Feed the Need: Surveying the Past, Present and Future of RSS

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As slow as the adoption of RSS and RSS advertising has been, it’s certainly here and not going anywhere anytime soon. With the influx of downloadable RSS applications, news aggregators and third party companies like Yahoo! offering the service; it’s cheap and available and has become one of the buzzword of the last couple years. That said, it’s got a lot of growing up to do.

At this point in the game it seems more of an awareness issue than anything else. As a Yahoo Ipsos study (below) tells us, 12% of users have heard of RSS, but only 4% have knowingly used the technology—an eMarketer report from this month found that 9% of U.S. online users were familiar with the term. But it’s also really about how a user gets RSS feeds that explains this slow adoption process. The study also finds that 27% of Internet users consume RSS syndicated content on personalized start pages like My Yahoo! and My MSN without knowing that RSS is the enabling technology (instead of downloading an application like RssReader, for example).

But as for how the advertising side of the equation adds up, just as the technology itself, it’s inching its way into mass media recognition. With more and more people buzzing about how the consumer is now making all of the decisions about when and by whom they may be marketed to, many view the naturally 100% opt-in, spam-free RSS as a welcome technology.And while the consumer may now be calling the shots in terms of advertising and marketing online and offline, RSS is still falling behind in terms of that precious little strategy called “targeting”. Sure, advertisers can narrow down their targets simply by the subscription nature of RSS, but getting directly to each person the way behavioral targeting advertisers have been able to is only one of the facets in which RSS has room to grow.

The good news is that there are plenty of companies dipping their toes in and even more interest from investors. But just as in the case of many of our interactive technologies, it would appear that the masses are waiting it out to see what works and what doesn’t before diving in headfirst.

Companies like Feedster, an RSS feed search engine, has been around since March ’03 and within two years closed a Series A of venture financing. NewsGator, an RSS platform provider also founded in 2003, has already closed three rounds of financing between 2004 and 2005. And with a January 2006 eMarketer report finding that of recent ad:tech attendees, 7.6% said RSS would be a marketing tactic they’d drop $100,000 to experiment with (click below for full chart), there’s obviously some serious momentum building up.

So rather than wait for the chips to fall, we at ADOTAS decided to make a day of it and explore RSS further, not only through our lauded surveys of those most attuned to the industry, but firsthand editorials from RSS leaders as well as a profile of companies making some of the biggest impact. Today, you’ll find feedback and insight from executives like Feedster CEO Chris Redlitz, PrimeQ’s Brandon Erskine and Feedburner VP of Business Development Brent Hill, who just like many industry insiders, believe that from both an advertising and publishing standpoint, it’s only the beginning for RSS.

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