This is my final post on the JupiterResearch report entitled RSS Readers: Addressing Market Opportunities with an Innovative News Medium (here are Part 1 and Part 2). I've enjoyed this chance to analyse the analysts and I'm keen to do it again. I wonder if other Analyst companies would be willing to do a similar thing?
So in Part 1 I reviewed how the RSS Readers report explained what RSS is and in Part 2 I talked about the statistics. It only remains for me to look at JupiterResearch's recommendations and Key Finding.
Application RSS Integration Will Spur Adoption, but Uptake Will Be Hindered by Conflicting Formats
That's the header for the final passage of this report. They start off with the statement:
"Integration of RSS reading functionality into mainstream applications is driving RSS growth."
By "mainstream applications", they mean Microsoft's Longhorn - which is "expected to include a desktop-based RSS reader" - and free browsers such as Firefox. According to the report, this spells bad news for small vendors:
"However, the integration of RSS readers into desktop software and the availability of free online services places pressure on smaller vendors selling RSS applications to consumers. These vendors must differentiate their products in such a way that the cost is justified."
This reminds me a post that Bob Wyman of PubSub wrote recently. He voiced similar concerns, particularly about Microsoft. Bob Wyman wrote:
"I've regularly argued against PubSub investing too much in aggregator development since it is inevitable that Microsoft would eventually blow away whatever we created."
I suspect that PubSub would count as one of the "small vendors" that JupiterResearch refers to, even though they're more than a simple RSS Newsreader. Perhaps PubSub, and other products like it, will be able to differentiate enough... or perhaps not. It depends on what the 100-pound gorilla decides to do. Either way JupiterResearch's warning to small vendors is well justified.
Excerpted RSS Feeds
The report then turns its attention to Content Providers and recommends that "content sites should give away only what they need to in order to drive traffic to the site." In other words, publish excerpted feeds and not full content feeds. Jupiter's position is that RSS feeds are a complement to the web site.
Of course I think that is a decidedly Web 1.0 view of the world. In Web 2.0 the RSS feed is more likely to be where the value proposition is, rather than the website. This will be especially so when RSS goes mainstream, but I think we're beginning to see this even now. Admittedly the audience of this report is marketing and business folk, who still think the Web world revolves around the website. And perhaps it still does from a B2C perspective, at least until RSS use increases well past the 12% figure that was given earlier in the report (see Part 2 of my analysis).
Nevertheless I would've liked to see JupiterResearch try and educate people about the (future) value of the feed - and that it is increasingly replacing the site as the point of content consumption for users. My point here is that in Web 2.0, RSS feeds are not only a means of leading people to your website. RSS feeds in many cases will usurp the website.
Plus there are downsides to excerpted feeds that weren't covered in the report - for example it's less convenient and more time-consuming for your readers, because they have to open a new browser window and wait for images to load etc. That's not to say that full-content feeds would necessarily be better than excerpted ones for business people reading this report, but driving traffic to a website may be just one of a number of goals for Content Producers. Another goal could be to ensure as many people read your content as possible, in which case I'd recommend full-content feeds.
The last paragraph of the report focused on that old chestnut of conflicting RSS formats. The RSS War - that's, like, so 2002/03 for us web geeks. But of course for non-geeks, it's still an important issue. So I understand why JupiterResearch included it. They write:
"The key obstacle facing RSS is posed by the multiple standards that exist either under the RSS moniker or as a replacement technology. The multiple variations of RSS threaten to fragment the marketplace and hold back the adoption of RSS. Vendors in this space must come together and support a single standard."
Once again Microsoft is cast as the Big Bad Wolf, because the report warns that they or another large player could "usurp control of the standard and push the industry into a proprietary variant of RSS."
I agree this is a risk, but frankly there is very little chance that vendors will "come together" over RSS and sing John Lennon songs around a Foo Camp fire. Some of them don't even get invited to Foo Camp! :-) RSS 2.0 is now entrenched as the main RSS format, but there will always be Content Producers that use RSS 1.0 for its metadata qualities (government departments for example) and there will be more and more Content Producers that utilise the new tricks Atom has up its sleeves. Vendors of RSS Newsreaders have to accommodate all of those people, so they'll continue to support all the main formats.
Back to the front page and the Key Finding. It's probably most illuminating if I paste all the text:
"A JupiterResearch survey shows 56 percent of RSS users are over age 35. Seventy-five percent of RSS users have used the Internet for more than two years. Vendors of newsreaders and producers of RSS news feeds must continue to target this audience, while simultaneously evangelizing the benefits of RSS to less sophisticated Internet users."
It's pretty clear then that RSS is still in early adopter phase, as only 12% of online consumers use RSS feeds according to this report. But the last sentence hints that we are entering a stage where mainstream users are being introduced to RSS feeds. So the report recommends to evangalize the benefits of RSS to new people.
This report covered the main aspects of evangalism: touting RSS as an alternative to email and web surfing, encouraging easy set up and subscription to feeds (e.g. lose the orange XML button), use excerpted feeds to drive traffic to the web site, and agree on the RSS 2.0 standard. I don't agree with all of those things, but for mainstream people it's solid - if a little conservative - advice.
Personally I would've liked the report to be a bit bolder and outline some of the emerging benefits of RSS, in the Web 2.0 world we're in now. For example: using RSS you can track topics, personal information, business data and events (among other things).
But I guess it's up to bloggers like me to do that kind of evangalizing! ;-)