Why RSS Only Gets Half a Hug

Forget the Summaries -- Mainstream Media Needs to Go All the Way With Full-Text Feeds

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Welcome to the subscription era.

Really Simple Syndication (RSS) represents the third major shift in how consumers interact with the Web, after the first Internet epoch, browsing, and the second, search. RSS allows regular readers of a publication to sign up for regular news feeds, delivered their mainstream media. While that's the greatest beneficiary of the RSS revolution, disappointingly, few companies are fully maximizing it yet.
Steve Rubel
Steve Rubel Credit: JC Bourcart
To their credit, media companies have adopted RSS feeds in droves. And they deserve a hearty round of applause for doing so rather quickly. Syndication plays directly to their strength. Whether it's ESPN, HBO or The New York Times, consumers want content delivered continuously, without interruption. RSS feeds mirror this opt-in model and give the media a new powerful distribution channel that's monetizable.

Unfortunately, the dirty little secret of the media biz is that RSS is so disruptive few have fully embraced it. Let me explain.

Those who have adopted RSS still publish headlines and summaries in the feeds in an effort to drive more eyeballs back to their Web sites to boost page views. I propose syndicating content in an ad-supported full-text format-something the largest publishers on the Web haven't done.

So far that strategy is working. But media is democratizing. And as feed use and interest in RSS advertising pick up, failing to go full-text could have long-term ramifications. Bloggers are more than happy to syndicate their content far and wide in full-text format. And they have numerous monetization options, such as Google AdSense, Pheedo and Federated Media. Gawker Media, for instance, lets readers subscribe to ad-supported full-text feeds or ad-free summary feeds.

The mainstream media continues to give RSS half a hug rather moving full speed ahead to lock lips. That was fine in 2004. But now that everyone from AOL to start-ups is making RSS feeds easier to use, the media needs to go the full-text distance, and in doing so, it will open new doors for advertisers.

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Steve Rubel is a senior marketing strategist and author of Micropersuasion.com, and senior VP in Edelman's me2revolution practice.
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