On the eve of The Guardian’s launch of full text RSS feeds, Matt McAlister, Head of Guardian Developer Network, pinged me looking for examples of other mainstream media companies that have full text RSS feeds. Surely this many years into the age of syndication, Guardian couldn’t be the first mainstream media company to adopt full RSS feeds, which nearly every major independent blog has had since inception. The technology for inserting ads into RSS feeds is simple (heck, even I figured it out) and has been around for years.
But neither Matt nor I could find any examples. How unbelievably sad.
But not for The Guardian — they get to be the first media company to actually take RSS seriously, to actually make the offering something users would want to USE.
In fact, I think The Guardian holds the distinction of being the first mainstream media company not to actively SUPPRESS RSS adoption by publishing abbreviated feeds.
What every other mainstream media company does with their RSS feeds is publish a brief excerpt of the content, forcing readers to click on the headline and visit the publisher’s site in order to actually read the content.
Why? So the publisher can serve ads.
And the problem with this? It defeats the entire purpose of RSS!
The value of using an RSS reader is that you can read content from dozens (or more) sites all in one place without having to visit all of those sites.
But if all the RSS feeds you subscribe to have only an excerpt, and you have to click through to read anything, you spend your entire time clicking to other sites. Which is completely annoying!
And that’s why most people who use RSS readers don’t bother to subscribe to partial content feeds.
And… I think this is one of the reasons why RSS adoption has not gone mainstream.
Mainstream media is still mainstream because that’s what that largest number of people consume. Can you imagine sitting an average web media consumer down and trying to convince them to use an RSS reader with partial feeds from all their favorite mainstream media sites?
Every mainstream media company will argue that they need to use partial RSS feeds to MANIPULATE their users into coming to their sites so they can serve ads.
Which makes sense, if you believe that manipulating users is the best way to build brand loyalty.
The only problem with that argument is… you can serve ads in RSS feeds! That’s what The Guardian plans to do.
The Google Reader blog reported The Guardian is the “first major newspaper in the world” to have full text RSS feeds.
I’d argue that The Guardian is the first major media company in the world to have RSS feeds AT ALL.
All of the others with partial feeds — it’s a joke. It’s something that they bury at the bottom of the site so they can claim to have fully embraced web technology.
But they haven’t. They are supressing web technology. And they are surpressing the potential both for mainstream adoption and for advertisers to take feeds seriously as a channel for advertising.
I hope for The Guardian’s sake that they are able to build a sizable RSS audience that is appealing to their advertisers, and that they are able to profit while everyone else sits on the sidelines.