Content creators if they are proactive with RSS and continue to produce their own content will be able to more than adequately compete against aggregators.
On first glance, CNN.com and other media dynasties must be worried that Yahoo News is now the number 1 news site without owning any news content. What it does own though is consumer friendly tools for subscribing to and sorting the news which is of interest to me.
Throw in Yahoo network tools such as 360 where I can syndicate my blogs, favourite news sources to my friends, and CNN should really be worried. If they thought replicating a newspaper online was going to win the digital news war, it might have worked in the 20th century, but not in the 21st.
Its not all doom and gloom for publishers though. In verticals like employment, market leaders monster and careerbuilder dwarf the new meta-classifieds services such as oodle, simplyhired and workzoo(that also run RSS feeds) - to the point where the startups dont even register, yet.
Further, if a publisher doesnt want to be scraped it can run robots, publish short RSS feeds, charge a subscription fee for the full feed, or not use RSS feeds at all; But that may end up being like deciding to not want to be in Google.
Contrary to the cannibalisation argument, like all other new technologies, RSS experience to date shows that the new aggregators drive traffic to content owners, and initial results of New York Times and Wall Street Journal, is that traffic increases once using RSS.
The other interesting ancillary trends learnt by bloggers and RSS readers is that, more than 50% of major blogs traffic comes from RSS readers. Without RSS, most blogs traffic would at least be cut in half !
The math is simple - with RSS I view more sites, and hence produce more sellable ad impressions. (which can be delivered in the RSS reader or on the page of content I view)
Consumers once they use RSS services find it an easier way to view a site, rather than remembering the URL of every site they visit.
Scoble, Microsoft’s most famous blogger, who is rumoured to be starting a blogging religion and has a new title bestowed on him recently of CBO : Chief Blogging Officer (tagged by users of course not Microsoft), has over 1000 feeds running.
I run 200+ which I read 3-5 times a day at different levels of concentration : Dave Winer the father of RSS calls this the ‘River of News’ analogy - sites, headlines, text flowing past, just like a Saturday newspaper where I pick and choose the mastheads, columnists, sections and article type I am interested in : Something the browser and bookmark feature, and pushed email has been woeful in helping the online media consumer do.
Who could remember 1000+ feeds URLs and quickly check for updates ?
Long term too, content aggregators will not be able to keep all the RSS ad revenue : It will be apportioned between the service (eg bloglines, newsgator, feedtagger, feedster) that acquires the customer (for which they have costs) and the publisher (who provides the content and consumer experience)
It is a delicate balance between aggregator and publisher but a balance will be worked out, because with RSS growing at 1% a day (compound growth rate of 1389%) no publisher can ignore its customer’s wishes.
Its the web. If you dont provide it (RSS) someone else will.
Publishers, by being proactive about RSS, and coding its feeds into the correct ontologies that consumers want to subscribe to (eg 3br houses within 50kms of Palo Alto between $700K-$900K) will be rewarded with the network effect of more consumers using their services.
By driving new RSS services publishers will also be able to put their services before the hundreds of thousands of other feeds offered to the consumer. (Just as happens in the search engine industry with google and yahoo)
The intersection of the search and media industries which RSS helps drive, is going to be a fascinating battle, and companies that specialise in the various technologies which contribute to analytics, RSS ad serving, enterprise versions, and small business RSS enablement have a strong future indeed.
Pop may indeed eat itself, but for RSS that is the aim : It seeks to be a successful change agent within an organisation, integrating itself into various parts of the technology chain which customers (internal and external) are demanding.
We won’t be seeing orange XML or RSS buttons soon, we will just take for granted the various ways we subscribe to and receive all the information we need on whatever device, for whatever reason.
Myself, I could never go back from RSS, and the sooner the publishers recognise this not to be a geek trend, but the most important development since the browser, the more we can imagine and improve all the various applications outside of just news feeds that debate is currently centred around.
57 Channels and nothing on my MTV may have been a catch-cry from the Information Superhighway Point Cast days, but RSS allows me to subscribe to any of the millions of streams running around on the Internet of relevance to me.
I love it, and I hope publishers will too.