This week: non-blog uses for RSS (including Enterprise and Consumer), a new web-based delivery system for Associated Press, RSS advertising, Bigco action, Bloglines vs Technorati.
RSS not only for blogs
Right now there's a lot of activity around utilising RSS outside blogging. I've said before that blogging is and always will be a minority activity, so it's good to see that RSS is branching out. Rok Hrastnik had a nice post during the week which outlined alternative marketing uses for RSS. Some highlights:
- enable customers to track book releases
- deliver savings coupons and related information to customers
- deliver software product updates and patches, as they become available
- as a sales and accounting tool; e.g. Rok reported that "One company uses RSS as a consulting billing awareness tool. The consultants create activity reports and the RSS feeds from the activity channels carry the billable information to the accounting staff for invoice preparation."
- deliver categorized product releases - Rok calls this "living digital catalogues". An example of this can be seen with Yahoo's Shopping feeds.
Those are just some of the things Rok highlighted, from a marketing perspective.
My view: I think we'll also see RSS feeds begin to be utilised within the Enterprise. Newsgator is one of the vendors leading the charge in this space and to quote from their NewsGator Enterprise page:
"Increasingly, RSS is being used to publish corporate information internally - not only from blogs, but also from enterprise applications, collaboration suites, content management systems, and portals."
Integration with existing enterprise technologies is going to be key in this, because of the amount of money already invested in them (CMS, collaboration, etc).
We're also beginning to see consumer applications that enable tracking of non-blog information. For example Bloglines can now "track the shipping progress of package deliveries from some of the world's largest parcel shipping companies - FedEx, UPS, and the United States Postal Service". They're promising to track "neighborhood weather updates and stock portfolio tracking" in the near future.
New AP delivery app
Associated Press is one of the most interesting media companies when it comes to Web 2.0 technologies. Their CEO Tom Curley is a visionary IMO. Recently he announced that AP "will begin offering a new delivery system to members of the not-for-profit news cooperative" in order to deliver content "digitally across all platforms - text, photos, graphics, audio and video." The new system will be a web-based interface with search functionality and customized reports.
Media analyst John Blossom is slightly skeptical, because he says there isn't a lot of wiggle room in being a "middle man" in the content industry (I'm paraphrasing John). He notes that:
"As a service organization for news outlets the AP must walk a narrow path between servicing existing news infrastructures while becoming a more efficient distributor that can succeed beyond this loyal base. In the meantime, services such as Google News and RSS feeds have brought a new level of universality to news delivery that bypass both the AP value proposition and the value proposition of traditional news organizations to bring effective news delivery and aggregation into anyone's hands."
The upshot is that distribution and personalization are key in todays media landscape. My take is that if AP can provide the right interfaces to the content delivery systems (using custom search, filtering, aggregation, etc) then they'll be in a strong position. I think this is what Curley is banking on: that AP's web-based interfaces - which will eventually be integrated with members' computer systems - and ability to customize content to their members' needs, will allow them to keep one step ahead of a) RSS feeds that come direct from the sources, and b) the likes of Google News.
"If the new RSS delivery, ad insertion, and tracking tools from companies such as FeedBurner and Syndicate IQ can work at this level, and as RSS usage continues to grow this will quickly become a big market."
Advertising within an RSS feed is a sensitive issue and it's a case of softly softly for publishers, but I do think we're turning a corner. I too was given a trial of the new Feedburner Pro service, although I wasn't brave enough to turn on the RSS advertising :-). What I've noticed so far is that there are far more RSS "views" than webpage views - although I'm reluctant to publish the numbers because I think the margin of error is too large at this stage.
It's still early days, but I think you'll begin to see more cases of advertising within RSS feeds as people start to accept that in Web 2.0 feeds are no different from webpages - in terms of being an interface to content. RSS feeds will be held to a stricter account by users though, because they are an opt-in service. So people are entitled to expect that advertising is consistently contextually relevant and doesn't distract from the content.
A side benefit of RSS advertising, when it arrives en masse, is that it'll help promote full-content RSS feeds. I generally prefer full-content feeds, but currently a lot of publishers use excerpted feeds in order to get click-throughs to their advertising-supported webpages. That business model is ripe for overhaul.
Selected bits that caught my attention from the big companies this week:
- Yahoo/wikipedia deal: gives Wikipedia increased exposure, via Yahoo's millions of users. Also gives Yahoo even more whuffie from the tech community... although I detected a slight Whuffie/Mojo Backlash from certain quarters.
- Google Launches Q&A Service: the Rise of the Answer Engines perhaps?
- Microsoft Connected Services Framework: "a flexible and customizable solution that uses a service-oriented architecture (SOA) approach to help companies streamline the creation, management, and delivery of content".
Argh, corporate speak! I prefered the headline at InternetNews: Web Services, Hollywood Style. Much sexier. Here is the low-down from InternetNews about what it does:
"Instead of producers [of media and entertainment companies] checking footage in and out, then using the phone, fax or e-mail to notify others that a step has been completed, the system can provide automatic notifications to everyone in the process, both in-house and out."
Microsoft is formally launching it next week at the 2005 National Association of Broadcasters Convention in Las Vegas.
Post of the week: Bloglines v Technorati
Umair Haque at Bubblegum Generation wrote a thought-provoking post comparing the strategies of uber-Web 2.0 companies Bloglines and Technorati. Basically Umair reckons Bloglines got it right, while Technorati's strategy fell short. He contends that the "dominant" strategy for RSS Aggregators is:
"...in owning the user, by building scale economies (offering the most feeds), creating network FX/increasing marginal utility, and offering this to the user at the lowest relative transaction costs. This locks users in to your solution."
He gets to the meat of his point here (I've chopped it a bit):
"The feedreader, I suspect, is becoming the browser 2.0. [...] The point is that feed aggregators can do many cool things to create value for all players. That's because they can aggregate (your and others') private information and preferences, and use this to push info that has value to you back into your infostream."
Steve Gillmor would label this attention, but whatever you call it Umair has provided an interesting analysis of it. And I loved the bit about RSS Aggregators being 'browser 2.0'. A bit corny perhaps, but it's a nice analogy for how RSS is changing the Web.