for an undisclosed sum. Founded in 2003, Bloglines lets users search, publish, and share blogs and RSS feeds for free. Last year, Google bought to gain a foothold into the blogosphere.

As RSS continues to grow in popularity, advertisers are struggling to adapt. "RSS will continue to take impressions away from sites as more users rely solely on headlines and teasers offered on RSS readers," said Bill Flitter, chief marketing officer of Pheedo, a company that offers a set of tools to create, promote, analyze, and optimize ads in blogs and content feeds.

Pheedo offers three different ad placements: within an RSS feed's header; as stand-alone blog units, where the ad appears as a separate blog post; and as advertisements embedded within the content of individual blog posts. The tool offers publishers the choice of pricing ads served on their sites by CPM, cost-per-click, or cost per action.

iUpload--a Web content management provider with clients like, Internet arm for Advance Publications, and Conde Nast--began offering Pheedo's services to its clients in late January.

Yahoo!'s Overture is in the midst of testing several possible methods for harnessing RSS as an advertising option for online marketers, according to a company spokeswoman. "RSS could be another vehicle for businesses to reach interested consumers through contextual advertising," the Overture spokeswoman projected.

CNET's John Roberts said Newsburst did not yet have a viable business model. "I've spoken with a number of firms that serve ads over RSS feeds, and I haven't found a compelling model just yet, but we'll continue to listen and respond as the market matures."

"Advertisers are coming to us will a lot of questions about RSS," said Gene McKenna, vice president of product management at Digital Impact, which manages the marketing campaign for the likes of HP, Gap, and Marriott. "I think it's still early yet, but we encourage advertisers to be forward-thinking and position themselves accordingly."


At 8:32 PM, Blogger John Roberts said...

I'd suggest not posting full-text without permission.


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