Businesses flock to conference on RSS, blogs

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The first-ever Syndicate conference, produced by IDG World Expo in New York last week, reflected the exploding interest of businesses in blogs, RSS (really simple syndication), podcasting and other emerging technologies.

Syndicate attracted more than 350 attendees. "We were hoping for about 250," said IDG World Expo spokesman Mike Sponseller. "The event was so successful that we’ve decided to expand it to include a West Coast conference." That event will be in San Francisco in mid-December, he said.

The wisdom of the Syndicate conference’s timing and focus was sealed when Google and Yahoo! used the forum to announce new RSS products, and MSN previewed a screen saver that performs the function of an RSS reader. Also, Martin Nisenholtz, CEO of New York Times Digital, scrapped a prepared speech on May 17 so that he could explain his company’s announcement that day that it would charge users to view some of its columnists’ work online.

One of the burning questions at the conference was how to monetize RSS. Google, which has transformed Internet advertising with its AdSense and AdWords programs, made a surprise announcement concerning its answer.

During a panel discussion titled "RSS & Advertising," Shuman Ghosemajumder, business product manager for Google’s AdSense, said: "One of the things we want to do is encourage the creation of content for RSS. But part of the problem has been that media companies are hesitant about pushing out a great deal of quality content when there is no way to monetize it. We would like that monetization to be able to occur in the feeds themselves and so Google announces today the public beta test of AdSense for Feeds."

AdSense for Feeds works the way the rest of the AdSense program does, and Google will pay the original content publisher on a pay-per-click basis. "We’re targeting the full text of the article, not just the headlines," Ghosemajumder said. Google has developed best practices for advertising within RSS feeds and has posted them within the AdSense section of its site.

Bradley Horowitz, Yahoo!’s director of media and search clients, announced that Yahoo! is releasing a standard for Media RSS 1.0 or mRSS. He explained mRSS as "a simple extension to RSS, a media enclosure in an RSS feed, that extends to other media types," including film and TV video, photos and other images, and sound. In December 2004, Yahoo! made public its intention to develop RSS for a wider range of media types, and it put code in the hands of users to get input and feedback.

Horowitz said mRSS is likely to gather more resistance than text-based RSS because TV stations, movie studios and music artists are generally much more aggressive in protecting their rights than writers and publishers. "We’re having ongoing technical conversations with rights holders," he said. "For now, it’s much more efficient for us" if the media creators feed the content to Yahoo! for distribution and Reuters and Bloomberg, among others, "have signed deals to feed video to us."

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